Somatic mosaicism: implications for disease and transmission genetics

Trends Genet. 2015 Jul;31(7):382-92. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2015.03.013. Epub 2015 Apr 21.


Nearly all of the genetic material among cells within an organism is identical. However, single-nucleotide variants (SNVs), small insertions/deletions (indels), copy-number variants (CNVs), and other structural variants (SVs) continually accumulate as cells divide during development. This process results in an organism composed of countless cells, each with its own unique personal genome. Thus, every human is undoubtedly mosaic. Mosaic mutations can go unnoticed, underlie genetic disease or normal human variation, and may be transmitted to the next generation as constitutional variants. We review the influence of the developmental timing of mutations, the mechanisms by which they arise, methods for detecting mosaic variants, and the risk of passing these mutations on to the next generation.

Keywords: mosaicism; postzygotic mutation; recurrence risk; somatic mosaicism; transmission genetics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / genetics
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Mosaicism*
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Mutation
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Risk
  • Trinucleotide Repeat Expansion