The identification of recessive disease-causing genes by homozygosity mapping is often restricted by lack of suitable consanguineous families. To overcome these limitations, we apply homozygosity mapping to single affected individuals from outbred populations. In 72 individuals of 54 kindred ascertained worldwide with known homozygous mutations in 13 different recessive disease genes, we performed total genome homozygosity mapping using 250,000 SNP arrays. Likelihood ratio Z-scores (ZLR) were plotted across the genome to detect ZLR peaks that reflect segments of homozygosity by descent, which may harbor the mutated gene. In 93% of cases, the causative gene was positioned within a consistent ZLR peak of homozygosity. The number of peaks reflected the degree of inbreeding. We demonstrate that disease-causing homozygous mutations can be detected in single cases from outbred populations within a single ZLR peak of homozygosity as short as 2 Mb, containing an average of only 16 candidate genes. As many specialty clinics have access to cohorts of individuals from outbred populations, and as our approach will result in smaller genetic candidate regions, the new strategy of homozygosity mapping in single outbred individuals will strongly accelerate the discovery of novel recessive disease genes.
Many childhood diseases are caused by single-gene mutations of recessive genes, in which a child has inherited one mutated gene copy from each parent causing disease in the child, but not in the parents who are healthy heterozygous carriers. As the two mutations represent the disease cause, gene mapping helped understand disease mechanisms. “Homozygosity mapping” has been particularly useful. It assumes that the parents are related and that a disease-causing mutation together with a chromosomal segment of identical markers (i.e., homozygous markers) is transmitted to the affected child through the paternal and the maternal line from an ancestor common to both parents. Homozygosity mapping seeks out those homozygous regions to map the disease-causing gene. Homozygosity mapping requires families, in which the parents are knowingly related, and have multiple affected children. To overcome these limitations, we applied homozygosity mapping to single affected individuals from outbred populations. In 72 individuals with known homozygous mutations in 13 different recessive disease genes, we performed homozygosity mapping. In 93% we detected the causative gene in a segment of homozygosity. We demonstrate that disease-causing homozygous mutations can be detected in single cases from outbred populations. This will strongly accelerate the discovery of novel recessive disease genes.