Genetic variation in the Estonian population: pharmacogenomics study of adverse drug effects using electronic health records

Eur J Hum Genet. 2019 Mar;27(3):442-454. doi: 10.1038/s41431-018-0300-6. Epub 2018 Nov 12.


Pharmacogenomics aims to tailor pharmacological treatment to each individual by considering associations between genetic polymorphisms and adverse drug effects (ADEs). With technological advances, pharmacogenomic research has evolved from candidate gene analyses to genome-wide association studies. Here, we integrate deep whole-genome sequencing (WGS) information with drug prescription and ADE data from Estonian electronic health record (EHR) databases to evaluate genome- and pharmacome-wide associations on an unprecedented scale. We leveraged WGS data of 2240 Estonian Biobank participants and imputed all single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) with allele counts over 2 for 13,986 genotyped participants. Overall, we identified 41 (10 novel) loss-of-function and 567 (134 novel) missense variants in 64 very important pharmacogenes. The majority of the detected variants were very rare with frequencies below 0.05%, and 6 of the novel loss-of-function and 99 of the missense variants were only detected as single alleles (allele count = 1). We also validated documented pharmacogenetic associations and detected new independent variants in known gene-drug pairs. Specifically, we found that CTNNA3 was associated with myositis and myopathies among individuals taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory oxicams and replicated this finding in an extended cohort of 706 individuals. These findings illustrate that population-based WGS-coupled EHRs are a useful tool for biomarker discovery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects*
  • Electronic Health Records / statistics & numerical data*
  • Estonia
  • Humans
  • Loss of Function Mutation
  • Mutation Rate
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Pharmacogenomic Variants*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • alpha Catenin / genetics


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • CTNNA3 protein, human
  • alpha Catenin