Whole genome sequencing of one complex pedigree illustrates challenges with genomic medicine

BMC Med Genomics. 2017 Feb 23;10(1):10. doi: 10.1186/s12920-017-0246-5.


Background: Human Phenotype Ontology (HPO) has risen as a useful tool for precision medicine by providing a standardized vocabulary of phenotypic abnormalities to describe presentations of human pathologies; however, there have been relatively few reports combining whole genome sequencing (WGS) and HPO, especially in the context of structural variants.

Methods: We illustrate an integrative analysis of WGS and HPO using an extended pedigree, which involves Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS), hereditary hemochromatosis (HH), and dysautonomia-like symptoms. A comprehensive WGS pipeline was used to ensure reliable detection of genomic variants. Beyond variant filtering, we pursued phenotypic prioritization of candidate genes using Phenolyzer.

Results: Regarding PWS, WGS confirmed a 5.5 Mb de novo deletion of the parental allele at 15q11.2 to 15q13.1. Phenolyzer successfully returned the diagnosis of PWS, and pinpointed clinically relevant genes in the deletion. Further, Phenolyzer revealed how each of the genes is linked with the phenotypes represented by HPO terms. For HH, WGS identified a known disease variant (p.C282Y) in HFE of an affected female. Analysis of HPO terms alone fails to provide a correct diagnosis, but Phenolyzer successfully revealed the phenotype-genotype relationship using a disease-centric approach. Finally, Phenolyzer also revealed the complexity behind dysautonomia-like symptoms, and seven variants that might be associated with the phenotypes were identified by manual filtering based on a dominant inheritance model.

Conclusions: The integration of WGS and HPO can inform comprehensive molecular diagnosis for patients, eliminate false positives and reveal novel insights into undiagnosed diseases. Due to extreme heterogeneity and insufficient knowledge of human diseases, it is also important that phenotypic and genomic data are standardized and shared simultaneously.

Keywords: Dysautonomia; Hemochromatosis; Human phenotype ontology; Phenolyzer; Prader–Willi Syndrome; Precision medicine; Variant calling; Whole genome sequencing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA Copy Number Variations
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Genome, Human / genetics
  • Genomics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation
  • Pedigree*
  • Phenotype
  • Precision Medicine / methods*
  • Primary Dysautonomias / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis*