Genet Med.: co-auth.: group Reymond

 2018 Sep 7. doi: 10.1038/s41436-018-0266-3. [Epub ahead of print]

Rare variants in the genetic background modulate cognitive and developmental phenotypes in individuals carrying disease-associated variants.



To assess the contribution of rare variants in the genetic background toward variability of neurodevelopmental phenotypes in individuals with rare copy-number variants (CNVs) and gene-disruptive variants.


We analyzed quantitative clinical information, exome sequencing, and microarray data from 757 probands and 233 parents and siblings who carry disease-associated variants.


The number of rare likely deleterious variants in functionally intolerant genes (“other hits”) correlated with expression of neurodevelopmental phenotypes in probands with 16p12.1 deletion (n=23, p=0.004) and in autism probands carrying gene-disruptive variants (n=184, p=0.03) compared with their carrier family members. Probands with 16p12.1 deletion and a strong family history presented more severe clinical features (p=0.04) and higher burden of other hits compared with those with mild/no family history (p=0.001). The number of other hits also correlated with severity of cognitive impairment in probands carrying pathogenic CNVs (n=53) or de novo pathogenic variants in disease genes (n=290), and negatively correlated with head size among 80 probands with 16p11.2 deletion. These co-occurring hits involved known disease-associated genes such as SETD5, AUTS2, and NRXN1, and were enriched for cellular and developmental processes.


Accurate genetic diagnosis of complex disorders will require complete evaluation of the genetic background even after a candidate disease-associated variant is identified.


16p11.2 deletion; CNV; autism; modifier; phenotypic variability

PMID: 30190612