A post-hoc comparison of the utility of sanger sequencing and exome sequencing for the diagnosis of heterogeneous diseases

Hum Mutat. 2013 Dec;34(12):1721-6. doi: 10.1002/humu.22450. Epub 2013 Oct 18.


The advent of massive parallel sequencing is rapidly changing the strategies employed for the genetic diagnosis and research of rare diseases that involve a large number of genes. So far it is not clear whether these approaches perform significantly better than conventional single gene testing as requested by clinicians. The current yield of this traditional diagnostic approach depends on a complex of factors that include gene-specific phenotype traits, and the relative frequency of the involvement of specific genes. To gauge the impact of the paradigm shift that is occurring in molecular diagnostics, we assessed traditional Sanger-based sequencing (in 2011) and exome sequencing followed by targeted bioinformatics analysis (in 2012) for five different conditions that are highly heterogeneous, and for which our center provides molecular diagnosis. We find that exome sequencing has a much higher diagnostic yield than Sanger sequencing for deafness, blindness, mitochondrial disease, and movement disorders. For microsatellite-stable colorectal cancer, this was low under both strategies. Even if all genes that could have been ordered by physicians had been tested, the larger number of genes captured by the exome would still have led to a clearly superior diagnostic yield at a fraction of the cost.

Keywords: NGS; diagnostic yield; exome sequencing; genome diagnostics; heterogeneous diseases.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Exome*
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / diagnosis*
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / genetics*
  • Genetic Testing
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing* / methods
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing* / standards
  • Humans
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA* / methods
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA* / standards