To complement our special issue on exome sequencing, Genome Biology asked several leaders in the field for their views on this new approach. Leslie G Biesecker (LGB), Jim C Mullikin (JM) and Kevin V Shianna (KVS) discuss the reasons for the popularity of exome sequencing and its contribution to genomics.
Purpose of review
Exome and genome sequencing have recently emerged as clinical tools to resolve
undiagnosed genetic conditions. Protocols are critically needed to identify proper
patients for testing; select a test and laboratory; engage parents in shared decision
making; and the return of results.
Among well-selected patients, the likelihood for identifying the causative gene
change may be as high as 30%. It is key for pediatricians to consider whether
sequencing should be the primary line of pursuit of a molecular diagnosis. Parents
should understand the uncertainties inherent in this sequencing and the preference-based
nature of testing. Pediatricians can engage in shared decision making for this process
and work to help parents make decisions consistent with their priorities and values.
Upon receipt of a pathogenic mutation, discussion of the likelihood for future treatment
is paramount to parents, as are the implications for recurrence within the family.
Uncertainties inherent to genomic results need to be explained in the context of the
likelihood of future research and discoveries.
Pediatricians should make a deliberate decision with each patient whether to
manage genomic testing on their own, refer the patient for such testing, or initiate the
process and refer simultaneously. Regardless of which approach is taken, understanding
the basics of this testing will allow the pediatrician to support the parents through
the diagnostic process.
genome sequencing; exome sequencing; informed consent; genetic counseling
One reason for not seeking personally threatening information may be negative current and anticipated affective responses. We examined whether current (e.g., worry) and anticipated negative affect predicted intentions to seek sequencing results in the context of an actual genomic sequencing trial (ClinSeq®; n = 545) and whether spontaneous self-affirmation mitigated any (negative) association between affect and intentions. Anticipated affective response negatively predicted intentions to obtain and share results pertaining to both medically actionable and non-actionable disease, whereas current affect was only a marginal predictor. The negative association between anticipated affect and intentions to obtain results pertaining to non-actionable disease was weaker in individuals who were higher in spontaneous self-affirmation. These results have implications for the understanding of current and anticipated affect, self-affirmation and consequential decision-making and contribute to a growing body of evidence on the role of affect in medical decisions.
Anticipated affect; Current affect; Self-affirmation; Defensiveness; Information seeking; Information avoidance
Many variants that could be returned from genome sequencing may be perceived as ambiguous—lacking reliability, credibility, or adequacy. Little is known about how perceived ambiguity influences thoughts about sequencing results. Participants (n=494) in an NIH genome sequencing study completed a baseline survey before sequencing results were available. We examined how perceived ambiguity regarding sequencing results and individual differences in medical ambiguity aversion and tolerance for uncertainty were associated with cognitions and intentions concerning sequencing results. Perceiving sequencing results as more ambiguous was associated with less favorable cognitions about results and lower intentions to learn and share results. Among participants low in tolerance for uncertainty or optimism, greater perceived ambiguity was associated with lower intentions to learn results for non-medically actionable diseases; medical ambiguity aversion did not moderate any associations. Results are consistent with the phenomenon of “ambiguity aversion” and may influence whether people learn and communicate genomic information.
genetic/genome testing; ambiguity aversion; perceived ambiguity; optimism; tolerance for uncertainty; response efficacy
Information avoidance is a defensive strategy that undermines receipt of potentially beneficial but threatening health information and may especially occur when threat management resources are unavailable.
We examined whether individual differences in information avoidance predicted intentions to receive genetic sequencing results for preventable and unpreventable (i.e., more threatening) disease and, secondarily, whether threat management resources of self-affirmation or optimism mitigated any effects.
Participants (N=493) in an NIH study (ClinSeq®) piloting the use of genome sequencing reported intentions to receive (optional) sequencing results and completed individual difference measures of information avoidance, self-affirmation, and optimism.
Information avoidance tendencies corresponded with lower intentions to learn results, particularly for unpreventable diseases. The association was weaker among individuals higher in self-affirmation or optimism, but only for results regarding preventable diseases.
Information avoidance tendencies may influence decisions to receive threatening health information; threat management resources hold promise for mitigating this association.
Information Avoidance; Genomics; Genetics; Self-affirmation; Threat; Optimism
Dispositional optimism and risk perceptions are each associated with health-related behaviors and decisions and other outcomes, but little research has examined how these constructs interact, particularly in consequential health contexts. The predictive validity of risk perceptions for health-related information seeking and intentions may be improved by examining dispositional optimism as a moderator, and by testing alternate types of risk perceptions, such as comparative and experiential risk.
Participants (n = 496) had their genomes sequenced as part of a National Institutes of Health pilot cohort study (ClinSeq®). Participants completed a cross-sectional baseline survey of various types of risk perceptions and intentions to learn genome sequencing results for differing disease risks (e.g., medically actionable, nonmedically actionable, carrier status) and to use this information to change their lifestyle/health behaviors.
Risk perceptions (absolute, comparative, and experiential) were largely unassociated with intentions to learn sequencing results. Dispositional optimism and comparative risk perceptions interacted, however, such that individuals higher in optimism reported greater intentions to learn all 3 types of sequencing results when comparative risk was perceived to be higher than when it was perceived to be lower. This interaction was inconsistent for experiential risk and absent for absolute risk. Independent of perceived risk, participants high in dispositional optimism reported greater interest in learning risks for nonmedically actionable disease and carrier status, and greater intentions to use genome information to change their lifestyle/health behaviors.
The relationship between risk perceptions and intentions may depend on how risk perceptions are assessed and on degree of optimism.
dispositional optimism; perceived risk; genetics; genomics; comparative risk
Malignant hyperthermia susceptibility (MHS) is a life-threatening, inherited disorder of muscle calcium metabolism, triggered by anesthetics and depolarizing muscle relaxants. An unselected cohort was screened for MHS mutations using exome sequencing. Our aim was to pilot a strategy for the RYR1 and CACNA1S genes.
Exome sequencing was performed on 870 volunteers not ascertained for MHS. Variants in RYR1 and CACNA1S were annotated using an algorithm that filtered results based on mutation type, frequency, and information in mutation databases. Variants were scored on a six-point pathogenicity scale. Medical histories and pedigrees were reviewed for malignant hyperthermia and related disorders.
We identified 70 RYR1 and 53 CACNA1S variants among 870 exomes. Sixty-three RYR1 and 41 CACNA1S variants passed the quality and frequency metrics but we excluded synonymous variants. In RYR1, we identified 65 missense mutations, one nonsense, two that affected splicing, and one non frameshift indel. In CACNA1S, 48 missense, one frameshift deletion, one splicing and one non frameshift indel were identified. RYR1 variants predicted to be pathogenic for MHS were found in three participants without medical or family histories of MHS. Numerous variants, previously described as pathogenic in mutation databases, were reclassified by us to be of unknown pathogenicity.
Exome sequencing can identify asymptomatic patients at risk for MHS, although the interpretation of exome variants can be challenging. The use of exome sequencing in unselected cohorts is an important tool to understand the prevalence and penetrance of MHS, a critical challenge for the field.
Massively parallel sequencing to identify rare variants is widely practiced in medical research and in the clinic. Genome and exome sequencing can identify the genetic cause of a disease (primary results), but can also identify pathogenic variants underlying diseases that are not being sought (secondary or incidental results). A major controversy has developed surrounding the return of secondary results to research participants. We have piloted a method to analyze exomes to identify participants at-risk for cardiac arrhythmias, cardiomyopathies or sudden death.
Methods and Results
Exome sequencing was performed on 870 participants not selected for arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, or a family history of sudden death. Exome data from 22 cardiac arrhythmia and 41 cardiomyopathy-associated genes were analyzed using an algorithm that filtered results on genotype quality, frequency, and database information. We identified 1367 variants in the cardiomyopathy genes and 360 variants in the arrhythmia genes. Six participants had pathogenic variants associated with dilated cardiomyopathy (n=1), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (n=2), left ventricular noncompaction (n=1) or long QT syndrome (n=2). Two of these participants had evidence of cardiomyopathy and one had left ventricular noncompaction on ECHO. Three participants with likely pathogenic variants had prolonged QTc. Family history included unexplained sudden death among relatives.
Approximately 0.5% of participants in this study had pathogenic variants in known cardiomyopathy or arrhythmia genes. This high frequency may be due to self-selection, false positives, or underestimation of the prevalence of these conditions. We conclude that clinically important cardiomyopathy and dysrhythmia secondary variants can be identified in unselected exomes.
arrhythmia (heart rhythm disorders); cardiomyopathy; cardiovascular genomics; genetic heart disease; genetic variation; arrhythmia; genetics; human; genomic medicine
In clinical exome and genome sequencing, there is potential for the recognition and reporting of incidental or secondary findings unrelated to the indication for ordering the sequencing but of medical value for patient care. The American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) recently published a policy statement on clinical sequencing, which emphasized the importance of disclosing the possibility of such results in pretest patient discussions, clinical testing, and reporting of results. The ACMG appointed a Working Group on Incidental Findings in Clinical Exome and Genome Sequencing to make recommendations about responsible management of incidental findings when patients undergo exome or genome sequencing. This Working Group conducted a year-long consensus process, including review by outside experts, and produced recommendations that have been approved by the ACMG Board. Specific and detailed recommendations, and the background and rationale for these recommendations, are described herein. We recommend that laboratories performing clinical sequencing seek and report mutations of the specified classes or types in the genes listed here. This evaluation and reporting should be performed for all clinical germline (constitutional) exome and genome sequencing, including the ‘normal’ of tumor-normal subtractive analyses in all subjects, irrespective of age, but excluding fetal samples. We recognize that there are insufficient data on clinical utility to fully support these recommendations and we encourage the creation of an ongoing process for updating these recommendations at least annually as further data are collected.
secondary findings; incidental findings; genome; genomic medicine; personalized medicine; whole-exome; whole-genome; sequencing
The debate surrounding the return of results from high-throughput genomic interrogation encompasses many important issues including ethics, law, economics, and social policy. As well, the debate is also informed by the molecular, genetic, and clinical foundations of the emerging field of clinical genomics, which is based on this new technology. This manuscript outlines the main biomedical considerations of sequencing technologies and demonstrates some of the early clinical experiences with the technology to enable the debate to stay focused on real-world practicalities. These experiences are based on early data from the ClinSeq project, which has generated exome sequence data on 572 subjects. These data are beginning to be interpreted and returned to the subjects, which provides examples of the potential usefulness and pitfalls of clinical genomics. There are numerous genetic results that can be readily derived from a genome including rare, high penetrance traits and carrier states. However, much work needs to be done to develop the tools and resources for genomic interpretation. The main lesson learned is that a genome sequence may be better considered as a health care resource, rather than a test, one that can be interpreted and used over the lifetime of the patient.
A somatic activating mutation in AKT1, c.49G>A, pGlu17Lys, that results in elevated AKT signaling in mutation-positive cells, is responsible for the mosaic overgrowth condition, Proteus syndrome. ARQ 092 is an allosteric pan-AKT inhibitor under development for treatment in cancer. We tested the efficacy of this drug for suppressing AKT signaling in cells and tissues from patients with Proteus syndrome. ARQ 092 reduced phosphorylation of AKT and downstream targets of AKT in a concentration-dependent manner in as little as two hours. While AKT signaling was suppressed with ARQ 092 treatment, cells retained their ability to respond to growth factor stimulation by increasing pAKT levels proportionally to untreated cells. At concentrations sufficient to decrease AKT signaling, little reduction in cell viability was seen. These results indicate that ARQ 092 can suppress AKT signaling and warrants further development as a therapeutic option for patients with Proteus syndrome.
The scope of uncertainty in genomic sequence information has no rival in health care delivery. We present data from adults participating in an NIH study using this technology where perceptions of uncertainty are hypothesized to be key in predicting decisions to learn and act on genomic health information.
We conducted six professionally moderated focus groups with 39 randomly selected ClinSeq® participants, varying whether they had coronary heart disease and had received prior sequence results. We elicited perceptions of the uncertainties associated with genomic sequencing using writing prompts.
Participants perceived uncertainty as a quality of the information. The majority of participants characterized uncertainty of sequencing information as “changing, fluid, developing, or ground breaking.” These responses led to anticipation of more optimistic future outcomes. Fewer participants described uncertainty as “questionable, less accurate, limited, or poorly understood”. These perceptions seemed to undermine participants' faith in the information, leading to feelings of disillusionment.
Our findings suggest that perceptions of uncertainty are related to epistemological beliefs that inform expectations of the information. Interventions to promote realistic expectations of genomic sequencing may mitigate adverse responses to uncertainty.
The phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT signaling pathway is critical for cellular growth and metabolism. Correspondingly, loss of function of PTEN, a negative regulator of PI3K, or activating mutations in AKT1, AKT2, or AKT3 have been found in distinct disorders featuring overgrowth or hypoglycemia. We performed exome sequencing of DNA from unaffected and affected cells of a patient with an unclassified syndrome of congenital, progressive segmental overgrowth of fibrous and adipose tissue and bone and identified the cancer-associated p.His1047Leu mutation in PIK3CA, which encodes the p110α catalytic subunit of PI3K, only in affected cells. Sequencing of PIK3CA in 10 further patients with overlapping syndromes identified either p.His1047Leu or a second cancer-associated mutation, p.His1047Arg, in 9 cases. Affected dermal fibroblasts showed enhanced basal and EGF-stimulated phosphatidylinositol-3,4,5-trisphosphate (PIP3) generation and concomitant activation of downstream signaling. Our findings characterize a distinct overgrowth syndrome, biochemically demonstrate activation of PI3K signaling and thereby identify a rational therapeutic target.
A child’s obesity is generally perceived by the public to be under the control of the child’s parents. While the health consequences of childhood obesity are well understood, less is known about psychological and social effects of having an obese child on parents. We set out to characterize stigma and courtesy stigma experiences surrounding obesity among children with Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS), a multisystem genetic disorder, and their parents.
Twenty-eight parents of children with BBS participated in semi-structured interviews informed by social stigmatization theory, which describes courtesy stigma as parental perception of stigmatization by association with a stigmatized child. Parents were asked to describe such experiences.
Parents of children with BBS reported the child’s obesity as the most frequent target of stigmatization. They perceived health care providers as the predominant source of courtesy stigma, describing interactions that resulted in feeling devalued and judged as incompetent parents.
Parents of children with BBS feel blamed by others for their child’s obesity and described experiences that suggest health care providers may contribute to courtesy stigma and thus impede effective communication about managing obesity. Health care providers may reinforce parental feelings of guilt and responsibility by repeating information parents may have previously heard and ignoring extremely challenging barriers to weight management, such as a genetic predisposition to obesity. Strategies to understand and incorporate parents’ perceptions and causal attributions of their children’s weight may improve communication about weight control.
Proteus syndrome is an extremely rare disorder of mosaic postnatal overgrowth affecting multiple tissues including bone, soft tissue and skin. It typically presents in early childhood with asymmetric and progressive skeletal overgrowth that leads to severe distortion of the skeleton and disability. The genetic basis has recently been identified as a somatic activating mutation in the AKT1 gene, which encodes an enzyme mediating cell proliferation and apoptosis.
We present a 33-year-old man that developed plantar cerebriform collagenomas on the soles of both feet and varicose veins in early childhood, in the absence of any skeletal or other connective tissue abnormality. Although the patient did not meet the diagnostic criteria for Proteus syndrome, he was found to have the c.49G>A, p.Glu17Lys AKT1 mutation in lesional skin but not in his blood.
Conclusions and Relevance
To our knowledge, this is the mildest molecularly confirmed patient with Proteus syndrome, occurring in the absence of the characteristic skeletal overgrowth. These findings extend the spectrum of Proteus syndrome pathology and suggest that somatic mutations late in development and restricted in distribution cause subtle clinical presentations that do not meet the published clinical criteria.
An international group of clinicians working in the field of Dysmorphology has initiated the (re-) definition of all terms used to describe the external human phenotype. The goal is that through standardization of all terms and consensus regarding their definitions the reliability of description of features in humans will increase, comparisons of findings between patients will become more reliable, and discussions with other workers in the field such as developmental biologists and molecular geneticists will become more accurate. Here we report on the (re-) definition of terms needed to describe the major characteristics of the hands and feet. We provide a limited description of the anatomy of this region, limited background anthropometry, and an illustrated list of definitions.
nomenclature; definitions; feet; hands; limbs; malformations; anomalies; multiple anomalies; anatomy
Respecting the confidentiality of personal data contributed to genomic studies is an important issue for researchers using genomic sequencing in humans. Although most studies adhere to rules of confidentiality, there are different conceptions of confidentiality and why it is important. The resulting ambiguity obscures what is at stake when making tradeoffs between data protection and other goals in research, such as transparency, reciprocity, and public benefit. Few studies have examined why participants in genomic research care about how their information is used. To explore this topic, we conducted semi-structured phone interviews with 30 participants in two National Institutes of Health research protocols using genomic sequencing. Our results show that research participants value confidentiality as a form of control over information about themselves. To the individuals we interviewed, control was valued as a safeguard against discrimination in a climate of uncertainty about future uses of individual genome data. Attitudes towards data sharing were related to the goals of research and details of participants' personal lives. Expectations of confidentiality, trust in researchers, and a desire to advance science were common reasons for willingness to share identifiable data with investigators. Nearly, all participants were comfortable sharing personal data that had been de-identified. These findings suggest that views about confidentiality and data sharing are highly nuanced and are related to the perceived benefits of joining a research study.
genomics; privacy; confidentiality
Genome sequencing is a novel clinical tool that has the potential to identify genetic origins of disease. However, the complexities of this new technology are significant and little is known about its integration into clinical care, and its potential adoption by patients. Expectations of its promise for personalized medicine are high and it is important to properly match expectations to the realities of the test. The NIH ClinSeq cohort study pilots the integration of genome sequencing into clinical research and care to assess the technical, medical and socio-behavioral aspects of implementing this technology. Over 950 adults ages 45-65 have been enrolled and clinically phenotyped. As an initial study, we describe the personality traits of ClinSeq participants, and explore how these traits compare to those that characterize early adopters of other new technologies. Our analysis was conducted on responses from 630 members of the cohort who completed a baseline survey on health cognitions, affect, health-related behaviors and personality traits, prior to receipt of any genome sequencing results. The majority of participants were white (90.5%), had at least a college degree (86.5%), and had at least one biological child (74.6%). Members of this ClinSeq sample were found to be high in dispositional optimism and resilience. Their high SES paralleled that of other early adopters of new technology. These attributes may contribute to participants’ expectations for favorable outcomes and willingness to take higher risks when compared to the general population. These characteristics may distinguish those who are most likely to pursue genome sequencing and be indicative of their psychological resources to manage returned results.
Somatic activating mutations in the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase/AKT/mTOR pathway underlie heterogeneous segmental overgrowth phenotypes. Because of the extreme differences among patients, we sought to characterize the phenotypic spectrum associated with different genotypes and mutation burdens, including a better understanding of associated complications and natural history. Historically, the clinical diagnoses in patients with PIK3CA activating mutations have included Fibroadipose hyperplasia or Overgrowth (FAO), Hemihyperplasia Multiple Lipomatosis (HHML), Congenital Lipomatous Overgrowth, Vascular Malformations, Epidermal Nevi, Scoliosis/Skeletal and Spinal (CLOVES) syndrome, macrodactyly, Fibroadipose Infiltrating Lipomatosis, and the related megalencephaly syndromes, Megalencephaly-Capillary Malformation (MCAP or M-CM) and Dysplastic Megalencephaly (DMEG). A workshop was convened at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to discuss and develop a consensus document regarding diagnosis and treatment of patients with PIK3CA-associated somatic overgrowth disorders. Participants in the workshop included a group of researchers from several institutions who have been studying these disorders and have published their findings, as well as representatives from patient-advocacy and support groups. The umbrella term of “PIK3CA-Related Overgrowth Spectrum (PROS)” was agreed upon to encompass both the known and emerging clinical entities associated with somatic PIK3CA mutations including, macrodactyly, FAO, HHML, CLOVES, and related megalencephaly conditions. Key clinical diagnostic features and criteria for testing were proposed, and testing approaches summarized. Preliminary recommendations for a uniform approach to assessment of overgrowth and molecular diagnostic testing were determined. Future areas to address include the surgical management of overgrowth tissue and vascular anomalies, the optimal approach to thrombosis risk, and the testing of potential pharmacologic therapies.
Somatic mosaicism; PIK3CA gene; fibroadipose overgrowth; segmental overgrowth; macrodactyly; CLOVES syndrome; PIK3CA-Related Overgrowth Spectrum (PROS)
Contiguous gene syndromes cause disorders via haploinsufficiency for adjacent genes. Some contiguous gene syndromes (CGS) have stereotypical breakpoints, but others have variable breakpoints. In CGS that have variable breakpoints, the extent of the deletions may be correlated with severity. The Greig cephalopolysyndactyly contiguous gene syndrome (GCPS‐CGS) is a multiple malformation syndrome caused by haploinsufficiency of GLI3 and adjacent genes. In addition, non‐CGS GCPS can be caused by deletions or duplications in GLI3. Although fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) can identify large deletion mutations in patients with GCPS or GCPS‐CGS, it is not practical for identification of small intragenic deletions or insertions, and it is difficult to accurately characterise the extent of the large deletions using this technique. We have designed a custom comparative genomic hybridisation (CGH) array that allows identification of deletions and duplications at kilobase resolution in the vicinity of GLI3. The array averages one probe every 730 bp for a total of about 14 000 probes over 10 Mb. We have analysed 16 individuals with known or suspected deletions or duplications. In 15 of 16 individuals (14 deletions and 1 duplication), the array confirmed the prior results. In the remaining patient, the normal CGH array result was correct, and the prior assessment was a false positive quantitative polymerase chain reaction result. We conclude that high‐density CGH array analysis is more sensitive than FISH analysis for detecting deletions and provides clinically useful results on the extent of the deletion. We suggest that high‐density CGH array analysis should replace FISH analysis for assessment of deletions and duplications in patients with contiguous gene syndromes caused by variable deletions.
; oligonucleotide array; comparative genomic hybridization
An international group of clinicians working in the field of dysmorphology has initiated the standardization of terms used to describe human morphology. The goals are to standardize these terms and reach consensus regarding their definitions. In this way, we will increase the utility of descriptions of the human phenotype and facilitate reliable comparisons of findings among patients. Discussions with other workers in dysmorphology and related fields, such as developmental biology and molecular genetics, will become more precise. Here we describe the general background of the project and the various issues we have tried to take into account in defining the terms.
nomenclature; definitions; morphology; dysmorphology; birth defects; malformations; minor anomalies; common variants