Background: Copy number variations (CNVs) are the major type of structural variation in the human genome, and are more common than DNA sequence variations in populations. CNVs are important factors for human genetic and phenotypic diversity. Many CNVs have been associated with either resistance to diseases or identified as the cause of diseases. Currently little is known about the role of CNVs in causing deafness. CNVs are currently not analyzed by conventional genetic analysis methods to study deafness. Here we detected both DNA sequence variations and CNVs affecting 80 genes known to be required for normal hearing.
Methods: Coding regions of the deafness genes were captured by a hybridization-based method and processed through the standard next-generation sequencing (NGS) protocol using the Illumina platform. Samples hybridized together in the same reaction were analyzed to obtain CNVs. A read depth based method was used to measure CNVs at the resolution of a single exon. Results were validated by the quantitative PCR (qPCR) based method.
Results: Among 79 sporadic cases clinically diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss, we identified previously-reported disease-causing sequence mutations in 16 cases. In addition, we identified a total of 97 CNVs (72 CNV gains and 25 CNV losses) in 27 deafness genes. The CNVs included homozygous deletions which may directly give rise to deleterious effects on protein functions known to be essential for hearing, as well as heterozygous deletions and CNV gains compounded with sequence mutations in deafness genes that could potentially harm gene functions.
Conclusions: We studied how CNVs in known deafness genes may result in deafness. Data provided here served as a basis to explain how CNVs disrupt normal functions of deafness genes. These results may significantly expand our understanding about how various types of genetic mutations cause deafness in humans.
Keywords: Copy number variations; Deafness gene panel; Genetic deafness; Hearing; Next-generation sequencing; Sequence mutations.