A clinical survey of mosaic single nucleotide variants in disease-causing genes detected by exome sequencing

Genome Med. 2019 Jul 26;11(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s13073-019-0658-2.


Background: Although mosaic variation has been known to cause disease for decades, high-throughput sequencing technologies with the analytical sensitivity to consistently detect variants at reduced allelic fractions have only recently emerged as routine clinical diagnostic tests. To date, few systematic analyses of mosaic variants detected by diagnostic exome sequencing for diverse clinical indications have been performed.

Methods: To investigate the frequency, type, allelic fraction, and phenotypic consequences of clinically relevant somatic mosaic single nucleotide variants (SNVs) and characteristics of the corresponding genes, we retrospectively queried reported mosaic variants from a cohort of ~ 12,000 samples submitted for clinical exome sequencing (ES) at Baylor Genetics.

Results: We found 120 mosaic variants involving 107 genes, including 80 mosaic SNVs in proband samples and 40 in parental/grandparental samples. Average mosaic alternate allele fraction (AAF) detected in autosomes and in X-linked disease genes in females was 18.2% compared with 34.8% in X-linked disease genes in males. Of these mosaic variants, 74 variants (61.7%) were classified as pathogenic or likely pathogenic and 46 (38.3%) as variants of uncertain significance. Mosaic variants occurred in disease genes associated with autosomal dominant (AD) or AD/autosomal recessive (AR) (67/120, 55.8%), X-linked (33/120, 27.5%), AD/somatic (10/120, 8.3%), and AR (8/120, 6.7%) inheritance. Of note, 1.7% (2/120) of variants were found in genes in which only somatic events have been described. Nine genes had recurrent mosaic events in unrelated individuals which accounted for 18.3% (22/120) of all detected mosaic variants in this study. The proband group was enriched for mosaicism affecting Ras signaling pathway genes.

Conclusions: In sum, an estimated 1.5% of all molecular diagnoses made in this cohort could be attributed to a mosaic variant detected in the proband, while parental mosaicism was identified in 0.3% of families analyzed. As ES design favors breadth over depth of coverage, this estimate of the prevalence of mosaic variants likely represents an underestimate of the total number of clinically relevant mosaic variants in our cohort.

Keywords: AOH; CACNA1A; CpG site; Genotype-phenotype correlation; PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway; RASopathies; Somatic mosaicism; UPD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Exome Sequencing*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome-Wide Association Study* / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mosaicism*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*