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1.  Control-FREEC: a tool for assessing copy number and allelic content using next-generation sequencing data 
Bioinformatics  2011;28(3):423-425.
Summary: More and more cancer studies use next-generation sequencing (NGS) data to detect various types of genomic variation. However, even when researchers have such data at hand, single-nucleotide polymorphism arrays have been considered necessary to assess copy number alterations and especially loss of heterozygosity (LOH). Here, we present the tool Control-FREEC that enables automatic calculation of copy number and allelic content profiles from NGS data, and consequently predicts regions of genomic alteration such as gains, losses and LOH. Taking as input aligned reads, Control-FREEC constructs copy number and B-allele frequency profiles. The profiles are then normalized, segmented and analyzed in order to assign genotype status (copy number and allelic content) to each genomic region. When a matched normal sample is provided, Control-FREEC discriminates somatic from germline events. Control-FREEC is able to analyze overdiploid tumor samples and samples contaminated by normal cells. Low mappability regions can be excluded from the analysis using provided mappability tracks.
Availability: C++ source code is available at:
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3268243  PMID: 22155870
2.  Accurate Distinction of Pathogenic from Benign CNVs in Mental Retardation 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(4):e1000752.
Copy number variants (CNVs) have recently been recognized as a common form of genomic variation in humans. Hundreds of CNVs can be detected in any individual genome using genomic microarrays or whole genome sequencing technology, but their phenotypic consequences are still poorly understood. Rare CNVs have been reported as a frequent cause of neurological disorders such as mental retardation (MR), schizophrenia and autism, prompting widespread implementation of CNV screening in diagnostics. In previous studies we have shown that, in contrast to benign CNVs, MR-associated CNVs are significantly enriched in genes whose mouse orthologues, when disrupted, result in a nervous system phenotype. In this study we developed and validated a novel computational method for differentiating between benign and MR-associated CNVs using structural and functional genomic features to annotate each CNV. In total 13 genomic features were included in the final version of a Naïve Bayesian Tree classifier, with LINE density and mouse knock-out phenotypes contributing most to the classifier's accuracy. After demonstrating that our method (called GECCO) perfectly classifies CNVs causing known MR-associated syndromes, we show that it achieves high accuracy (94%) and negative predictive value (99%) on a blinded test set of more than 1,200 CNVs from a large cohort of individuals with MR. These results indicate that this classification method will be of value for objectively prioritizing CNVs in clinical research and diagnostics.
Author Summary
Rare copy number variants (CNVs) are a frequent cause of neurological disorders such as mental retardation (MR). However CNVs are also commonly identified in healthy individuals. It is therefore crucial for both diagnostic and research applications to be able to distinguish between disease-causing CNVs and “benign” CNVs occurring as normal genomic variation. Separating these two types can take advantage of significant differences in their genomic contents. For example, benign CNVs are enriched in repetitive sequences. By contrast, CNVs associated with MR tend to have high densities of functional elements, including genes whose mouse orthologues, when knocked-out, lead to specific nervous system abnormalities. We have developed a novel objective approach that is effective in distinguishing MR-associated CNVs from benign CNVs based on the presence of 13 genomic attributes. This method is able to achieve high accuracies in a cohort of CNVs known to cause MR and in a cohort of individuals with unexplained MR. The development of this technique promises to substantially improve the methodology for determining the pathogenicity of CNVs.
PMCID: PMC2858682  PMID: 20421931
3.  The Effect of Algorithms on Copy Number Variant Detection 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14456.
The detection of copy number variants (CNVs) and the results of CNV-disease association studies rely on how CNVs are defined, and because array-based technologies can only infer CNVs, CNV-calling algorithms can produce vastly different findings. Several authors have noted the large-scale variability between CNV-detection methods, as well as the substantial false positive and false negative rates associated with those methods. In this study, we use variations of four common algorithms for CNV detection (PennCNV, QuantiSNP, HMMSeg, and cnvPartition) and two definitions of overlap (any overlap and an overlap of at least 40% of the smaller CNV) to illustrate the effects of varying algorithms and definitions of overlap on CNV discovery.
Methodology and Principal Findings
We used a 56 K Illumina genotyping array enriched for CNV regions to generate hybridization intensities and allele frequencies for 48 Caucasian schizophrenia cases and 48 age-, ethnicity-, and gender-matched control subjects. No algorithm found a difference in CNV burden between the two groups. However, the total number of CNVs called ranged from 102 to 3,765 across algorithms. The mean CNV size ranged from 46 kb to 787 kb, and the average number of CNVs per subject ranged from 1 to 39. The number of novel CNVs not previously reported in normal subjects ranged from 0 to 212.
Conclusions and Significance
Motivated by the availability of multiple publicly available genome-wide SNP arrays, investigators are conducting numerous analyses to identify putative additional CNVs in complex genetic disorders. However, the number of CNVs identified in array-based studies, and whether these CNVs are novel or valid, will depend on the algorithm(s) used. Thus, given the variety of methods used, there will be many false positives and false negatives. Both guidelines for the identification of CNVs inferred from high-density arrays and the establishment of a gold standard for validation of CNVs are needed.
PMCID: PMC3012691  PMID: 21209939
4.  Accuracy of CNV Detection from GWAS Data 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e14511.
Several computer programs are available for detecting copy number variants (CNVs) using genome-wide SNP arrays. We evaluated the performance of four CNV detection software suites—Birdsuite, Partek, HelixTree, and PennCNV-Affy—in the identification of both rare and common CNVs. Each program's performance was assessed in two ways. The first was its recovery rate, i.e., its ability to call 893 CNVs previously identified in eight HapMap samples by paired-end sequencing of whole-genome fosmid clones, and 51,440 CNVs identified by array Comparative Genome Hybridization (aCGH) followed by validation procedures, in 90 HapMap CEU samples. The second evaluation was program performance calling rare and common CNVs in the Bipolar Genome Study (BiGS) data set (1001 bipolar cases and 1033 controls, all of European ancestry) as measured by the Affymetrix SNP 6.0 array. Accuracy in calling rare CNVs was assessed by positive predictive value, based on the proportion of rare CNVs validated by quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR), while accuracy in calling common CNVs was assessed by false positive/false negative rates based on qPCR validation results from a subset of common CNVs. Birdsuite recovered the highest percentages of known HapMap CNVs containing >20 markers in two reference CNV datasets. The recovery rate increased with decreased CNV frequency. In the tested rare CNV data, Birdsuite and Partek had higher positive predictive values than the other software suites. In a test of three common CNVs in the BiGS dataset, Birdsuite's call was 98.8% consistent with qPCR quantification in one CNV region, but the other two regions showed an unacceptable degree of accuracy. We found relatively poor consistency between the two “gold standards,” the sequence data of Kidd et al., and aCGH data of Conrad et al. Algorithms for calling CNVs especially common ones need substantial improvement, and a “gold standard” for detection of CNVs remains to be established.
PMCID: PMC3020939  PMID: 21249187
5.  A Poisson hierarchical modelling approach to detecting copy number variation in sequence coverage data 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:128.
The advent of next generation sequencing technology has accelerated efforts to map and catalogue copy number variation (CNV) in genomes of important micro-organisms for public health. A typical analysis of the sequence data involves mapping reads onto a reference genome, calculating the respective coverage, and detecting regions with too-low or too-high coverage (deletions and amplifications, respectively). Current CNV detection methods rely on statistical assumptions (e.g., a Poisson model) that may not hold in general, or require fine-tuning the underlying algorithms to detect known hits. We propose a new CNV detection methodology based on two Poisson hierarchical models, the Poisson-Gamma and Poisson-Lognormal, with the advantage of being sufficiently flexible to describe different data patterns, whilst robust against deviations from the often assumed Poisson model.
Using sequence coverage data of 7 Plasmodium falciparum malaria genomes (3D7 reference strain, HB3, DD2, 7G8, GB4, OX005, and OX006), we showed that empirical coverage distributions are intrinsically asymmetric and overdispersed in relation to the Poisson model. We also demonstrated a low baseline false positive rate for the proposed methodology using 3D7 resequencing data and simulation. When applied to the non-reference isolate data, our approach detected known CNV hits, including an amplification of the PfMDR1 locus in DD2 and a large deletion in the CLAG3.2 gene in GB4, and putative novel CNV regions. When compared to the recently available FREEC and cn.MOPS approaches, our findings were more concordant with putative hits from the highest quality array data for the 7G8 and GB4 isolates.
In summary, the proposed methodology brings an increase in flexibility, robustness, accuracy and statistical rigour to CNV detection using sequence coverage data.
PMCID: PMC3679970  PMID: 23442253
6.  Systematic Inference of Copy-Number Genotypes from Personal Genome Sequencing Data Reveals Extensive Olfactory Receptor Gene Content Diversity 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(11):e1000988.
Copy-number variations (CNVs) are widespread in the human genome, but comprehensive assignments of integer locus copy-numbers (i.e., copy-number genotypes) that, for example, enable discrimination of homozygous from heterozygous CNVs, have remained challenging. Here we present CopySeq, a novel computational approach with an underlying statistical framework that analyzes the depth-of-coverage of high-throughput DNA sequencing reads, and can incorporate paired-end and breakpoint junction analysis based CNV-analysis approaches, to infer locus copy-number genotypes. We benchmarked CopySeq by genotyping 500 chromosome 1 CNV regions in 150 personal genomes sequenced at low-coverage. The assessed copy-number genotypes were highly concordant with our performed qPCR experiments (Pearson correlation coefficient 0.94), and with the published results of two microarray platforms (95–99% concordance). We further demonstrated the utility of CopySeq for analyzing gene regions enriched for segmental duplications by comprehensively inferring copy-number genotypes in the CNV-enriched >800 olfactory receptor (OR) human gene and pseudogene loci. CopySeq revealed that OR loci display an extensive range of locus copy-numbers across individuals, with zero to two copies in some OR loci, and two to nine copies in others. Among genetic variants affecting OR loci we identified deleterious variants including CNVs and SNPs affecting ∼15% and ∼20% of the human OR gene repertoire, respectively, implying that genetic variants with a possible impact on smell perception are widespread. Finally, we found that for several OR loci the reference genome appears to represent a minor-frequency variant, implying a necessary revision of the OR repertoire for future functional studies. CopySeq can ascertain genomic structural variation in specific gene families as well as at a genome-wide scale, where it may enable the quantitative evaluation of CNVs in genome-wide association studies involving high-throughput sequencing.
Author Summary
Human individual genome sequencing has recently become affordable, enabling highly detailed genetic sequence comparisons. While the identification and genotyping of single-nucleotide polymorphisms has already been successfully established for different sequencing platforms, the detection, quantification and genotyping of large-scale copy-number variants (CNVs), i.e., losses or gains of long genomic segments, has remained challenging. We present a computational approach that enables detecting CNVs in sequencing data and accurately identifies the actual copy-number at which DNA segments of interest occur in an individual genome. This approach enabled us to obtain novel insights into the largest human gene family – the olfactory receptors (ORs) – involved in smell perception. While previous studies reported an abundance of CNVs in ORs, our approach enabled us to globally identify absolute differences in OR gene counts that exist between humans. While several OR genes have very high gene counts, other ORs are found only once or are missing entirely in some individuals. The latter have a particularly high probability of influencing individual differences in the perception of smell, a question that future experimental efforts can now address. Furthermore, we observed differences in OR gene counts between populations, pointing at ORs that might contribute to population-specific differences in smell.
PMCID: PMC2978733  PMID: 21085617
7.  Copy number variation analysis based on AluScan sequences 
AluScan combines inter-Alu PCR using multiple Alu-based primers with opposite orientations and next-generation sequencing to capture a huge number of Alu-proximal genomic sequences for investigation. Its requirement of only sub-microgram quantities of DNA facilitates the examination of large numbers of samples. However, the special features of AluScan data rendered difficult the calling of copy number variation (CNV) directly using the calling algorithms designed for whole genome sequencing (WGS) or exome sequencing.
In this study, an AluScanCNV package has been assembled for efficient CNV calling from AluScan sequencing data employing a Geary-Hinkley transformation (GHT) of read-depth ratios between either paired test-control samples, or between test samples and a reference template constructed from reference samples, to call the localized CNVs, followed by use of a GISTIC-like algorithm to identify recurrent CNVs and circular binary segmentation (CBS) to reveal large extended CNVs. To evaluate the utility of CNVs called from AluScan data, the AluScans from 23 non-cancer and 38 cancer genomes were analyzed in this study. The glioma samples analyzed yielded the familiar extended copy-number losses on chromosomes 1p and 9. Also, the recurrent somatic CNVs identified from liver cancer samples were similar to those reported for liver cancer WGS with respect to a striking enrichment of copy-number gains in chromosomes 1q and 8q. When localized or recurrent CNV-features capable of distinguishing between liver and non-liver cancer samples were selected by correlation-based machine learning, a highly accurate separation of the liver and non-liver cancer classes was attained.
The results obtained from non-cancer and cancerous tissues indicated that the AluScanCNV package can be employed to call localized, recurrent and extended CNVs from AluScan sequences. Moreover, both the localized and recurrent CNVs identified by this method could be subjected to machine-learning selection to yield distinguishing CNV-features that were capable of separating between liver cancers and other types of cancers. Since the method is applicable to any human DNA sample with or without the availability of a paired control, it can also be employed to analyze the constitutional CNVs of individuals.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13336-014-0015-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4273479  PMID: 25558350
AluScan sequencing; CNV calling; Cancer classification; Machine learning
8.  Comparative Studies of Copy Number Variation Detection Methods for Next-Generation Sequencing Technologies 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59128.
Copy number variation (CNV) has played an important role in studies of susceptibility or resistance to complex diseases. Traditional methods such as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) suffer from low resolution of genomic regions. Following the emergence of next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies, CNV detection methods based on the short read data have recently been developed. However, due to the relatively young age of the procedures, their performance is not fully understood. To help investigators choose suitable methods to detect CNVs, comparative studies are needed. We compared six publicly available CNV detection methods: CNV-seq, FREEC, readDepth, CNVnator, SegSeq and event-wise testing (EWT). They are evaluated both on simulated and real data with different experiment settings. The receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve is employed to demonstrate the detection performance in terms of sensitivity and specificity, box plot is employed to compare their performances in terms of breakpoint and copy number estimation, Venn diagram is employed to show the consistency among these methods, and F-score is employed to show the overlapping quality of detected CNVs. The computational demands are also studied. The results of our work provide a comprehensive evaluation on the performances of the selected CNV detection methods, which will help biological investigators choose the best possible method.
PMCID: PMC3604020  PMID: 23527109
9.  Software comparison for evaluating genomic copy number variation for Affymetrix 6.0 SNP array platform 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12:220.
Copy number data are routinely being extracted from genome-wide association study chips using a variety of software. We empirically evaluated and compared four freely-available software packages designed for Affymetrix SNP chips to estimate copy number: Affymetrix Power Tools (APT), Aroma.Affymetrix, PennCNV and CRLMM. Our evaluation used 1,418 GENOA samples that were genotyped on the Affymetrix Genome-Wide Human SNP Array 6.0. We compared bias and variance in the locus-level copy number data, the concordance amongst regions of copy number gains/deletions and the false-positive rate amongst deleted segments.
APT had median locus-level copy numbers closest to a value of two, whereas PennCNV and Aroma.Affymetrix had the smallest variability associated with the median copy number. Of those evaluated, only PennCNV provides copy number specific quality-control metrics and identified 136 poor CNV samples. Regions of copy number variation (CNV) were detected using the hidden Markov models provided within PennCNV and CRLMM/VanillaIce. PennCNV detected more CNVs than CRLMM/VanillaIce; the median number of CNVs detected per sample was 39 and 30, respectively. PennCNV detected most of the regions that CRLMM/VanillaIce did as well as additional CNV regions. The median concordance between PennCNV and CRLMM/VanillaIce was 47.9% for duplications and 51.5% for deletions. The estimated false-positive rate associated with deletions was similar for PennCNV and CRLMM/VanillaIce.
If the objective is to perform statistical tests on the locus-level copy number data, our empirical results suggest that PennCNV or Aroma.Affymetrix is optimal. If the objective is to perform statistical tests on the summarized segmented data then PennCNV would be preferred over CRLMM/VanillaIce. Specifically, PennCNV allows the analyst to estimate locus-level copy number, perform segmentation and evaluate CNV-specific quality-control metrics within a single software package. PennCNV has relatively small bias, small variability and detects more regions while maintaining a similar estimated false-positive rate as CRLMM/VanillaIce. More generally, we advocate that software developers need to provide guidance with respect to evaluating and choosing optimal settings in order to obtain optimal results for an individual dataset. Until such guidance exists, we recommend trying multiple algorithms, evaluating concordance/discordance and subsequently consider the union of regions for downstream association tests.
PMCID: PMC3146450  PMID: 21627824
10.  Detection of Copy Number Variants Reveals Association of Cilia Genes with Neural Tube Defects 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54492.
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are one of the most common birth defects caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Currently, little is known about the genetic basis of NTDs although up to 70% of human NTDs were reported to be attributed to genetic factors. Here we performed genome-wide copy number variants (CNVs) detection in a cohort of Chinese NTD patients in order to exam the potential role of CNVs in the pathogenesis of NTDs.
The genomic DNA from eighty-five NTD cases and seventy-five matched normal controls were subjected for whole genome CNVs analysis. Non-DGV (the Database of Genomic Variants) CNVs from each group were further analyzed for their associations with NTDs. Gene content in non-DGV CNVs as well as participating pathways were examined.
Fifty-five and twenty-six non-DGV CNVs were detected in cases and controls respectively. Among them, forty and nineteen CNVs involve genes (genic CNV). Significantly more non-DGV CNVs and non-DGV genic CNVs were detected in NTD patients than in control (41.2% vs. 25.3%, p<0.05 and 37.6% vs. 20%, p<0.05). Non-DGV genic CNVs are associated with a 2.65-fold increased risk for NTDs (95% CI: 1.24–5.87). Interestingly, there are 41 cilia genes involved in non-DGV CNVs from NTD patients which is significantly enriched in cases compared with that in controls (24.7% vs. 9.3%, p<0.05), corresponding with a 3.19-fold increased risk for NTDs (95% CI: 1.27–8.01). Pathway analyses further suggested that two ciliogenesis pathways, tight junction and protein kinase A signaling, are top canonical pathways implicated in NTD-specific CNVs, and these two novel pathways interact with known NTD pathways.
Evidence from the genome-wide CNV study suggests that genic CNVs, particularly ciliogenic CNVs are associated with NTDs and two ciliogenesis pathways, tight junction and protein kinase A signaling, are potential pathways involved in NTD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3547935  PMID: 23349908
11.  Copy Number Variation in the Horse Genome 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(10):e1004712.
We constructed a 400K WG tiling oligoarray for the horse and applied it for the discovery of copy number variations (CNVs) in 38 normal horses of 16 diverse breeds, and the Przewalski horse. Probes on the array represented 18,763 autosomal and X-linked genes, and intergenic, sub-telomeric and chrY sequences. We identified 258 CNV regions (CNVRs) across all autosomes, chrX and chrUn, but not in chrY. CNVs comprised 1.3% of the horse genome with chr12 being most enriched. American Miniature horses had the highest and American Quarter Horses the lowest number of CNVs in relation to Thoroughbred reference. The Przewalski horse was similar to native ponies and draft breeds. The majority of CNVRs involved genes, while 20% were located in intergenic regions. Similar to previous studies in horses and other mammals, molecular functions of CNV-associated genes were predominantly in sensory perception, immunity and reproduction. The findings were integrated with previous studies to generate a composite genome-wide dataset of 1476 CNVRs. Of these, 301 CNVRs were shared between studies, while 1174 were novel and require further validation. Integrated data revealed that to date, 41 out of over 400 breeds of the domestic horse have been analyzed for CNVs, of which 11 new breeds were added in this study. Finally, the composite CNV dataset was applied in a pilot study for the discovery of CNVs in 6 horses with XY disorders of sexual development. A homozygous deletion involving AKR1C gene cluster in chr29 in two affected horses was considered possibly causative because of the known role of AKR1C genes in testicular androgen synthesis and sexual development. While the findings improve and integrate the knowledge of CNVs in horses, they also show that for effective discovery of variants of biomedical importance, more breeds and individuals need to be analyzed using comparable methodological approaches.
Author Summary
Genomes of individuals in a species vary in many ways, one of which is DNA copy number variation (CNV). This includes deletions, duplications, and complex rearrangements typically larger than 50 base-pairs. CNVs are part of normal genetic variation contributing to phenotypic diversity but can also be pathogenic and associated with diseases and disorders. In order to distinguish between the two, detailed knowledge about CNVs in the species of interest is needed. Here we studied the genomes of 38 normal horses of 16 diverse breeds, and identified 258 CNV regions. We integrated our findings with previously published horse CNVs and generated a composite dataset of ∼1400 CNVRs. Despite this large number, our analysis shows that CNV research in horses needs further improvement because the current data are based on 10% of horse breeds and that most CNVRs are study-specific and require validation. Finally, we analyzed CNVs in horses with disorders of sexual development and found in two male pseudo-hermaphrodites a large deletion disrupting a group of genes involved in sex hormone metabolism and sexual differentiation. The findings underline the possible role of CNVs in complex disorders such as development and reproduction.
PMCID: PMC4207638  PMID: 25340504
12.  cnvOffSeq: detecting intergenic copy number variation using off-target exome sequencing data 
Bioinformatics  2014;30(17):i639-i645.
Motivation: Exome sequencing technologies have transformed the field of Mendelian genetics and allowed for efficient detection of genomic variants in protein-coding regions. The target enrichment process that is intrinsic to exome sequencing is inherently imperfect, generating large amounts of unintended off-target sequence. Off-target data are characterized by very low and highly heterogeneous coverage and are usually discarded by exome analysis pipelines. We posit that off-target read depth is a rich, but overlooked, source of information that could be mined to detect intergenic copy number variation (CNV). We propose cnvOffseq, a novel normalization framework for off-target read depth that is based on local adaptive singular value decomposition (SVD). This method is designed to address the heterogeneity of the underlying data and allows for accurate and precise CNV detection and genotyping in off-target regions.
Results: cnvOffSeq was benchmarked on whole-exome sequencing samples from the 1000 Genomes Project. In a set of 104 gold standard intergenic deletions, our method achieved a sensitivity of 57.5% and a specificity of 99.2%, while maintaining a low FDR of 5%. For gold standard deletions longer than 5 kb, cnvOffSeq achieves a sensitivity of 90.4% without increasing the FDR. cnvOffSeq outperforms both whole-genome and whole-exome CNV detection methods considerably and is shown to offer a substantial improvement over naïve local SVD.
Availability and Implementation: cnvOffSeq is available at
Contact: or
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC4147927  PMID: 25161258
13.  Human copy number polymorphic genes 
Cytogenetic and Genome Research  2009;123(1-4):234-243.
Recent large-scale genomic studies within human populations have identified numerous genomic regions as copy number variant (CNV). As these CNV regions often overlap coding regions of the genome, large lists of potentially copy number polymorphic genes have been produced that are candidates for disease association. Most of the current data regarding normal genic variation, however, has been generated using BAC or SNP microarrays, which lack precision especially with respect to exons. To address this, we assessed 2,790 candidate CNV genes defined from available studies in nine well-characterized HapMap individuals by designing a customized oligonucleotide microarray targeted specifically to exons. Using exon array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH), we detected 255 (9%) of the candidates as true CNVs including 134 with evidence of variation over the entire gene. Individuals differed in copy number from the control by an average of 100 gene loci. Both partial- and whole-gene CNVs were strongly associated with segmental duplications (55 and 71%, respectively) as well as regions of positive selection. We confirmed 37% of the whole-gene CNVs using the fosmid end sequence pair (ESP) structural variation map for these same individuals. If we modify the end sequence pair mapping strategy to include low-sequence identity ESPs (98–99.5%) and ESPs with an everted orientation, we can capture 82% of the missed genes leading to more complete ascertainment of structural variation within duplicated genes. Our results indicate that segmental duplications are the source of the majority of full-length copy number polymorphic genes, most of the variant genes are organized as tandem duplications, and a significant fraction of these genes will represent paralogs with levels of sequence diversity beyond thresholds of allelic variation. In addition, these data provide a targeted set of CNV genes enriched for regions likely to be associated with human phenotypic differences due to copy number changes and present a source of copy number responsive oligonucleotide probes for future association studies.
PMCID: PMC2920189  PMID: 19287160
14.  Large scale copy number variation (CNV) at 14q12 is associated with the presence of genomic abnormalities in neoplasia 
BMC Genomics  2006;7:138.
Advances made in the area of microarray comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) have enabled the interrogation of the entire genome at a previously unattainable resolution. This has lead to the discovery of a novel class of alternative entities called large-scale copy number variations (CNVs). These CNVs are often found in regions of closely linked sequence homology called duplicons that are thought to facilitate genomic rearrangements in some classes of neoplasia. Recently, it was proposed that duplicons located near the recurrent translocation break points on chromosomes 9 and 22 in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) may facilitate this tumor-specific translocation. Furthermore, ~15–20% of CML patients also carry a microdeletion on the derivative 9 chromosome (der(9)) and these patients have a poor prognosis. It has been hypothesised that der(9) deletion patients have increased levels of chromosomal instability.
In this study aCGH was performed and identified a CNV (RP11-125A5, hereafter called CNV14q12) that was present as a genomic gain or loss in 10% of control DNA samples derived from cytogenetically normal individuals. CNV14q12 was the same clone identified by Iafrate et al. as a CNV. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR) was used to determine the relative frequency of this CNV in DNA from a series of 16 CML patients (both with and without a der(9) deletion) together with DNA derived from 36 paediatric solid tumors in comparison to the incidence of CNV in control DNA. CNV14q12 was present in ~50% of both tumor and CML DNA, but was found in 72% of CML bearing a der(9) microdeletion. Chi square analysis found a statistically significant difference (p ≤ 0.001) between the incidence of this CNV in cancer and normal DNA and a slightly increased incidence in CML with deletions in comparison to those CML without a detectable deletion.
The increased incidence of CNV14q12 in tumor samples suggests that either acquired or inherited genomic variation of this new class of variation may be associated with onset or progression of neoplasia.
PMCID: PMC1550726  PMID: 16756668
15.  High resolution discovery and confirmation of copy number variants in 90 Yoruba Nigerians 
Genome Biology  2009;10(11):R125.
Most microRNAs have a stronger inhibitory effect in estrogen receptor-negative than in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers.
Copy number variants (CNVs) account for a large proportion of genetic variation in the genome. The initial discoveries of long (> 100 kb) CNVs in normal healthy individuals were made on BAC arrays and low resolution oligonucleotide arrays. Subsequent studies that used higher resolution microarrays and SNP genotyping arrays detected the presence of large numbers of CNVs that are < 100 kb, with median lengths of approximately 10 kb. More recently, whole genome sequencing of individuals has revealed an abundance of shorter CNVs with lengths < 1 kb.
We used custom high density oligonucleotide arrays in whole-genome scans at approximately 200-bp resolution, and followed up with a localized CNV typing array at resolutions as close as 10 bp, to confirm regions from the initial genome scans, and to detect the occurrence of sample-level events at shorter CNV regions identified in recent whole-genome sequencing studies. We surveyed 90 Yoruba Nigerians from the HapMap Project, and uncovered approximately 2,700 potentially novel CNVs not previously reported in the literature having a median length of approximately 3 kb. We generated sample-level event calls in the 90 Yoruba at nearly 9,000 regions, including approximately 2,500 regions having a median length of just approximately 200 bp that represent the union of CNVs independently discovered through whole-genome sequencing of two individuals of Western European descent. Event frequencies were noticeably higher at shorter regions < 1 kb compared to longer CNVs (> 1 kb).
As new shorter CNVs are discovered through whole-genome sequencing, high resolution microarrays offer a cost-effective means to detect the occurrence of events at these regions in large numbers of individuals in order to gain biological insights beyond the initial discovery.
PMCID: PMC3091319  PMID: 19900272
16.  miRNA and miRNA target genes in copy number variations occurring in individuals with intellectual disability 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:544.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a family of short, non-coding RNAs modulating expression of human protein coding genes (miRNA target genes). Their dysfunction is associated with many human diseases, including neurodevelopmental disorders. It has been recently shown that genomic copy number variations (CNVs) can cause aberrant expression of integral miRNAs and their target genes, and contribute to intellectual disability (ID).
To better understand the CNV-miRNA relationship in ID, we investigated the prevalence and function of miRNAs and miRNA target genes in five groups of CNVs. Three groups of CNVs were from 213 probands with ID (24 de novo CNVs, 46 familial and 216 common CNVs), one group of CNVs was from a cohort of 32 cognitively normal subjects (67 CNVs) and one group of CNVs represented 40 ID related syndromic regions listed in DECIPHER (30 CNVs) which served as positive controls for CNVs causing or predisposing to ID. Our results show that 1). The number of miRNAs is significantly higher in de novo or DECIPHER CNVs than in familial or common CNV subgroups (P < 0.01). 2). miRNAs with brain related functions are more prevalent in de novo CNV groups compared to common CNV groups. 3). More miRNA target genes are found in de novo, familial and DECIPHER CNVs than in the common CNV subgroup (P < 0.05). 4). The MAPK signaling cascade is found to be enriched among the miRNA target genes from de novo and DECIPHER CNV subgroups.
Our findings reveal an increase in miRNA and miRNA target gene content in de novo versus common CNVs in subjects with ID. Their expression profile and participation in pathways support a possible role of miRNA copy number change in cognition and/or CNV-mediated developmental delay. Systematic analysis of expression/function of miRNAs in addition to coding genes integral to CNVs could uncover new causes of ID.
PMCID: PMC3750877  PMID: 23937676
Micro RNA (miRNA); Copy number variants (CNVs); Copy number variant regions (CNVRs); Intellectual disabilities (ID); Functional pathways
17.  Copy Number Variation in Familial Parkinson Disease 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e20988.
Copy number variants (CNVs) are known to cause Mendelian forms of Parkinson disease (PD), most notably in SNCA and PARK2. PARK2 has a recessive mode of inheritance; however, recent evidence demonstrates that a single CNV in PARK2 (but not a single missense mutation) may increase risk for PD. We recently performed a genome-wide association study for PD that excluded individuals known to have either a LRRK2 mutation or two PARK2 mutations. Data from the Illumina370Duo arrays were re-clustered using only white individuals with high quality intensity data, and CNV calls were made using two algorithms, PennCNV and QuantiSNP. After quality assessment, the final sample included 816 cases and 856 controls. Results varied between the two CNV calling algorithms for many regions, including the PARK2 locus (genome-wide p = 0.04 for PennCNV and p = 0.13 for QuantiSNP). However, there was consistent evidence with both algorithms for two novel genes, USP32 and DOCK5 (empirical, genome-wide p-values<0.001). PARK2 CNVs tended to be larger, and all instances that were molecularly tested were validated. In contrast, the CNVs in both novel loci were smaller and failed to replicate using real-time PCR, MLPA, and gel electrophoresis. The DOCK5 variation is more akin to a VNTR than a typical CNV and the association is likely caused by artifact due to DNA source. DNA for all the cases was derived from whole blood, while the DNA for all controls was derived from lymphoblast cell lines. The USP32 locus contains many SNPs with low minor allele frequency leading to a loss of heterozygosity that may have been spuriously interpreted by the CNV calling algorithms as support for a deletion. Thus, only the CNVs within the PARK2 locus could be molecularly validated and associated with PD susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3149037  PMID: 21829596
18.  Copy number variation signature to predict human ancestry 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13:336.
Copy number variations (CNVs) are genomic structural variants that are found in healthy populations and have been observed to be associated with disease susceptibility. Existing methods for CNV detection are often performed on a sample-by-sample basis, which is not ideal for large datasets where common CNVs must be estimated by comparing the frequency of CNVs in the individual samples. Here we describe a simple and novel approach to locate genome-wide CNVs common to a specific population, using human ancestry as the phenotype.
We utilized our previously published Genome Alteration Detection Analysis (GADA) algorithm to identify common ancestry CNVs (caCNVs) and built a caCNV model to predict population structure. We identified a 73 caCNV signature using a training set of 225 healthy individuals from European, Asian, and African ancestry. The signature was validated on an independent test set of 300 individuals with similar ancestral background. The error rate in predicting ancestry in this test set was 2% using the 73 caCNV signature. Among the caCNVs identified, several were previously confirmed experimentally to vary by ancestry. Our signature also contains a caCNV region with a single microRNA (MIR270), which represents the first reported variation of microRNA by ancestry.
We developed a new methodology to identify common CNVs and demonstrated its performance by building a caCNV signature to predict human ancestry with high accuracy. The utility of our approach could be extended to large case–control studies to identify CNV signatures for other phenotypes such as disease susceptibility and drug response.
PMCID: PMC3598683  PMID: 23270563
19.  Association between Copy Number Variation Losses and Alcohol Dependence across African American and European American Ethnic Groups 
Copy number variations (CNVs) are structural genetic mutations consisting of segmental gains or losses in DNA sequence. Although CNVs contribute substantially to genomic variation, few genetic and imaging studies report association of CNVs with alcohol dependence (AD). Our purpose is to find evidence of this association across ethnic populations and genders. This work is the first AD-CNV study across ethnic groups and the first to include the African American population.
This study considers two CNV datasets, one for discovery (2,345 samples) and the other for validation (239 samples), both including subjects with AD and healthy controls of European and African ancestry. Our analysis assesses the association between AD and CNV losses across ethnic groups and gender by examining the effect of overall losses across the whole genome, collective losses within individual cytogenetic bands and specific losses in CNV regions.
Results from the discovery dataset showed an association between CNV losses within 16q12.2 and AD diagnosis (p = 4.53x10−3). An overlapping CNV region from the validation dataset exhibited the same direction of effect with respect to AD (p = 0.051). This CNV region affects the genes CES1p1 and CES1, which are members of the carboxylesterase (CES) family. The enzyme encoded by CES1 is a major liver enzyme that typically catalyzes the decomposition of ester into alcohol and carboxylic acid and is involved in drug or xenobiotics, fatty acid and cholesterol metabolisms. In addition, the most significantly associated CNV region was located at 9p21.2 (p = 1.9×10−3) in our discovery dataset. Although not observed in the validation dataset, probably due to small sample size, this result might hold potential connection to AD given its connection with neuronal death. In contrast, we did not find any association between AD and the overall total losses or the collective losses within individual cytogenetic bands.
Overall, our study provides evidence that the specific CNVs at 16q12.2 contribute to the development of alcoholism in African American and European American populations.
PMCID: PMC3999255  PMID: 24512105
CNV; alcoholism; addiction; European Americans; African Americans
20.  Haplotype Phasing and Inheritance of Copy Number Variants in Nuclear Families 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0122713.
DNA copy number variants (CNVs) that alter the copy number of a particular DNA segment in the genome play an important role in human phenotypic variability and disease susceptibility. A number of CNVs overlapping with genes have been shown to confer risk to a variety of human diseases thus highlighting the relevance of addressing the variability of CNVs at a higher resolution. So far, it has not been possible to deterministically infer the allelic composition of different haplotypes present within the CNV regions. We have developed a novel computational method, called PiCNV, which enables to resolve the haplotype sequence composition within CNV regions in nuclear families based on SNP genotyping microarray data. The algorithm allows to i) phase normal and CNV-carrying haplotypes in the copy number variable regions, ii) resolve the allelic copies of rearranged DNA sequence within the haplotypes and iii) infer the heritability of identified haplotypes in trios or larger nuclear families. To our knowledge this is the first program available that can deterministically phase null, mono-, di-, tri- and tetraploid genotypes in CNV loci. We applied our method to study the composition and inheritance of haplotypes in CNV regions of 30 HapMap Yoruban trios and 34 Estonian families. For 93.6% of the CNV loci, PiCNV enabled to unambiguously phase normal and CNV-carrying haplotypes and follow their transmission in the corresponding families. Furthermore, allelic composition analysis identified the co-occurrence of alternative allelic copies within 66.7% of haplotypes carrying copy number gains. We also observed less frequent transmission of CNV-carrying haplotypes from parents to children compared to normal haplotypes and identified an emergence of several de novo deletions and duplications in the offspring.
PMCID: PMC4390228  PMID: 25853576
21.  A Genome-Wide Study of Moyamoya-Type Cerebrovascular Disease in the Korean Population 
Structural genetic variation, including copy-number variation (CNV), constitutes a substantial fraction of total genetic variability, and the importance of structural variants in modulating susceptibility is increasingly being recognized. CNV can change biological function and contribute to pathophysiological conditions of human disease. Its relationship with common, complex human disease in particular is not fully understood. Here, we searched the human genome to identify copy number variants that predispose to moya-moya type cerebrovascular disease.
We retrospectively analyzed patients who had unilateral or bilateral steno-occlusive lesions at the cerebral artery from March, 2007, to September, 2009. For the 20 subjects, including patients with moyamoya type pathologies and three normal healthy controls, we divided the subjects into 4 groups : typical moyamoya (n=6), unilateral moyamoya (n=9), progression unilateral to typical moyamoya (n=2) and non-moyamoya (n=3). Fragmented DNA was hybridized on Human610Quad v1.0 DNA analysis BeadChips (Illumina). Data analysis was performed with GenomeStudio v2009.1, Genotyping 1.1.9, cnvPartition_v2.3.4 software. Overall call rates were more than 99.8%.
In total, 1258 CNVs were identified across the whole genome. The average number of CNV was 45.55 per subject (CNV region was 45.4). The gain/loss of CNV was 52/249, having 4.7 fold higher frequencies in loss calls. The total CNV size was 904,657,868, and average size was 993,038. The largest portion of CNVs (613 calls) were 1M-10M in length. Interestingly, significant association between unilateral moyamoya disease (MMD) and progression of unilateral to typical moyamoya was observed.
Significant association between unilateral MMD and progression of unilateral to typical moyamoya was observed. The finding was confirmed again with clustering analysis. These data demonstrate that certain CNV associate with moyamoya-type cerebrovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC3272507  PMID: 22323933
Copy number variation (CNV); Whole genome association study; Moyamoya disease
22.  A High-Resolution Map of Segmental DNA Copy Number Variation in the Mouse Genome 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(1):e3.
Submicroscopic (less than 2 Mb) segmental DNA copy number changes are a recently recognized source of genetic variability between individuals. The biological consequences of copy number variants (CNVs) are largely undefined. In some cases, CNVs that cause gene dosage effects have been implicated in phenotypic variation. CNVs have been detected in diverse species, including mice and humans. Published studies in mice have been limited by resolution and strain selection. We chose to study 21 well-characterized inbred mouse strains that are the focus of an international effort to measure, catalog, and disseminate phenotype data. We performed comparative genomic hybridization using long oligomer arrays to characterize CNVs in these strains. This technique increased the resolution of CNV detection by more than an order of magnitude over previous methodologies. The CNVs range in size from 21 to 2,002 kb. Clustering strains by CNV profile recapitulates aspects of the known ancestry of these strains. Most of the CNVs (77.5%) contain annotated genes, and many (47.5%) colocalize with previously mapped segmental duplications in the mouse genome. We demonstrate that this technique can identify copy number differences associated with known polymorphic traits. The phenotype of previously uncharacterized strains can be predicted based on their copy number at these loci. Annotation of CNVs in the mouse genome combined with sequence-based analysis provides an important resource that will help define the genetic basis of complex traits.
Author Summary
A major goal of genetics and genomics is to understand how genetic differences between individuals (genotypes) translate into variation in disease susceptibility, behavior, and many other organism-level characteristics (phenotypes). While the sizes of genetic variants range from a single base to whole chromosomes, historically, only the extreme ends of this spectrum have been explored. DNA copy number variants (CNVs) lie between these two extremes, ranging in size from hundreds to millions of bases. The recent application of microarray technology to detect genetic variation in humans has led to the realization that CNVs are common. In fact, rough estimates indicate that CNVs and small-scale variants may constitute similar proportions of total genomic DNA. In this report, the authors characterize 80 CNVs across the genomes of 21 inbred strains of mice. The identification and characterization of mouse CNVs are important because inbred strains of mice are the most widely used model system to explore biomedical genetics. These CNVs are located near another class of genomic features, segmental duplications, more often than would be expected by chance, which supports the hypothesis that CNVs and segmental duplications are causally linked. Importantly, many of the CNVs contain known genes and thus may underlie both gene expression and phenotypic variation between strains.
PMCID: PMC1761046  PMID: 17206864
23.  Gene Copy-Number Polymorphism Caused by Retrotransposition in Humans 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(1):e1003242.
The era of whole-genome sequencing has revealed that gene copy-number changes caused by duplication and deletion events have important evolutionary, functional, and phenotypic consequences. Recent studies have therefore focused on revealing the extent of variation in copy-number within natural populations of humans and other species. These studies have found a large number of copy-number variants (CNVs) in humans, many of which have been shown to have clinical or evolutionary importance. For the most part, these studies have failed to detect an important class of gene copy-number polymorphism: gene duplications caused by retrotransposition, which result in a new intron-less copy of the parental gene being inserted into a random location in the genome. Here we describe a computational approach leveraging next-generation sequence data to detect gene copy-number variants caused by retrotransposition (retroCNVs), and we report the first genome-wide analysis of these variants in humans. We find that retroCNVs account for a substantial fraction of gene copy-number differences between any two individuals. Moreover, we show that these variants may often result in expressed chimeric transcripts, underscoring their potential for the evolution of novel gene functions. By locating the insertion sites of these duplicates, we are able to show that retroCNVs have had an important role in recent human adaptation, and we also uncover evidence that positive selection may currently be driving multiple retroCNVs toward fixation. Together these findings imply that retroCNVs are an especially important class of polymorphism, and that future studies of copy-number variation should search for these variants in order to illuminate their potential evolutionary and functional relevance.
Author Summary
Recent studies of human genetic variation have revealed that, in addition to differing at single nucleotide polymorphisms, individuals differ in copy-number at many regions of the genome. These copy-number variants (CNVs) are caused by duplication or deletion events and often affect functional sequences such as genes. Efforts to reveal the functional impact of CNVs have identified many variants increasing the risk of various disorders, and some that are adaptive. However, these studies mostly fail to detect gene duplications caused by retrotransposition, in which an mRNA transcript is reverse-transcribed and reinserted into the genome, yielding a new intron-less gene copy. Here we describe a method leveraging next-generation sequence data to accurately detect gene copy-number variants caused by retrotransposition, or retroCNVs, and apply this method to hundreds of whole-genome sequences from three different human subpopulations. We find that these variants account for a substantial number of gene copy-number differences between individuals, and that gene retrotransposition may often result in both deleterious and beneficial mutations. Indeed, we present evidence that two of these new gene duplications may be adaptive. These results imply that retroCNVs are an especially important class of CNV and should be included in future studies of human copy-number variation.
PMCID: PMC3554589  PMID: 23359205
24.  Inferring combined CNV/SNP haplotypes from genotype data 
Bioinformatics  2010;26(11):1437-1445.
Motivation: Copy number variations (CNVs) are increasingly recognized as an substantial source of individual genetic variation, and hence there is a growing interest in investigating the evolutionary history of CNVs as well as their impact on complex disease susceptibility. CNV/SNP haplotypes are critical for this research, but although many methods have been proposed for inferring integer copy number, few have been designed for inferring CNV haplotypic phase and none of these are applicable at genome-wide scale. Here, we present a method for inferring missing CNV genotypes, predicting CNV allelic configuration and for inferring CNV haplotypic phase from SNP/CNV genotype data. Our method, implemented in the software polyHap v2.0, is based on a hidden Markov model, which models the joint haplotype structure between CNVs and SNPs. Thus, haplotypic phase of CNVs and SNPs are inferred simultaneously. A sampling algorithm is employed to obtain a measure of confidence/credibility of each estimate.
Results: We generated diploid phase-known CNV–SNP genotype datasets by pairing male X chromosome CNV–SNP haplotypes. We show that polyHap provides accurate estimates of missing CNV genotypes, allelic configuration and CNV haplotypic phase on these datasets. We applied our method to a non-simulated dataset—a region on Chromosome 2 encompassing a short deletion. The results confirm that polyHap's accuracy extends to real-life datasets.
Availability: Our method is implemented in version 2.0 of the polyHap software package and can be downloaded from
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC2913665  PMID: 20406911
25.  Genome-Wide Identification of Copy Number Variations in Chinese Holstein 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48732.
Recent studies of mammalian genomes have uncovered the vast extent of copy number variations (CNVs) that contribute to phenotypic diversity. Compared to SNP, a CNV can cover a wider chromosome region, which may potentially incur substantial sequence changes and induce more significant effects on phenotypes. CNV has been becoming an alternative promising genetic marker in the field of genetic analyses. Here we firstly report an account of CNV regions in the cattle genome in Chinese Holstein population. The Illumina Bovine SNP50K Beadchips were used for screening 2047 Holstein individuals. Three different programes (PennCNV, cnvPartition and GADA) were implemented to detect potential CNVs. After a strict CNV calling pipeline, a total of 99 CNV regions were identified in cattle genome. These CNV regions cover 23.24 Mb in total with an average size of 151.69 Kb. 52 out of these CNV regions have frequencies of above 1%. 51 out of these CNV regions completely or partially overlap with 138 cattle genes, which are significantly enriched for specific biological functions, such as signaling pathway, sensory perception response and cellular processes. The results provide valuable information for constructing a more comprehensive CNV map in the cattle genome and offer an important resource for investigation of genome structure and genomic variation underlying traits of interest in cattle.
PMCID: PMC3492429  PMID: 23144949

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