Mosaicism in health and disease - clones picking up speed

Nat Rev Genet. 2017 Feb;18(2):128-142. doi: 10.1038/nrg.2016.145. Epub 2016 Dec 12.


Post-zygotic variation refers to genetic changes that arise in the soma of an individual and that are not usually inherited by the next generation. Although there is a paucity of research on such variation, emerging studies show that it is common: individuals are complex mosaics of genetically distinct cells, to such an extent that no two somatic cells are likely to have the exact same genome. Although most types of mutation can be involved in post-zygotic variation, structural genetic variants are likely to leave the largest genomic footprint. Somatic variation has diverse physiological roles and pathological consequences, particularly when acquired variants influence the clonal trajectories of the affected cells. Post-zygotic variation is an important confounder in medical genetic testing and a promising avenue for research: future studies could involve analyses of sorted and single cells from multiple tissue types to fully explore its potential.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease / etiology*
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genetic Variation / genetics*
  • Genome, Human*
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Mosaicism*
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Zygote