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Genetic diagnosis of Mendelian disorders via RNA sequencing

Nat Commun. 2017 Jun 12;8:15824. doi: 10.1038/ncomms15824.

Authors/Editors: Kremer LS, Bader DM, Mertes C, Kopajtich R, Pichler G, Iuso A, Haack TB, Graf E, Schwarzmayr T, Terrile C, Koňaříková E, Repp B, Kastenmüller G, Adamski J, Lichtner P, Leonhardt C, Funalot B, Donati A, Tiranti V, Lombes A, Jardel C, Gläser D, Taylor RW, Ghezzi D, Mayr JA, Rötig A, Freisinger P, Distelmaier F, Strom TM, Meitinger T, Gagneur J, Prokisch H.
Publication Date: 2017



Across a large variety of Mendelian disorders, 50 to 75% of undiagnosed patients do not receive a genetic diagnosis by whole exome sequencing indicative of underlying regulatory variants. In contrast, whole genome sequencing allows the discovery of all genetic variants, but their significant number, coupled with a poor understanding of the non-coding genome, makes their prioritization challenging. Here, we demonstrate the power of directly sequencing transcriptomes by providing a genetic diagnosis for 11% (5 of 47) of unsolved mitochondrial disease patients and strong candidates for other patients. We found a median of 1 aberrantly expressed gene, 5 aberrant splicing events, and 6 mono-allelically expressed rare variants in patient-derived fibroblasts and established disease-causing roles for each kind. Private exons often arose from sites that are weakly spliced in other individuals, providing an important clue for future variant prioritization. One such intronic exon-creating variant was found in three unrelated families in the complex I assembly factor TIMMDC1, which we consequently established as a novel disease-associated gene. In conclusion, our study expands the diagnostic tools for detecting non-exonic variants of Mendelian disorders and provides examples of intronic loss-of-function variants with pathological relevance.

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