Background: Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) is a pleiotropic recessive disorder that belongs to the rapidly growing family of ciliopathies. It shares phenotypic traits with other ciliopathies, such as Alström syndrome (ALMS), nephronophthisis (NPHP) or Joubert syndrome. BBS mutations have been detected in 16 different genes (BBS1-BBS16) without clear genotype-to-phenotype correlation. This extensive genetic heterogeneity is a major concern for molecular diagnosis and genetic counselling. While various strategies have been recently proposed to optimise mutation detection, they either fail to detect mutations in a majority of patients or are time consuming and costly.
Method: We tested a targeted exon-capture strategy coupled with multiplexing and high-throughput sequencing on 52 patients: 14 with known mutations as proof-of-principle and 38 with no previously detected mutation. Thirty genes were targeted in total including the 16 BBS genes, the 12 known NPHP genes, the single ALMS gene ALMS1 and the proposed modifier CCDC28B.
Results: This strategy allowed the reliable detection of causative mutations (including homozygous/heterozygous exon deletions) in 68% of BBS patients without previous molecular diagnosis and in all proof-of-principle samples. Three probands carried homozygous truncating mutations in ALMS1 confirming the major phenotypic overlap between both disorders. The efficiency of detecting mutations in patients was positively correlated with their compliance with the classical BBS phenotype (mutations were identified in 81% of 'classical' BBS patients) suggesting that only a few true BBS genes remain to be identified. We illustrate some interpretation problems encountered due to the multiplicity of identified variants.
Conclusion: This strategy is highly efficient and cost effective for diseases with high genetic heterogeneity, and guarantees a quality of coverage in coding sequences of target genes suited for diagnosis purposes.