Background: The majority of clinical genetic testing focuses almost exclusively on regions of the genome that directly encode proteins. The important role of variants in non-coding regions in penetrant disease is, however, increasingly being demonstrated, and the use of whole genome sequencing in clinical diagnostic settings is rising across a large range of genetic disorders. Despite this, there is no existing guidance on how current guidelines designed primarily for variants in protein-coding regions should be adapted for variants identified in other genomic contexts.
Methods: We convened a panel of nine clinical and research scientists with wide-ranging expertise in clinical variant interpretation, with specific experience in variants within non-coding regions. This panel discussed and refined an initial draft of the guidelines which were then extensively tested and reviewed by external groups.
Results: We discuss considerations specifically for variants in non-coding regions of the genome. We outline how to define candidate regulatory elements, highlight examples of mechanisms through which non-coding region variants can lead to penetrant monogenic disease, and outline how existing guidelines can be adapted for the interpretation of these variants.
Conclusions: These recommendations aim to increase the number and range of non-coding region variants that can be clinically interpreted, which, together with a compatible phenotype, can lead to new diagnoses and catalyse the discovery of novel disease mechanisms.
Keywords: Gene regulation; Non-coding variation; Variant interpretation.
© 2022. The Author(s).