Estimation of allele-specific fitness effects across human protein-coding sequences and implications for disease

Genome Res. 2019 Aug;29(8):1310-1321. doi: 10.1101/gr.245522.118. Epub 2019 Jun 27.


A central challenge in human genomics is to understand the cellular, evolutionary, and clinical significance of genetic variants. Here, we introduce a unified population-genetic and machine-learning model, called Linear Allele-Specific Selection InferencE (LASSIE), for estimating the fitness effects of all observed and potential single-nucleotide variants, based on polymorphism data and predictive genomic features. We applied LASSIE to 51 high-coverage genome sequences annotated with 33 genomic features and constructed a map of allele-specific selection coefficients across all protein-coding sequences in the human genome. This map is generally consistent with previous inferences of the bulk distribution of fitness effects but reveals pervasive weak negative selection against synonymous mutations. In addition, the estimated selection coefficients are highly predictive of inherited pathogenic variants and cancer driver mutations, outperforming state-of-the-art variant prioritization methods. By contrasting our estimated model with ultrahigh coverage ExAC exome-sequencing data, we identified 1118 genes under unusually strong negative selection, which tend to be exclusively expressed in the central nervous system or associated with autism spectrum disorder, as well as 773 genes under unusually weak selection, which tend to be associated with metabolism. This combination of classical population genetic theory with modern machine-learning and large-scale genomic data is a powerful paradigm for the study of both human evolution and disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / genetics*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / metabolism
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / pathology
  • Base Sequence
  • Genetic Fitness
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genome, Human*
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns
  • Machine Learning*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Proteome / genetics*
  • Proteome / metabolism
  • Selection, Genetic


  • Proteome