Integrated genome and transcriptome sequencing identifies a noncoding mutation in the genome replication factor DONSON as the cause of microcephaly-micromelia syndrome
While next-generation sequencing has accelerated the discovery of human disease genes, progress has been largely limited to the "low hanging fruit" of mutations with obvious exonic coding or canonical splice site impact. In contrast, the lack of high-throughput, unbiased approaches for functional assessment of most noncoding variants has bottlenecked gene discovery. We report the integration of transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq), which surveys all mRNAs to reveal functional impacts of variants at the transcription level, into the gene discovery framework for a unique human disease, microcephaly-micromelia syndrome (MMS). MMS is an autosomal recessive condition described thus far in only a single First Nations population and causes intrauterine growth restriction, severe microcephaly, craniofacial anomalies, skeletal dysplasia, and neonatal lethality. Linkage analysis of affected families, including a very large pedigree, identified a single locus on Chromosome 21 linked to the disease (LOD > 9). Comprehensive genome sequencing did not reveal any pathogenic coding or canonical splicing mutations within the linkage region but identified several nonconserved noncoding variants. RNA-seq analysis detected aberrant splicing in DONSON due to one of these noncoding variants, showing a causative role for DONSON disruption in MMS. We show that DONSON is expressed in progenitor cells of embryonic human brain and other proliferating tissues, is co-expressed with components of the DNA replication machinery, and that Donson is essential for early embryonic development in mice as well, suggesting an essential conserved role for DONSON in the cell cycle. Our results demonstrate the utility of integrating transcriptomics into the study of human genetic disease when DNA sequencing alone is not sufficient to reveal the underlying pathogenic mutation.
One brain, many genomes
A PIECE OF MY MIND. A Wild Rotation
Somatic mutation in single human neurons tracks developmental and transcriptional history
Neurons live for decades in a postmitotic state, their genomes susceptible to DNA damage. Here we survey the landscape of somatic single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) in the human brain. We identified thousands of somatic SNVs by single-cell sequencing of 36 neurons from the cerebral cortex of three normal individuals. Unlike germline and cancer SNVs, which are often caused by errors in DNA replication, neuronal mutations appear to reflect damage during active transcription. Somatic mutations create nested lineage trees, allowing them to be dated relative to developmental landmarks and revealing a polyclonal architecture of the human cerebral cortex. Thus, somatic mutations in the brain represent a durable and ongoing record of neuronal life history, from development through postmitotic function.
Cell lineage analysis in human brain using endogenous retroelements
Somatic mutations occur during brain development and are increasingly implicated as a cause of neurogenetic disease. However, the patterns in which somatic mutations distribute in the human brain are unknown. We used high-coverage whole-genome sequencing of single neurons from a normal individual to identify spontaneous somatic mutations as clonal marks to track cell lineages in human brain.Â Somatic mutation analyses in >30 locations throughout the nervous system identified multiple lineages and sublineages of cells marked by different LINE-1 (L1) retrotransposition events and subsequent mutation of poly-A microsatellites within L1. One clone contained thousands of cells limited to the left middle frontal gyrus, whereas a second distinct clone contained millions of cells distributed over the entire left hemisphere. These patterns mirror known somatic mutation disorders of brain development and suggest that focally distributed mutations are also prevalent in normal brains. Single-cell analysis of somatic mutation enables tracing of cell lineage clones in human brain.
Somatic mutation, genomic variation, and neurological disease
Genetic mutations causing human disease are conventionally thought to be inherited through the germ line from one's parents and present in all somatic (body) cells, except for most cancer mutations, which arise somatically. Increasingly, somatic mutations are being identified in diseases other than cancer, including neurodevelopmental diseases. Somatic mutations can arise during the course of prenatal brain development and cause neurological disease-even when present at low levels of mosaicism, for example-resulting in brain malformations associated with epilepsy and intellectual disability. Novel, highly sensitive technologies will allow more accurate evaluation of somatic mutations in neurodevelopmental disorders and during normal brain development.
Single-neuron sequencing analysis of L1 retrotransposition and somatic mutation in the human brain
A major unanswered question in neuroscience is whether there exists genomic variability between individual neurons of the brain, contributing to functional diversity or to an unexplained burden of neurological disease. To address this question, we developed a method to amplify genomes of single neurons from human brains. Because recent reports suggest frequent LINE-1 (L1) retrotransposition in human brains, we performed genome-wide L1 insertion profiling of 300 single neurons from cerebral cortex and caudate nucleus of three normal individuals, recovering >80% of germline insertions from single neurons. While we find somatic L1 insertions, we estimate <0.6 unique somatic insertions per neuron, and most neurons lack detectable somatic insertions, suggesting that L1 is not a major generator of neuronal diversity in cortex and caudate. We then genotyped single cortical cells to characterize the mosaicism of a somatic AKT3 mutation identified in a child with hemimegalencephaly. Single-neuron sequencing allows systematic assessment of genomic diversity in the human brain.
Somatic Activation of AKT3 Causes Hemispheric Developmental Brain Malformations
Hemimegalencephaly (HMG) is a developmental brain disorder characterized by an enlarged, malformed cerebral hemisphere, typically causing epilepsy that requires surgical resection. We studied resected HMG tissue to test whether the condition might reflect somatic mutations affecting genes critical to brain development. We found that two out of eight HMG samples showed trisomy of chromosome 1q, which encompasses many genes, including AKT3, a gene known to regulate brain size. A third case showed a known activating mutation in AKT3 (c.49G-->A, creating p.E17K) that was not present in the patient's blood cells. Remarkably, the E17K mutation in AKT3 is exactly paralogous to E17K mutations in AKT1 and AKT2 recently discovered in somatic overgrowth syndromes. We show that AKT3 is the most abundant AKT paralog in the brain during neurogenesis and that phosphorylated AKT is abundant in cortical progenitor cells. Our data suggest that somatic mutations limited to the brain could represent an important cause of complex neurogenetic disease.
Pangenome graphs improve the analysis of structural variants in rare genetic diseases
Rare DNA alterations that cause heritable diseases are only partially resolvable by clinical next-generation sequencing due to the difficulty of detecting structural variation (SV) in all genomic contexts. Long-read, high fidelity genome sequencing (HiFi-GS) detects SVs with increased sensitivity and enables assembling personal and graph genomes. We leverage standard reference genomes, public assemblies (n = 94) and a large collection of HiFi-GS data from a rare disease program (Genomic Answers for Kids, GA4K, n = 574 assemblies) to build a graph genome representing a unified SV callset in GA4K, identify common variation and prioritize SVs that are more likely to cause genetic disease (MAF < 0.01). Using graphs, we obtain a higher level of reproducibility than the standard reference approach. We observe over 200,000 SV alleles unique to GA4K, including nearly 1000 rare variants that impact coding sequence. With improved specificity for rare SVs, we isolate 30 candidate SVs in phenotypically prioritized genes, including known disease SVs. We isolate a novel diagnostic SV in KMT2E, demonstrating use of personal assemblies coupled with pangenome graphs for rare disease genomics. The community may interrogate our pangenome with additional assemblies to discover new SVs within the allele frequency spectrum relevant to genetic diseases.
Direct haplotype-resolved 5-base HiFi sequencing for genome-wide profiling of hypermethylation outliers in a rare disease cohort
Long-read HiFi genome sequencing allows for accurate detection and direct phasing of single nucleotide variants, indels, and structural variants. Recent algorithmic development enables simultaneous detection of CpG methylation for analysis of regulatory element activity directly in HiFi reads. We present a comprehensive haplotype resolved 5-base HiFi genome sequencing dataset from a rare disease cohort of 276 samples in 152 families to identify rare (~0.5%) hypermethylation events. We find that 80% of these events are allele-specific and predicted to cause loss of regulatory element activity. We demonstrate heritability of extreme hypermethylation including rare cis variants associated with short (~200 bp) and large hypermethylation events (>1 kb), respectively. We identify repeat expansions in proximal promoters predicting allelic gene silencing via hypermethylation and demonstrate allelic transcriptional events downstream. On average 30-40 rare hypermethylation tiles overlap rare disease genes per patient, providing indications for variation prioritization including a previously undiagnosed pathogenic allele in DIP2B causing global developmental delay. We propose that use of HiFi genome sequencing in unsolved rare disease cases will allow detection of unconventional diseases alleles due to loss of regulatory element activity.