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Cardiomyopathy (CMP) is a heritable genetic disorder. Protein-coding variants account for 20-30% of cases. The contribution of variants in non-coding DNA elements that regulate gene expression has not been explored. We performed whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of 228 unrelated CMP families. Besides pathogenic protein-coding variants in known CMP genes, 5% cases harbored rare loss-of-function variants in novel cardiac genes, with NRAP and FHOD3 being strong candidates. WGS also revealed a high burden of high-risk variants in promoters and enhancers of CMP genes in an additional 20% cases (Odds ratio 2.14, 95% CI 1.60-2.86, p=5.26x10-7 vs 1326 controls) with genes involved in -dystroglycan glycosylation (FKTN, DTNA) and desmosomal signaling (DSC2, DSG2) specifically enriched for regulatory variants (False discovery rate <0.03). These findings were independently replicated in the Genomics England CMP cohort (n=1266). The functional effect of non-coding variants on transcription was functionally validated in patient myocardium and reporter assays in human cardiomyocytes, and that of novel gene variants in zebrafish knockouts. Our results show that functionally active variants in novel genes and in regulatory elements of CMP genes contribute strongly to the genomic etiology of childhood-onset CMP.

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