Background: Apparently balanced chromosomal rearrangements (ABCR) are associated with an abnormal phenotype in 6% of cases. This may be due to cryptic genomic imbalances or to the disruption of genes at the breakpoint. However, breakpoint cloning using conventional methods (ie, fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH), Southern blot) is often laborious and time consuming. In this work, we used next generation sequencing (NGS) to locate breakpoints at the molecular level in four patients with multiple congenital abnormalities and/or intellectual deficiency (MCA/ID) who were carrying ABCR (one translocation, one complex chromosomal rearrangement and two inversions), which corresponded to nine breakpoints.
Methods: Genomic imbalance was previously excluded by array comparative genomic hybridisation (CGH) in all four patients. Whole genome paired-end protocol was used to identify breakpoints. The results were verified by FISH and by PCR with Sanger sequencing.
Results: We were able to map all nine breakpoints. NGS revealed an additional breakpoint due to a cryptic inversion at a breakpoint junction in one patient. Nine of 10 breakpoints occurred in repetitive elements and five genes were disrupted in their intronic sequence (TCF4, SHANK2, PPFIA1, RAB19, KCNQ1).
Conclusions: NGS is a powerful tool allowing rapid breakpoint cloning of ABCR at the molecular level. We showed that in three out of four patients, gene disruption could account for the phenotype, allowing adapted genetic counselling and stopping unnecessary investigations. We propose that patients carrying ABCR with an abnormal phenotype should be explored systematically by NGS once a genomic imbalance has been excluded by array CGH.