Nonsense-mediated decay is highly stable across individuals and tissues

Am J Hum Genet. 2021 Aug 5;108(8):1401-1408. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2021.06.008. Epub 2021 Jul 2.


Precise interpretation of the effects of rare protein-truncating variants (PTVs) is important for accurate determination of variant impact. Current methods for assessing the ability of PTVs to induce nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) focus primarily on the position of the variant in the transcript. We used RNA sequencing of the Genotype Tissue Expression v.8 cohort to compute the efficiency of NMD using allelic imbalance for 2,320 rare (genome aggregation database minor allele frequency ≤ 1%) PTVs across 809 individuals in 49 tissues. We created an interpretable predictive model using penalized logistic regression in order to evaluate the comprehensive influence of variant annotation, tissue, and inter-individual variation on NMD. We found that variant position, allele frequency, the inclusion of ultra-rare and singleton variants, and conservation were predictive of allelic imbalance. Furthermore, we found that NMD effects were highly concordant across tissues and individuals. Due to this high consistency, we demonstrate in silico that utilizing peripheral tissues or cell lines provides accurate prediction of NMD for PTVs.

Keywords: nonsense-mediated decay; rare variants; variant annotation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Codon, Nonsense / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / genetics
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / pathology*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Mutation*
  • Nonsense Mediated mRNA Decay*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*


  • Codon, Nonsense
  • RNA, Messenger