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A phenome-wide association study of four syndromic genes reveals pleiotropic effects of common and rare variants in the general population

By Catherine Tcheandjieu, Matthew Aguirre, Stefan Gustafsson, Priyanka Saha, Praneetha Potiny, Melissa A Haendel, Erik Ingelsson, Manuel A. Rivas, James R. Priest

Posted 02 Nov 2019
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/19010736

The clinical evaluation of a genetic syndrome relies upon recognition of a characteristic pattern of signs or symptoms to guide targeted genetic testing for confirmation of the diagnosis. However, individuals displaying a few phenotypes of a complex syndrome may not meet criteria for clinical diagnosis or genetic testing. Here, we present a phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) approach to systematically explore pleiotropy of common and rare alleles in genes associated with four well-described syndromic diseases (Alagille (AS), Marfan (MS), DiGeorge (DS), and Noonan (NS) syndromes) in the general population. Using human phenotype ontology (HPO) terms, we systematically mapped 60 phenotypes related to AS, MS, DS and NS in 337,198 unrelated white British from the UK Biobank (UKBB) based on their hospital admission records, self-administrated questionnaires, and physiological measurements. We performed logistic regression adjusting for age, sex, and the first 5 genetic principal components, for each phenotype and each variant in the target genes (JAG1, TBX1, FBN1, PTPN11, NOTCH2, and MAP2K1) and performed a gene burden testing. Overall, we observed multiple phenotype-genotype correlations, such as the association between variation in JAG1, FBN1, PTPN11 and SOS2 with diastolic and systolic blood pressure; and pleiotropy among multiple variants in syndromic genes. For example, rs11066309 in PTPN11 was significantly associated with a lower body mass index, an increased risk of hypothyroidism and a smaller size for gestational age, all in concordance with NS-related phenotypes. Similarly, rs589668 in FBN1 was associated with an increase in body height and blood pressure, and a reduced body fat percentage as observed in Marfan syndrome. Our findings suggest that the spectrum of associations of common and rare variants in genes involved in syndromic diseases can be extended to individual phenotypes within the general population. Author SummaryStandard medical evaluation of genetic syndromes relies upon recognizing a characteristic pattern of signs or symptoms to guide targeted genetic testing for confirmation of the diagnosis. This may lead to missing diagnoses in patients with silent or a low expressed form of the syndrome. Here we take advantage of a rich electronic health record, various phenotypic measurements, and genetic information in 337,198 unrelated white British from the UKBB, to study the relation between single syndromic disease phenotypes and genes related to syndromic disease. We show multiple phenotype-genotypes associations in concordance with phenotypes variations found in syndromic diseases. For example, we show that mutation in FBN1 was associated with high standing/sitting height ratio and reduced body fat percentage as observed in individuals with Marfan syndrome. Our findings suggest that common and rare alleles in SD genes are causative of individual component phenotypes present in a general population; further research is needed to characterize the pleiotropic effect of alleles in syndromic genes in persons without the syndromic disease.

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