Estimating carrier frequencies of newborn screening disorders using a whole-genome reference panel of 3552 Japanese individuals

Hum Genet. 2019 Apr;138(4):389-409. doi: 10.1007/s00439-019-01998-7. Epub 2019 Mar 18.


Incidence rates of Mendelian diseases vary among ethnic groups, and frequencies of variant types of causative genes also vary among human populations. In this study, we examined to what extent we can predict population frequencies of recessive disorders from genomic data, and explored better strategies for variant interpretation and classification. We used a whole-genome reference panel from 3552 general Japanese individuals constructed by the Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization (ToMMo). Focusing on 32 genes for 17 congenital metabolic disorders included in newborn screening (NBS) in Japan, we identified reported and predicted pathogenic variants through variant annotation, interpretation, and multiple ways of classifications. The estimated carrier frequencies were compared with those from the Japanese NBS data based on 1,949,987 newborns from a previous study. The estimated carrier frequency based on genomic data with a recent guideline of variant interpretation for the PAH gene, in which defects cause hyperphenylalaninemia (HPA) and phenylketonuria (PKU), provided a closer estimate to that by the observed incidence than the other methods. In contrast, the estimated carrier frequencies for SLC25A13, which causes citrin deficiency, were much higher compared with the incidence rate. The results varied greatly among the 11 NBS diseases with single responsible genes; the possible reasons for departures from the carrier frequencies by reported incidence rates were discussed. Of note, (1) the number of pathogenic variants increases by including additional lines of evidence, (2) common variants with mild effects also contribute to the actual frequency of patients, and (3) penetrance of each variant remains unclear.

MeSH terms

  • Asian People / genetics
  • Asian People / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / diagnosis*
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / epidemiology
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / genetics*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / standards
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / epidemiology
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / genetics*
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Neonatal Screening / methods*
  • Reference Standards