Large Copy-Number Variants in UK Biobank Caused by Clonal Hematopoiesis May Confound Penetrance Estimates

Am J Hum Genet. 2020 Aug 6;107(2):325-329. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.06.001. Epub 2020 Jun 22.


Large copy-number variants (CNVs) are strongly associated with both developmental delay and cancer, but the type of disease depends strongly on when and where the mutation occurred, i.e., germline versus somatic. We used microarray data from UK Biobank to investigate the prevalence and penetrance of large autosomal CNVs and chromosomal aneuploidies using a standard CNV detection algorithm not designed for detecting mosaic variants. We found 160 individuals that carry >10 Mb copy number changes, including 56 with whole chromosome aneuploidies. Nineteen (12%) individuals had a diagnosis of Down syndrome or other developmental disorder, while 84 (52.5%) individuals had a diagnosis of hematological malignancies or chronic myeloproliferative disorders. Notably, there was no evidence of mosaicism in the blood for many of these large CNVs, so they could easily be mistaken for germline alleles even when caused by somatic mutations. We therefore suggest that somatic mutations associated with blood cancers may result in false estimates of rare variant penetrance from population biobanks.

Keywords: aneuploidy; biobank; cnv; germline; mosaic; penetrance; somatic.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alleles
  • Aneuploidy
  • Biological Specimen Banks
  • Chromosomes / genetics
  • DNA Copy Number Variations / genetics*
  • Female
  • Hematopoiesis / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mosaicism
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Penetrance
  • United Kingdom