Publications by authors named "Stephen W Scherer"

393 Publications

Rare loss-of-function variants in type I IFN immunity genes are not associated with severe COVID-19.

J Clin Invest 2021 May 27. Epub 2021 May 27.

College of Applied Medical Sciences, Taibah University, Madina, Saudi Arabia.

A recent report found that rare predicted loss-of-function (pLOF) variants across 13 candidate genes in TLR3- and IRF7-dependent type I IFN pathways explain up to 3.5% of severe COVID-19 cases. We performed whole-exome or whole-genome sequencing of 1,934 COVID-19 cases (713 with severe and 1,221 with mild disease) and 15,251 ancestry-matched population controls across four independent COVID-19 biobanks. We then tested if rare pLOF variants in these 13 genes were associated with severe COVID-19. We identified only one rare pLOF mutation across these genes amongst 713 cases with severe COVID-19 and observed no enrichment of pLOFs in severe cases compared to population controls or mild COVID-19 cases. We find no evidence of association of rare loss-of-function variants in the proposed 13 candidate genes with severe COVID-19 outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/JCI147834DOI Listing
May 2021

Environmental exposures associated with elevated risk for autism spectrum disorder may augment the burden of deleterious de novo mutations among probands.

Mol Psychiatry 2021 May 17. Epub 2021 May 17.

Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.

Although the full aetiology of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is unknown, familial and twin studies demonstrate high heritability of 60-90%, indicating a predominant role of genetics in the development of the disorder. The genetic architecture of ASD consists of a complex array of rare and common variants of all classes of genetic variation usually acting additively to augment individual risk. The relative contribution of heredity in ASD persists despite selective pressures against the classic autistic phenotype; a phenomenon thought to be explained, in part, by the incidence of spontaneous (or de novo) mutations. Notably, environmental exposures attributed as salient risk factors for ASD may play a causal role in the emergence of deleterious de novo variations, with several ASD-associated agents having significant mutagenic potential. To explore this hypothesis, this review article assesses published epidemiological data with evidence derived from assays of mutagenicity, both in vivo and in vitro, to determine the likely role such agents may play in augmenting the genetic liability in ASD. Broadly, these exposures were observed to elicit genomic alterations through one or a combination of: (1) direct interaction with genetic material; (2) impaired DNA repair; or (3) oxidative DNA damage. However, the direct contribution of these factors to the ASD phenotype cannot be determined without further analysis. The development of comprehensive prospective birth cohorts in combination with genome sequencing is essential to forming a causal, mechanistic account of de novo mutations in ASD that links exposure, genotypic alterations, and phenotypic consequences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41380-021-01142-wDOI Listing
May 2021

An Epigenetically Distinct Subset of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder Resulting From Differences in Blood Cell Composition.

Front Neurol 2021 16;12:612817. Epub 2021 Apr 16.

Genetics and Genome Biology, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that often involves impaired cognition, communication difficulties and restrictive, repetitive behaviors. ASD is extremely heterogeneous both clinically and etiologically, which represents one of the greatest challenges in studying the molecular underpinnings of ASD. While hundreds of ASD-associated genes have been identified that confer varying degrees of risk, no single gene variant accounts for >1% of ASD cases. Notably, a large number of ASD-risk genes function as epigenetic regulators, indicating potential epigenetic dysregulation in ASD. As such, we compared genome-wide DNA methylation (DNAm) in the blood of children with ASD ( = 265) to samples from age- and sex-matched, neurotypical controls ( = 122) using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 arrays. While DNAm patterns did not distinctly separate ASD cases from controls, our analysis identified an epigenetically unique subset of ASD cases ( = 32); these individuals exhibited significant differential methylation from both controls than the remaining ASD cases. The CpG sites at which this subset was differentially methylated mapped to known ASD risk genes that encode proteins of the nervous and immune systems. Moreover, the observed DNAm differences were attributable to altered blood cell composition, i.e., lower granulocyte proportion and granulocyte-to-lymphocyte ratio in the ASD subset, as compared to the remaining ASD cases and controls. This ASD subset did not differ from the rest of the ASD cases in the frequency or type of high-risk genomic variants. Within our ASD cohort, we identified a subset of individuals that exhibit differential methylation from both controls and the remaining ASD group tightly associated with shifts in immune cell type proportions. This is an important feature that should be assessed in all epigenetic studies of blood cells in ASD. This finding also builds on past reports of changes in the immune systems of children with ASD, supporting the potential role of altered immunological mechanisms in the complex pathophysiology of ASD. The discovery of significant molecular and immunological features in subgroups of individuals with ASD may allow clinicians to better stratify patients, facilitating personalized interventions and improved outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2021.612817DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8085304PMC
April 2021

Truncating SRCAP variants outside the Floating-Harbor syndrome locus cause a distinct neurodevelopmental disorder with a specific DNA methylation signature.

Am J Hum Genet 2021 Jun 27;108(6):1053-1068. Epub 2021 Apr 27.

Institute of Human Genetics, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, 20251 Hamburg, Germany.

Truncating variants in exons 33 and 34 of the SNF2-related CREBBP activator protein (SRCAP) gene cause the neurodevelopmental disorder (NDD) Floating-Harbor syndrome (FLHS), characterized by short stature, speech delay, and facial dysmorphism. Here, we present a cohort of 33 individuals with clinical features distinct from FLHS and truncating (mostly de novo) SRCAP variants either proximal (n = 28) or distal (n = 5) to the FLHS locus. Detailed clinical characterization of the proximal SRCAP individuals identified shared characteristics: developmental delay with or without intellectual disability, behavioral and psychiatric problems, non-specific facial features, musculoskeletal issues, and hypotonia. Because FLHS is known to be associated with a unique set of DNA methylation (DNAm) changes in blood, a DNAm signature, we investigated whether there was a distinct signature associated with our affected individuals. A machine-learning model, based on the FLHS DNAm signature, negatively classified all our tested subjects. Comparing proximal variants with typically developing controls, we identified a DNAm signature distinct from the FLHS signature. Based on the DNAm and clinical data, we refer to the condition as "non-FLHS SRCAP-related NDD." All five distal variants classified negatively using the FLHS DNAm model while two classified positively using the proximal model. This suggests divergent pathogenicity of these variants, though clinically the distal group presented with NDD, similar to the proximal SRCAP group. In summary, for SRCAP, there is a clear relationship between variant location, DNAm profile, and clinical phenotype. These results highlight the power of combined epigenetic, molecular, and clinical studies to identify and characterize genotype-epigenotype-phenotype correlations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2021.04.008DOI Listing
June 2021

Enrichment of loss-of-function and copy number variants in ventricular cardiomyopathy genes in 'lone' atrial fibrillation.

Europace 2021 Jun;23(6):844-850

Section of Cardiac Electrophysiology, Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Western University, London, ON, Canada.

Aims: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a complex heritable disease whose genetic underpinnings remain largely unexplained, though recent work has suggested that the arrhythmia may develop secondary to an underlying atrial cardiomyopathy. We sought to evaluate for enrichment of loss-of-function (LOF) and copy number variants (CNVs) in genes implicated in ventricular cardiomyopathy in 'lone' AF.

Methods And Results: Whole-exome sequencing was performed in 255 early onset 'lone' AF cases, defined as arrhythmia onset prior to 60 years of age in the absence of known clinical risk factors. Subsequent evaluations were restricted to 195 cases of European genetic ancestry, as defined by principal component analysis, and focused on a pre-defined set of 43 genes previously implicated in ventricular cardiomyopathy. Bioinformatic analysis identified 6 LOF variants (3.1%), including 3 within the TTN gene, among cases in comparison with 4 of 503 (0.80%) controls [odds ratio: 3.96; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.11-14.2; P = 0.033]. Further, two AF cases possessed a novel heterozygous 8521 base pair TTN deletion, confirmed with Sanger sequencing and breakpoint validation, which was absent from 4958 controls (P = 0.0014). Subsequent cascade screening in two families revealed evidence of co-segregation of a LOF variant with 'lone' AF.

Conclusion: 'Lone' AF cases are enriched in rare LOF variants from cardiomyopathy genes, findings primarily driven by TTN, and a novel TTN deletion, providing additional evidence to implicate atrial cardiomyopathy as an AF genetic sub-phenotype. Our results also highlight that AF may develop in the context of these variants in the absence of a discernable ventricular cardiomyopathy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/europace/euaa421DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8184224PMC
June 2021

Long-Read Sequencing Improves the Detection of Structural Variations Impacting Complex Non-Coding Elements of the Genome.

Int J Mol Sci 2021 Feb 19;22(4). Epub 2021 Feb 19.

College of Medicine, Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dubai 505055, United Arab Emirates.

The advent of long-read sequencing offers a new assessment method of detecting genomic structural variation (SV) in numerous rare genetic diseases. For autism spectrum disorders (ASD) cases where pathogenic variants fail to be found in the protein-coding genic regions along chromosomes, we proposed a scalable workflow to characterize the risk factor of SVs impacting non-coding elements of the genome. We applied whole-genome sequencing on an Emirati family having three children with ASD using long and short-read sequencing technology. A series of analytical pipelines were established to identify a set of SVs with high sensitivity and specificity. At 15-fold coverage, we observed that long-read sequencing technology (987 variants) detected a significantly higher number of SVs when compared to variants detected using short-read technology (509 variants) (-value < 1.1020 × 10). Further comparison showed 97.9% of long-read sequencing variants were spanning within the 1-100 kb size range (-value < 9.080 × 10) and impacting over 5000 genes. Moreover, long-read variants detected 604 non-coding RNAs (-value < 9.02 × 10), comprising 58% microRNA, 31.9% lncRNA, and 9.1% snoRNA. Even at low coverage, long-read sequencing has shown to be a reliable technology in detecting SVs impacting complex elements of the genome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms22042060DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7923155PMC
February 2021

RCL1 copy number variants are associated with a range of neuropsychiatric phenotypes.

Mol Psychiatry 2021 05 17;26(5):1706-1718. Epub 2021 Feb 17.

The Manton Center for Orphan Disease Research, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.

Mendelian and early-onset severe psychiatric phenotypes often involve genetic variants having a large effect, offering opportunities for genetic discoveries and early therapeutic interventions. Here, the index case is an 18-year-old boy, who at 14 years of age had a decline in cognitive functioning over the course of a year and subsequently presented with catatonia, auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoia, aggression, mood dysregulation, and disorganized thoughts. Exome sequencing revealed a stop-gain mutation in RCL1 (NM_005772.4:c.370 C > T, p.Gln124Ter), encoding an RNA 3'-terminal phosphate cyclase-like protein that is highly conserved across eukaryotic species. Subsequent investigations across two academic medical centers identified eleven additional cases of RCL1 copy number variations (CNVs) with varying neurodevelopmental or psychiatric phenotypes. These findings suggest that dosage variation of RCL1 contributes to a range of neurological and clinical phenotypes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41380-021-01035-yDOI Listing
May 2021

Whole exome sequencing uncovered highly penetrant recessive mutations for a spectrum of rare genetic pediatric diseases in Bangladesh.

NPJ Genom Med 2021 Feb 16;6(1):14. Epub 2021 Feb 16.

College of Medicine, Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Science, Dubai, UAE.

Collectively, rare genetic diseases affect a significant number of individuals worldwide. In this study, we have conducted whole-exome sequencing (WES) and identified underlying pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants in five children with rare genetic diseases. We present evidence for disease-causing autosomal recessive variants in a range of disease-associated genes such as DHH-associated 46,XY gonadal dysgenesis (GD) or 46,XY sex reversal 7, GNPTAB-associated mucolipidosis II alpha/beta (ML II), BBS1-associated Bardet-Biedl Syndrome (BBS), SURF1-associated Leigh Syndrome (LS) and AP4B1-associated spastic paraplegia-47 (SPG47) in unrelated affected members from Bangladesh. Our analysis pipeline detected three homozygous mutations, including a novel c. 863 G > C (p.Pro288Arg) variant in DHH, and two compound heterozygous variants, including two novel variants: c.2972dupT (p.Met991Ilefs*) in GNPTAB and c.229 G > C (p.Gly77Arg) in SURF1. All mutations were validated by Sanger sequencing. Collectively, this study adds to the genetic heterogeneity of rare genetic diseases and is the first report elucidating the genetic profile of (consanguineous and nonconsanguineous) rare genetic diseases in the Bangladesh population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41525-021-00173-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7887195PMC
February 2021

Sleep phenotype of individuals with autism spectrum disorder bearing mutations in the PER2 circadian rhythm gene.

Am J Med Genet A 2021 04 20;185(4):1120-1130. Epub 2021 Jan 20.

Genetics and Genome Biology, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The Per family of genes functions as a primary circadian rhythm maintenance in the brain. Mutations in PER2 are associated with familial advanced sleep-phase syndrome 1 (FASPS1), and recently suggested in delayed sleep phase syndrome and idiopathic hypersomnia. The detection of PER2 variants in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and without reported sleep disorders, has suggested a role of circadian-relevant genes in the pathophysiology of ASD. It remains unclear whether these individuals may have, in addition to ASD, an undiagnosed circadian rhythm sleep disorder. The MSSNG database was used to screen whole genome sequencing data of 5,102 individuals with ASD for putative mutations in PER2. Families identified were invited to complete sleep phenotyping consisting of a structured interview and two standardized sleep questionnaires: the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire. From 5,102 individuals with ASD, two nonsense, one frameshift, and one de novo missense PER2 variants were identified (0.08%). Of these four, none had a diagnosed sleep disorder. Three reported either a history of, or ongoing sleep disturbances, and one had symptoms highly suggestive of FASPS1 (as did a mutation carrier father without ASD). The individual with the missense variant did not report sleep concerns. The ASD and cognitive profiles of these individuals varied in severity and symptoms. The results support a possible role of PER2-related circadian rhythm disturbances in the dysregulation of sleep overall and sometimes FASPS1. The relationship between dysregulated sleep and the pathophysiology of ASD require further exploration.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajmg.a.62086DOI Listing
April 2021

What a finding of gene copy number variation can add to the diagnosis of developmental neuropsychiatric disorders.

Curr Opin Genet Dev 2021 Jun 14;68:18-25. Epub 2021 Jan 14.

Program in Genetics and Genome Biology, Hospital for Sick Children, Canada; The Centre for Applied Genomics, Hospital for Sick Children, Canada; McLaughlin Centre and Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto, Canada. Electronic address:

Among medical disciplines, diagnosis in psychiatry depends highly upon descriptive signs and symptoms, rather than biomarkers. Clear descriptions of specific genetic etiologies have been lacking; genomic technologies, however, are rapidly changing that landscape. Notably, chromosomal microarrays-which detect gene copy number variants (CNVs)-are a recommended standard of care for neurodevelopmental disorders. As a result, an increasing number of patients now receive a clinical diagnosis based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and an identified genetic etiological variant. However, psychiatric and genetic diagnoses are frequently communicated and managed as two disconnected diagnostic parameters. Here, we advocate for a transition model, allowing the integration of genetic etiological information-starting with diagnostically proven CNVs-within the DSM-5 classification framework.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gde.2020.12.017DOI Listing
June 2021

DNA Methylation of the Oxytocin Receptor Across Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

J Autism Dev Disord 2021 Jan 4. Epub 2021 Jan 4.

Genetics and Genome Biology, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Many neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) share common learning and behavioural impairments, as well as features such as dysregulation of the oxytocin hormone. Here, we examined DNA methylation (DNAm) in the 1st intron of the oxytocin receptor gene, OXTR, in patients with autism spectrum (ASD), attention deficit and hyperactivity (ADHD) and obsessive compulsive (OCD) disorders. DNAm of OXTR was assessed for cohorts of ASD (blood), ADHD (saliva), OCD (saliva), which uncovered sex-specific DNAm differences compared to neurotypical, tissue-matched controls. Individuals with ASD or ADHD exhibiting extreme DNAm values had lower IQ and more social problems, respectively, than those with DNAm within normative ranges. This suggests that OXTR DNAm patterns are altered across NDDs and may be correlated with common clinical outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04792-xDOI Listing
January 2021

Phase Separation as a Missing Mechanism for Interpretation of Disease Mutations.

Cell 2020 12;183(7):1742-1756

Program in Molecular Medicine, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON M5G 0A4, Canada; Department of Biochemistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 1A8, Canada. Electronic address:

It is unclear how disease mutations impact intrinsically disordered protein regions (IDRs), which lack a stable folded structure. These mutations, while prevalent in disease, are frequently neglected or annotated as variants of unknown significance. Biomolecular phase separation, a physical process often mediated by IDRs, has increasingly appreciated roles in cellular organization and regulation. We find that autism spectrum disorder (ASD)- and cancer-associated proteins are enriched for predicted phase separation propensities, suggesting that IDR mutations disrupt phase separation in key cellular processes. More generally, we hypothesize that combinations of small-effect IDR mutations perturb phase separation, potentially contributing to "missing heritability" in complex disease susceptibility.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.11.050DOI Listing
December 2020

A Distributed Whole Genome Sequencing Benchmark Study.

Front Genet 2020 1;11:612515. Epub 2020 Dec 1.

Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer Research Institute, Provincial Health Services Authority, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Population sequencing often requires collaboration across a distributed network of sequencing centers for the timely processing of thousands of samples. In such massive efforts, it is important that participating scientists can be confident that the accuracy of the sequence data produced is not affected by which center generates the data. A study was conducted across three established sequencing centers, located in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, constituting Canada's Genomics Enterprise (www.cgen.ca). Whole genome sequencing was performed at each center, on three genomic DNA replicates from three well-characterized cell lines. Secondary analysis pipelines employed by each site were applied to sequence data from each of the sites, resulting in three datasets for each of four variables (cell line, replicate, sequencing center, and analysis pipeline), for a total of 81 datasets. These datasets were each assessed according to multiple quality metrics including concordance with benchmark variant truth sets to assess consistent quality across all three conditions for each variable. Three-way concordance analysis of variants across conditions for each variable was performed. Our results showed that the variant concordance between datasets differing only by sequencing center was similar to the concordance for datasets differing only by replicate, using the same analysis pipeline. We also showed that the statistically significant differences between datasets result from the analysis pipeline used, which can be unified and updated as new approaches become available. We conclude that genome sequencing projects can rely on the quality and reproducibility of aggregate data generated across a network of distributed sites.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2020.612515DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7736078PMC
December 2020

Using common genetic variation to examine phenotypic expression and risk prediction in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome.

Nat Med 2020 12 9;26(12):1912-1918. Epub 2020 Nov 9.

Centro de Genética y Genómica, Facultad de Medicina, Clínica Alemana Universidad del Desarrollo, Santiago, Chile.

The 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS) is associated with a 20-25% risk of schizophrenia. In a cohort of 962 individuals with 22q11DS, we examined the shared genetic basis between schizophrenia and schizophrenia-related early trajectory phenotypes: sub-threshold symptoms of psychosis, low baseline intellectual functioning and cognitive decline. We studied the association of these phenotypes with two polygenic scores, derived for schizophrenia and intelligence, and evaluated their use for individual risk prediction in 22q11DS. Polygenic scores were not only associated with schizophrenia and baseline intelligence quotient (IQ), respectively, but schizophrenia polygenic score was also significantly associated with cognitive (verbal IQ) decline and nominally associated with sub-threshold psychosis. Furthermore, in comparing the tail-end deciles of the schizophrenia and IQ polygenic score distributions, 33% versus 9% of individuals with 22q11DS had schizophrenia, and 63% versus 24% of individuals had intellectual disability. Collectively, these data show a shared genetic basis for schizophrenia and schizophrenia-related phenotypes and also highlight the future potential of polygenic scores for risk stratification among individuals with highly, but incompletely, penetrant genetic variants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-1103-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7975627PMC
December 2020

Genes and Pathways Implicated in Tetralogy of Fallot Revealed by Ultra-Rare Variant Burden Analysis in 231 Genome Sequences.

Front Genet 2020 15;11:957. Epub 2020 Sep 15.

Clinical Genetics Research Program, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Recent genome-wide studies of rare genetic variants have begun to implicate novel mechanisms for tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), a severe congenital heart defect (CHD). To provide statistical support for case-only data without parental genomes, we re-analyzed genome sequences of 231 individuals with TOF ( = 175) or related CHD. We adapted a burden test originally developed for variants to assess ultra-rare variant burden in individual genes, and in gene-sets corresponding to functional pathways and mouse phenotypes, accounting for highly correlated gene-sets and for multiple testing. For truncating variants, the gene burden test confirmed significant burden in (Bonferroni corrected -value < 0.01). For missense variants, burden in achieved genome-wide significance only when restricted to constrained genes (i.e., under negative selection, Bonferroni corrected -value = 0.004), and showed enrichment for variants affecting the extracellular domain, especially those disrupting cysteine residues forming disulfide bonds (OR = 39.8 vs. gnomAD). Individuals with ultra-rare missense variants, all with TOF, were enriched for positive family history of CHD. Other genes not previously implicated in CHD had more modest statistical support in gene burden tests. Gene-set burden tests for truncating variants identified a cluster of pathways corresponding to VEGF signaling ( = 0%), and of mouse phenotypes corresponding to abnormal vasculature ( = 0.8%); these suggested additional candidate genes not previously identified (e.g., and ). Results for the most promising genes were driven by the TOF subset of the cohort. The findings support the importance of ultra-rare variants disrupting genes involved in VEGF and NOTCH signaling in the genetic architecture of TOF, accounting for 11-14% of individuals in the TOF cohort. These proof-of-principle data indicate that this statistical methodology could assist in analyzing case-only sequencing data in which ultra-rare variants, whether or inherited, contribute to the genetic etiopathogenesis of a complex disorder.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2020.00957DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7522597PMC
September 2020

Genome Sequencing as a Diagnostic Test in Children With Unexplained Medical Complexity.

JAMA Netw Open 2020 09 1;3(9):e2018109. Epub 2020 Sep 1.

Centre for Genetic Medicine, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Importance: Children with medical complexity (CMC) represent a growing population in the pediatric health care system, with high resource use and associated health care costs. A genetic diagnosis can inform prognosis, anticipatory care, management, and reproductive planning. Conventional genetic testing strategies for CMC are often costly, time consuming, and ultimately unsuccessful.

Objective: To evaluate the analytical and clinical validity of genome sequencing as a comprehensive diagnostic genetic test for CMC.

Design, Setting, And Participants: In this cohort study of the prospective use of genome sequencing and comparison with standard-of-care genetic testing, CMC were recruited from May 1, 2017, to November 30, 2018, from a structured complex care program based at a tertiary care pediatric hospital in Toronto, Canada. Recruited CMC had at least 1 chronic condition, technology dependence (child is dependent at least part of each day on mechanical ventilators, and/or child requires prolonged intravenous administration of nutritional substances or drugs, and/or child is expected to have prolonged dependence on other device-based support), multiple subspecialist involvement, and substantial health care use. Review of the care plans for 545 CMC identified 143 suspected of having an undiagnosed genetic condition. Fifty-four families met inclusion criteria and were interested in participating, and 49 completed the study. Probands, similarly affected siblings, and biological parents were eligible for genome sequencing.

Exposures: Genome sequencing was performed using blood-derived DNA from probands and family members using established methods and a bioinformatics pipeline for clinical genome annotation.

Main Outcomes And Measures: The primary study outcome was the diagnostic yield of genome sequencing (proportion of CMC for whom the test result yielded a new diagnosis).

Results: Genome sequencing was performed for 138 individuals from 49 families of CMC (29 male and 20 female probands; mean [SD] age, 7.0 [4.5] years). Genome sequencing detected all genomic variation previously identified by conventional genetic testing. A total of 15 probands (30.6%; 95% CI 19.5%-44.6%) received a new primary molecular genetic diagnosis after genome sequencing. Three individuals had novel diseases and an additional 9 had either ultrarare genetic conditions or rare genetic conditions with atypical features. At least 11 families received diagnostic information that had clinical management implications beyond genetic and reproductive counseling.

Conclusions And Relevance: This study suggests that genome sequencing has high analytical and clinical validity and can result in new diagnoses in CMC even in the setting of extensive prior investigations. This clinical population may be enriched for ultrarare and novel genetic disorders. Genome sequencing is a potentially first-tier genetic test for CMC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.18109DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7509619PMC
September 2020

Adaptation and validation of the Genetic Counseling Outcome Scale for autism spectrum disorders and related conditions.

J Genet Couns 2021 Feb 6;30(1):305-318. Epub 2020 Sep 6.

Azrieli Centre for Autism Research, Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.

The genetics care pathway experienced by families affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) around the time of diagnosis is currently uncharacterized and potentially variable across contexts. The lack of consensus on outcome measures to capture the impact of genetic services for these families shows a gap in understanding and optimizing this genetics care pathway. The Genetic Counseling Outcome Scale (GCOS-24) is a validated outcome measure of clinical genetics services. The current study aims to adapt and validate the GCOS-24 as an outcome measure in the context routine genetic testing in ASD and related conditions. Families seen for their child's developmental evaluation for ASD and related conditions were invited to participate in a genomics cohort between 2016 and 2018. Families (n = 111) completed the mGCOS-24 (modified GCOS-24), adapted from the original GCOS-24 by clinicians working in the target population's routine care pathway. The mGCOS-24 has acceptable internal consistency (Cronbach's α = 0.84) and high test-retest reliability (ICC = 0.88). It also inversely correlates with stress as measured by Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10) and distress, as measured by the Distress Thermometer, rs ≥ 0.39, ps < 0.001. The mGCOS-24 had adequate readability, as supported by cognitive interviews completed by a sub-sample of five mothers of a child with ASD. Together, our findings show that the mGCOS-24 has good validity for the target population. Preliminary characterization of the genetics care pathway in this population revealed remarkable variability in pre-test counseling and limited post-test counseling. The use of the mGCOS-24 as an outcome measure is useful in filling some of these gaps by offering a way to assess, and in the future, optimize the genetics care pathway for families affected by autism and related neurodevelopmental conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jgc4.1323DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7891368PMC
February 2021

Genome-wide detection of tandem DNA repeats that are expanded in autism.

Nature 2020 10 27;586(7827):80-86. Epub 2020 Jul 27.

Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Tandem DNA repeats vary in the size and sequence of each unit (motif). When expanded, these tandem DNA repeats have been associated with more than 40 monogenic disorders. Their involvement in disorders with complex genetics is largely unknown, as is the extent of their heterogeneity. Here we investigated the genome-wide characteristics of tandem repeats that had motifs with a length of 2-20 base pairs in 17,231 genomes of families containing individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and population control individuals. We found extensive polymorphism in the size and sequence of motifs. Many of the tandem repeat loci that we detected correlated with cytogenetic fragile sites. At 2,588 loci, gene-associated expansions of tandem repeats that were rare among population control individuals were significantly more prevalent among individuals with ASD than their siblings without ASD, particularly in exons and near splice junctions, and in genes related to the development of the nervous system and cardiovascular system or muscle. Rare tandem repeat expansions had a prevalence of 23.3% in children with ASD compared with 20.7% in children without ASD, which suggests that tandem repeat expansions make a collective contribution to the risk of ASD of 2.6%. These rare tandem repeat expansions included previously undescribed ASD-linked expansions in DMPK and FXN, which are associated with neuromuscular conditions, and in previously unknown loci such as FGF14 and CACNB1. Rare tandem repeat expansions were associated with lower IQ and adaptive ability. Our results show that tandem DNA repeat expansions contribute strongly to the genetic aetiology and phenotypic complexity of ASD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2579-zDOI Listing
October 2020

FARP-1 deletion is associated with lack of response to autism treatment by early start denver model in a multiplex family.

Mol Genet Genomic Med 2020 09 25;8(9):e1373. Epub 2020 Jun 25.

Interdepartmental Program "Autism 0-90", "G. Martino" University Hospital of Messina, Messina, Italy.

Background: Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) display impressive clinical heterogeneity, also involving treatment response. Genetic variants can contribute to explain this large interindividual phenotypic variability.

Methods: Array-CGH (a-CGH) and whole genome sequencing (WGS) were performed on a multiplex family with two small children diagnosed with ASD at 17 and 18 months of age. Both brothers received the same naturalistic intervention for one year according to the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), applied by the same therapists, yielding dramatically different treatment outcomes.

Results: The older sibling came out of the autism spectrum, while the younger sibling displayed very little, in any, improvement. This boy was subsequently treated applying a structured Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention paired with Augmentative Alternative Communication, which yielded a partial response within another year. The ESDM nonresponsive child carries a novel maternally inherited 65 Kb deletion at chr. 13q32.2 spanning FARP1. Farp1 is a synaptic scaffolding protein, which plays a significant role in neural plasticity.

Conclusion: These results represent a paradigmatic example of the heuristic potential of genetic markers in predicting treatment response and possibly in supporting the targeted prescription of specific early intervention approaches.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mgg3.1373DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7507005PMC
September 2020

Modeling neuronal consequences of autism-associated gene regulatory variants with human induced pluripotent stem cells.

Mol Autism 2020 05 12;11(1):33. Epub 2020 May 12.

Developmental & Stem Cell Biology Program, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Genetic factors contribute to the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and although non-protein-coding regions of the genome are being increasingly implicated in ASD, the functional consequences of these variants remain largely uncharacterized. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) enable the production of personalized neurons that are genetically matched to people with ASD and can therefore be used to directly test the effects of genomic variation on neuronal gene expression, synapse function, and connectivity. The combined use of human pluripotent stem cells with genome editing to introduce or correct specific variants has proved to be a powerful approach for exploring the functional consequences of ASD-associated variants in protein-coding genes and, more recently, long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). Here, we review recent studies that implicate lncRNAs, other non-coding mutations, and regulatory variants in ASD susceptibility. We also discuss experimental design considerations for using iPSCs and genome editing to study the role of the non-protein-coding genome in ASD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13229-020-00333-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7218542PMC
May 2020

Ancestry and frequency of genetic variants in the general population are confounders in the characterization of germline variants linked to cancer.

BMC Med Genet 2020 05 6;21(1):92. Epub 2020 May 6.

Charbonneau Cancer Institute, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Background: Pediatric high-grade gliomas (pHGGs) are incurable malignant brain cancers. Clear somatic genetic drivers are difficult to identify in the majority of cases. We hypothesized that this may be due to the existence of germline variants that influence tumor etiology and/or progression and are filtered out using traditional pipelines for somatic mutation calling.

Methods: In this study, we analyzed whole-genome sequencing (WGS) datasets of matched germlines and tumor tissues to identify recurrent germline variants in pHGG patients.

Results: We identified two structural variants that were highly recurrent in a discovery cohort of 8 pHGG patients. One was a ~ 40 kb deletion immediately upstream of the NEGR1 locus and predicted to remove the promoter region of this gene. This copy number variant (CNV) was present in all patients in our discovery cohort (n = 8) and in 86.3% of patients in our validation cohort (n = 73 cases). We also identified a second recurrent deletion 55.7 kb in size affecting the BTNL3 and BTNL8 loci. This BTNL3-8 deletion was observed in 62.5% patients in our discovery cohort, and in 17.8% of the patients in the validation cohort. Our single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) data showed that both deletions result in disruption of transcription of the affected genes. However, analysis of genomic information from multiple non-cancer cohorts showed that both the NEGR1 promoter deletion and the BTNL3-8 deletion were CNVs occurring at high frequencies in the general population. Intriguingly, the upstream NEGR1 CNV deletion was homozygous in ~ 40% of individuals in the non-cancer population. This finding was immediately relevant because the affected genes have important physiological functions, and our analyses showed that NEGR1 expression levels have prognostic value for pHGG patient survival. We also found that these deletions occurred at different frequencies among different ethnic groups.

Conclusions: Our study highlights the need to integrate cancer genomic analyses and genomic data from large control populations. Failure to do so may lead to spurious association of genes with cancer etiology. Importantly, our results showcase the need for careful evaluation of differences in the frequency of genetic variants among different ethnic groups.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12881-020-01033-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7201963PMC
May 2020

Segregating patterns of copy number variations in extended autism spectrum disorder (ASD) pedigrees.

Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet 2020 07 6;183(5):268-276. Epub 2020 May 6.

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children & University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a relatively common childhood onset neurodevelopmental disorder with a complex genetic etiology. While progress has been made in identifying the de novo mutational landscape of ASD, the genetic factors that underpin the ASD's tendency to run in families are not well understood. In this study, nine extended pedigrees each with three or more individuals with ASD, and others with a lesser autism phenotype, were phenotyped and genotyped in an attempt to identify heritable copy number variants (CNVs). Although these families have previously generated linkage signals, no rare CNV segregated with these signals in any family. A small number of clinically relevant CNVs were identified. Only one CNV was identified that segregated with ASD phenotype; namely, a duplication overlapping DLGAP2 in three male offspring each with an ASD diagnosis. This gene encodes a synaptic scaffolding protein, part of a group of proteins known to be pathologically implicated in ASD. On the whole, however, the heritable nature of ASD in the families studied remains poorly understood.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajmg.b.32785DOI Listing
July 2020

ExpansionHunter Denovo: a computational method for locating known and novel repeat expansions in short-read sequencing data.

Genome Biol 2020 04 28;21(1):102. Epub 2020 Apr 28.

Illumina Inc., 5200 Illumina Way, San Diego, CA, 92122, USA.

Repeat expansions are responsible for over 40 monogenic disorders, and undoubtedly more pathogenic repeat expansions remain to be discovered. Existing methods for detecting repeat expansions in short-read sequencing data require predefined repeat catalogs. Recent discoveries emphasize the need for methods that do not require pre-specified candidate repeats. To address this need, we introduce ExpansionHunter Denovo, an efficient catalog-free method for genome-wide repeat expansion detection. Analysis of real and simulated data shows that our method can identify large expansions of 41 out of 44 pathogenic repeats, including nine recently reported non-reference repeat expansions not discoverable via existing methods.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13059-020-02017-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7187524PMC
April 2020

Associations of clinical and inflammatory biomarker clusters with juvenile idiopathic arthritis categories.

Rheumatology (Oxford) 2020 05;59(5):1066-1075

Department of Pediatrics, University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto.

Objective: To identify discrete clusters comprising clinical features and inflammatory biomarkers in children with JIA and to determine cluster alignment with JIA categories.

Methods: A Canadian prospective inception cohort comprising 150 children with JIA was evaluated at baseline (visit 1) and after six months (visit 2). Data included clinical manifestations and inflammation-related biomarkers. Probabilistic principal component analysis identified sets of composite variables, or principal components, from 191 original variables. To discern new clinical-biomarker clusters (clusters), Gaussian mixture models were fit to the data. Newly-defined clusters and JIA categories were compared. Agreement between the two was assessed using Kruskal-Wallis analyses and contingency plots.

Results: Three principal components recovered 35% (three clusters) and 40% (five clusters) of the variance in patient profiles in visits 1 and 2, respectively. None of the clusters aligned precisely with any of the seven JIA categories but rather spanned multiple categories. Results demonstrated that the newly defined clinical-biomarker lustres are more homogeneous than JIA categories.

Conclusion: Applying unsupervised data mining to clinical and inflammatory biomarker data discerns discrete clusters that intersect multiple JIA categories. Results suggest that certain groups of patients within different JIA categories are more aligned pathobiologically than their separate clinical categorizations suggest. Applying data mining analyses to complex datasets can generate insights into JIA pathogenesis and could contribute to biologically based refinements in JIA classification.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/kez382DOI Listing
May 2020

A framework for an evidence-based gene list relevant to autism spectrum disorder.

Nat Rev Genet 2020 06 21;21(6):367-376. Epub 2020 Apr 21.

The Centre for Applied Genomics, Program in Genetics and Genome Biology, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is often grouped with other brain-related phenotypes into a broader category of neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). In clinical practice, providers need to decide which genes to test in individuals with ASD phenotypes, which requires an understanding of the level of evidence for individual NDD genes that supports an association with ASD. Consensus is currently lacking about which NDD genes have sufficient evidence to support a relationship to ASD. Estimates of the number of genes relevant to ASD differ greatly among research groups and clinical sequencing panels, varying from a few to several hundred. This Roadmap discusses important considerations necessary to provide an evidence-based framework for the curation of NDD genes based on the level of information supporting a clinically relevant relationship between a given gene and ASD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41576-020-0231-2DOI Listing
June 2020

DNA Methylation Signature for EZH2 Functionally Classifies Sequence Variants in Three PRC2 Complex Genes.

Am J Hum Genet 2020 05 2;106(5):596-610. Epub 2020 Apr 2.

Department of Oncology and Hemato-oncology, University of Milan, Milan 20122, Italy; Laboratory of Stem Cell Epigenetics, IEO, European Institute of Oncology, IRCCS, Milan 20139, Italy; Human Technopole, Center for Neurogenomics, Via Cristina Belgioioso 171, Milan 20157, Italy.

Weaver syndrome (WS), an overgrowth/intellectual disability syndrome (OGID), is caused by pathogenic variants in the histone methyltransferase EZH2, which encodes a core component of the Polycomb repressive complex-2 (PRC2). Using genome-wide DNA methylation (DNAm) data for 187 individuals with OGID and 969 control subjects, we show that pathogenic variants in EZH2 generate a highly specific and sensitive DNAm signature reflecting the phenotype of WS. This signature can be used to distinguish loss-of-function from gain-of-function missense variants and to detect somatic mosaicism. We also show that the signature can accurately classify sequence variants in EED and SUZ12, which encode two other core components of PRC2, and predict the presence of pathogenic variants in undiagnosed individuals with OGID. The discovery of a functionally relevant signature with utility for diagnostic classification of sequence variants in EZH2, EED, and SUZ12 supports the emerging paradigm shift for implementation of DNAm signatures into diagnostics and translational research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.03.008DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7212265PMC
May 2020

Perceived utility of biological testing for autism spectrum disorder is associated with child and family functioning.

Res Dev Disabil 2020 May 28;100:103605. Epub 2020 Feb 28.

Azrieli Centre for Autism Research, Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital, McGill University, Montreal, Canada; Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Canada. Electronic address:

Background: The clinical integration of chromosomal microarray testing promises improvements in diagnostic yields in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). While the impact on clinical management is promising for some families, the utility perceived by families, including the majority for whom results are negative, is unclear. With next generation genomic sequencing technologies poised for integration, along with promising ASD biomarkers being developed, there is a need to understand the extent to which genomic and other biological testing would have utility for the target recipients of these tests and their families. The purpose of the present cross-sectional study was to examine the predictors of perceived utility of biological testing among parents of a child with ASD.

Methods: The Perceived Utility of Biotesting (PUB) Questionnaire was developed based on literature review and integrating family review. Following their child's diagnosis, families participating in an ongoing prospective study completed the PUB questionnaire along with self-reported measures of parent stress, child and family functioning, and family-centered care prior to undergoing genetic testing for both clinical and research purposes.

Results: Based on n = 85 families, psychometric properties of the Perceived Utility of Biotesting questionnaire suggest a reliable and valid instrument. A stepwise regression analysis reveals that lower levels of child emotional and behavioural functioning and higher levels of family functioning correlated with higher perceived utility for biological testing.

Limitations: A main limitation in the study is the participation rate of 50 %, thus the possibility of self-selection bias cannot be ruled out. We also chose to assess perceived utility among parents rather than the individuals with ASD themselves: modifying the questionnaire to capture perceived utility from autistic individuals across the lifespan would prove essential in future studies. Finally, ongoing validation of the PUB by assessing the PUB's discriminant and convergent validity is still needed.

Conclusions: We conclude that the utility of biological testing perceived by families whose child is undergoing genetic testing around ASD diagnosis depends on their unique child and family characteristics. This signifies that engaging families in biomarker discovery for improving the impact of research and care requires systematic input from a representative sample of families.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2020.103605DOI Listing
May 2020