Copy number variation (CNV) is an important determinant of human diversity and plays important roles in susceptibility to disease. Most studies of CNV carried out to date have made use of chromosome microarray and have had a lower size limit for detection of about 30 kilobases (kb). With the emergence of whole-exome sequencing studies, we asked whether such data could be used to reliably call rare exonic CNV in the size range of 1-30 kilobases (kb), making use of the eXome Hidden Markov Model (XHMM) program. By using both transmission information and validation by molecular methods, we confirmed that small CNV encompassing as few as three exons can be reliably called from whole-exome data. We applied this approach to an autism case-control sample (n = 811, mean per-target read depth = 161) and observed a significant increase in the burden of rare (MAF ≤1%) 1-30 kb CNV, 1-30 kb deletions, and 1-10 kb deletions in ASD. CNV in the 1-30 kb range frequently hit just a single gene, and we were therefore able to carry out enrichment and pathway analyses, where we observed enrichment for disruption of genes in cytoskeletal and autophagy pathways in ASD. In summary, our results showed that XHMM provided an effective means to assess small exonic CNV from whole-exome data, indicated that rare 1-30 kb exonic deletions could contribute to risk in up to 7% of individuals with ASD, and implicated a candidate pathway in developmental delay syndromes.
Copyright © 2013 The American Society of Human Genetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.