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Whole exome sequencing in adult-onset hearing loss reveals a high load of predicted pathogenic variants in known deafness-associated genes and identifies new candidate genes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Morag A. Lewis, Lisa S. Nolan, Barbara A. Cadge, Lois J. Matthews, Bradley A. Schulte, Judy R. Dubno, Karen P. Steel, Sally J. Dawson

Original languageEnglish
Article number395
JournalBMC medical genomics
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 4 Sep 2018

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King's Authors

Abstract

Background: Deafness is a highly heterogenous disorder with over 100 genes known to underlie human non-syndromic hearing impairment. However, many more remain undiscovered, particularly those involved in the most common form of deafness: adult-onset progressive hearing loss. Despite several genome-wide association studies of adult hearing status, it remains unclear whether the genetic architecture of this common sensory loss consists of multiple rare variants each with large effect size or many common susceptibility variants each with small to medium effects. As next generation sequencing is now being utilised in clinical diagnosis, our aim was to explore the viability of diagnosing the genetic cause of hearing loss using whole exome sequencing in individual subjects as in a clinical setting.
Methods: We performed exome sequencing of thirty patients selected for distinct phenotypic sub-types from well-characterised cohorts of 1479 people with adult-onset hearing loss.
Results: Every individual carried predicted pathogenic variants in at least ten deafness-associated genes; similar findings were obtained from an analysis of the 1000 Genomes Project data unselected for hearing status. We have identified putative causal variants in known deafness genes and several novel candidate genes, including NEDD4 and NEFH that were mutated in multiple individuals.
Conclusions: The high frequency of predicted-pathogenic variants detected in known deafness-associated genes was unexpected and has significant implications for current diagnostic sequencing in deafness. Our findings suggest that in a clinic setting, efforts should be made to a) confirm key sequence results by Sanger sequencing, b) assess segregations of variants and phenotypes within the family if at all possible, and c) use caution in applying current pathogenicity prediction algorithms for diagnostic purposes. We conclude that there may be a high number of pathogenic mutations affecting hearing in the ageing population, including many in known deafness-associated genes. Our findings of frequent predicted-pathogenic variants in both our hearing-impaired sample and in the larger 1000 Genomes Project sample unselected for auditory function suggests that the reference population for interpreting variants for this very common disorder should be a population of people with good hearing for their age rather than an unselected population.

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