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RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) is a complementary approach for Mendelian disease diagnosis for patients in whom exome-sequencing is not informative. For both rare neuromuscular and mitochondrial disorders, its application has improved diagnostic rates. However, the generalizability of this approach to diverse Mendelian diseases has yet to be evaluated. We sequenced whole blood RNA from 56 cases with undiagnosed rare diseases spanning 11 diverse disease categories to evaluate the general application of RNA-seq to Mendelian disease diagnosis. We developed a robust approach to compare rare disease cases to existing large sets of RNA-seq controls (N=1,594 external and N=31 family-based controls) and demonstrated the substantial impacts of gene and variant filtering strategies on disease gene identification when combined with RNA-seq. Across our cohort, we observed that RNA-seq yields a 8.5% diagnostic rate. These diagnoses included diseases where blood would not intuitively reflect evidence of disease. We identified RARS2 as an under-expression outlier containing compound heterozygous pathogenic variants for an individual exhibiting profound global developmental delay, seizures, microcephaly, hypotonia, and progressive scoliosis. We also identified a new splicing junction in KCTD7 for an individual with global developmental delay, loss of milestones, tremors and seizures. Our study provides a broad evaluation of blood RNA-seq for the diagnosis of rare disease.

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