Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) is the most common cyanotic congenital heart disease. Its genetic basis is demonstrated by an increased recurrence risk in siblings and familial cases. However, the majority of TOF are sporadic, isolated cases of undefined origin and it had been postulated that rare and private autosomal variations in concert define its genetic basis. To elucidate this hypothesis, we performed a multilevel study using targeted re-sequencing and whole-transcriptome profiling. We developed a novel concept based on a gene's mutation frequency to unravel the polygenic origin of TOF. We show that isolated TOF is caused by a combination of deleterious private and rare mutations in genes essential for apoptosis and cell growth, the assembly of the sarcomere as well as for the neural crest and secondary heart field, the cellular basis of the right ventricle and its outflow tract. Affected genes coincide in an interaction network with significant disturbances in expression shared by cases with a mutually affected TOF gene. The majority of genes show continuous expression during adulthood, which opens a new route to understand the diversity in the long-term clinical outcome of TOF cases. Our findings demonstrate that TOF has a polygenic origin and that understanding the genetic basis can lead to novel diagnostic and therapeutic routes. Moreover, the novel concept of the gene mutation frequency is a versatile measure and can be applied to other open genetic disorders.
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.