Genome Med. Auth.: Group van Leeuwen

Global analysis of suppressor mutations that rescue human genetic defects.

Betül Ünlü # 1Carles Pons # 2Uyen Linh Ho 1Amandine Batté 1Patrick Aloy 2 3Jolanda van Leeuwen 4

Affiliations expand

Free PMC article


Background: Genetic suppression occurs when the deleterious effects of a primary “query” mutation, such as a disease-causing mutation, are rescued by a suppressor mutation elsewhere in the genome.

Methods: To capture existing knowledge on suppression relationships between human genes, we examined 2,400 published papers for potential interactions identified through either genetic modification of cultured human cells or through association studies in patients.

Results: The resulting network encompassed 476 unique suppression interactions covering a wide spectrum of diseases and biological functions. The interactions frequently linked genes that operate in the same biological process. Suppressors were strongly enriched for genes with a role in stress response or signaling, suggesting that deleterious mutations can often be buffered by modulating signaling cascades or immune responses. Suppressor mutations tended to be deleterious when they occurred in absence of the query mutation, in apparent contrast with their protective role in the presence of the query. We formulated and quantified mechanisms of genetic suppression that could explain 71% of interactions and provided mechanistic insight into disease pathology. Finally, we used these observations to predict suppressor genes in the human genome.

Conclusions: The global suppression network allowed us to define principles of genetic suppression that were conserved across diseases, model systems, and species. The emerging frequency of suppression interactions among human genes and range of underlying mechanisms, together with the prevalence of suppression in model organisms, suggest that compensatory mutations may exist for most genetic diseases.