• Genome-to-genome analysis highlights the effect of the human innate and adaptive immune systems on the hepatitis C virus.

    1 January 2018

    Outcomes of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and treatment depend on viral and host genetic factors. Here we use human genome-wide genotyping arrays and new whole-genome HCV viral sequencing technologies to perform a systematic genome-to-genome study of 542 individuals who were chronically infected with HCV, predominantly genotype 3. We show that both alleles of genes encoding human leukocyte antigen molecules and genes encoding components of the interferon lambda innate immune system drive viral polymorphism. Additionally, we show that IFNL4 genotypes determine HCV viral load through a mechanism dependent on a specific amino acid residue in the HCV NS5A protein. These findings highlight the interplay between the innate immune system and the viral genome in HCV control.

  • Bayesian analysis of genetic association across tree-structured routine healthcare data in the UK Biobank.

    22 December 2017

    Genetic discovery from the multitude of phenotypes extractable from routine healthcare data can transform understanding of the human phenome and accelerate progress toward precision medicine. However, a critical question when analyzing high-dimensional and heterogeneous data is how best to interrogate increasingly specific subphenotypes while retaining statistical power to detect genetic associations. Here we develop and employ a new Bayesian analysis framework that exploits the hierarchical structure of diagnosis classifications to analyze genetic variants against UK Biobank disease phenotypes derived from self-reporting and hospital episode statistics. Our method displays a more than 20% increase in power to detect genetic effects over other approaches and identifies new associations between classical human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles and common immune-mediated diseases (IMDs). By applying the approach to genetic risk scores (GRSs), we show the extent of genetic sharing among IMDs and expose differences in disease perception or diagnosis with potential clinical implications.

  • Whole-genome sequencing of spermatocytic tumors provides insights into the mutational processes operating in the male germline.

    12 January 2018

    Adult male germline stem cells (spermatogonia) proliferate by mitosis and, after puberty, generate spermatocytes that undertake meiosis to produce haploid spermatozoa. Germ cells are under evolutionary constraint to curtail mutations and maintain genome integrity. Despite constant turnover, spermatogonia very rarely form tumors, so-called spermatocytic tumors (SpT). In line with the previous identification of FGFR3 and HRAS selfish mutations in a subset of cases, candidate gene screening of 29 SpTs identified an oncogenic NRAS mutation in two cases. To gain insights in the etiology of SpT and into properties of the male germline, we performed whole-genome sequencing of five tumors (4/5 with matched normal tissue). The acquired single nucleotide variant load was extremely low (~0.2 per Mb), with an average of 6 (2-9) non-synonymous variants per tumor, none of which is likely to be oncogenic. The observed mutational signature of SpTs is strikingly similar to that of germline de novo mutations, mostly involving C>T transitions with a significant enrichment in the ACG trinucleotide context. The tumors exhibited extensive aneuploidy (50-99 autosomes/tumor) involving whole-chromosomes, with recurrent gains of chr9 and chr20 and loss of chr7, suggesting that aneuploidy itself represents the initiating oncogenic event. We propose that SpT etiology recapitulates the unique properties of male germ cells; because of evolutionary constraints to maintain low point mutation rate, rare tumorigenic driver events are caused by a combination of gene imbalance mediated via whole-chromosome aneuploidy. Finally, we propose a general framework of male germ cell tumor pathology that accounts for their mutational landscape, timing and cellular origin.

  • A common sequence motif associated with recombination hot spots and genome instability in humans.

    22 December 2017

    In humans, most meiotic crossover events are clustered into short regions of the genome known as recombination hot spots. We have previously identified DNA motifs that are enriched in hot spots, particularly the 7-mer CCTCCCT. Here we use the increased hot-spot resolution afforded by the Phase 2 HapMap and novel search methods to identify an extended family of motifs based around the degenerate 13-mer CCNCCNTNNCCNC, which is critical in recruiting crossover events to at least 40% of all human hot spots and which operates on diverse genetic backgrounds in both sexes. Furthermore, these motifs are found in hypervariable minisatellites and are clustered in the breakpoint regions of both disease-causing nonallelic homologous recombination hot spots and common mitochondrial deletion hot spots, implicating the motif as a driver of genome instability.

  • Deconvolution of multiple infections in Plasmodium falciparum from high throughput sequencing data.

    18 January 2018

    The presence ofmultiple infecting strains of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum affects key phenotypic traits, including drug resistance and risk of severe disease. Advances in protocols and sequencing technology have made it possible to obtain high-coverage genome-wide sequencing data from blood samples and blood spots taken in the field. However, analysing and interpreting such data is challenging because of the high rate of multiple infections present.We have developed a statistical method and implementation for deconvolving multiple genome sequences present in an individual with mixed infections. The software package DEploid uses haplotype structure within a reference panel of clonal isolates as a prior for haplotypes present in a given sample. It estimates the number of strains, their relative proportions and the haplotypes presented in a sample, allowing researchers to study multiple infection in malaria with an unprecedented level of detail.The open source implementation DEploid is freely available at https://github.com/mcveanlab/DEploid under the conditions of the GPLv3 license. An R version is available at https://github.com/mcveanlab/DEploid-r .joe.zhu@well.ox.ac.uk or mcvean@well.ox.ac.uk.Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

  • A point mutation in the ion conduction pore of AMPA receptor GRIA3 causes dramatically perturbed sleep patterns as well as intellectual disability.

    9 January 2018

    The discovery of genetic variants influencing sleep patterns can shed light on the physiological processes underlying sleep. As part of a large clinical sequencing project, WGS500, we sequenced a family in which the two male children had severe developmental delay and a dramatically disturbed sleep-wake cycle, with very long wake and sleep durations, reaching up to 106-h awake and 48-h asleep. The most likely causal variant identified was a novel missense variant in the X-linked GRIA3 gene, which has been implicated in intellectual disability. GRIA3 encodes GluA3, a subunit of AMPA-type ionotropic glutamate receptors (AMPARs). The mutation (A653T) falls within the highly conserved transmembrane domain of the ion channel gate, immediately adjacent to the analogous residue in the Grid2 (glutamate receptor) gene, which is mutated in the mouse neurobehavioral mutant, Lurcher. In vitro, the GRIA3(A653T) mutation stabilizes the channel in a closed conformation, in contrast to Lurcher. We introduced the orthologous mutation into a mouse strain by CRISPR-Cas9 mutagenesis and found that hemizygous mutants displayed significant differences in the structure of their activity and sleep compared to wild-type littermates. Typically, mice are polyphasic, exhibiting multiple sleep bouts of sleep several minutes long within a 24-h period. The Gria3A653T mouse showed significantly fewer brief bouts of activity and sleep than the wild-types. Furthermore, Gria3A653T mice showed enhanced period lengthening under constant light compared to wild-type mice, suggesting an increased sensitivity to light. Our results suggest a role for GluA3 channel activity in the regulation of sleep behavior in both mice and humans.