Background: The co-occurrence of multiple de novo copy number variations (CNVs) is a rare phenomenon in the human genome. Recently, an "organismal CNV mutator phenotype" has been reported to result in transient genomic instability introducing multiple de novo CNVs in primary oocytes and early-stage zygotes. These findings opened a new area of human genome research.
Methods: We performed genome-wide copy number analysis for ~ 2100 individuals with various congenital defects. Furthermore, extensive molecular analyses, including synthetic long-read whole-genome sequencing and haplotype-phasing, were carried out for an individual with multiple de novo CNVs.
Results: A boy was found to have de novo rearrangements on five chromosomes. The rearrangements comprised simple duplication and inversion as well as chaotic changes, all of which affected paternally derived chromosomes. Postzygotic genomic instability was ruled out. The duplicated regions on 6q and 13q contained both diallelic and triallelic loci, indicating that the genomic rearrangements were initially created during premeiotic mitosis and subsequently modified by physiological cross-over during meiosis I. Breakpoints of the rearrangements were indicative of non-homologous end joining, replication-based errors, and/or chromothripsis. The mutagenic event was independent of specific local DNA motifs or de novo point mutations, but may be driven by spermatogenesis-specific factors.
Conclusions: These results indicate that during spermatogenesis, a transient multifocal genomic crisis can introduce several chromothriptic and non-chromothriptic changes into the genome. These findings broaden the concept of the "organismal CNV mutator phenotype". This study provides insights into mechanisms for altering the global chromosomal architecture of human embryos.
Keywords: Chromoanagenesis; Chromosomal instability; Chromothripsis; Comparative genomic hybridization; Complex genomic rearrangement; Copy number variation; Genomic imprinting; Genotyping; Haplotype; Whole genome sequencing.