Targeted long-read sequencing resolves complex structural variants and identifies missing disease-causing variants

Despite widespread availability of clinical genetic testing, many individuals with suspected genetic conditions do not have a precise diagnosis. This limits their opportunity to take advantage of state-of-the-art treatments. In such instances, testing sometimes reveals difficult-to-evaluate complex structural differences, candidate variants that do not fully explain the phenotype, single pathogenic variants in recessive disorders, or no variants in specific genes of interest. Thus, there is a need for better tools to identify a precise genetic diagnosis in individuals when conventional testing approaches have been exhausted.

Targeted long-read sequencing (T-LRS) was performed on 33 individuals using Read Until on the Oxford Nanopore platform. This method allowed us to computationally target up to 100 Mbp of sequence per experiment, resulting in an average of 20x coverage of target regions, a 500% increase over background. We analyzed patient DNA for pathogenic substitutions, structural variants, and methylation differences using a single data source.

The effectiveness of T-LRS was validated by detecting all genomic aberrations, including single-nucleotide variants, copy number changes, repeat expansions, and methylation differences, previously identified by prior clinical testing.

In 6/7 individuals who had complex structural rearrangements, T-LRS enabled more precise resolution of the mutation, which led, in one case, to a change in clinical management.

In nine individuals with suspected Mendelian conditions who lacked a precise genetic diagnosis, T-LRS identified pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants in five and variants of uncertain significance in two others.

T-LRS can accurately predict pathogenic copy number variants and triplet repeat expansions, resolve complex rearrangements, and identify single-nucleotide variants not detected by other technologies, including short-read sequencing. T-LRS represents an efficient and cost-effective strategy to evaluate high-priority candidate genes and regions or to further evaluate complex clinical testing results. The application of T-LRS will likely increase the diagnostic rate of rare disorders.

Authors: Danny E. Miller, Arvis Sulovari, Tianyun Wang, Hailey Loucks, Kendra Hoekzema, Katherine M. Munson, Alexandra P. Lewis, Edith P. Almanza Fuerte, Catherine R. Paschal, Jenny Thies, James T. Bennett, Ian Glass, Katrina M. Dipple, Karynne Patterson, Emily S. Bonkowski, Zoe Nelson, Audrey Squire, Megan Sikes, Erika Beckman, Robin L. Bennett, Dawn Earl, Winston Lee, Rando Allikmets, Seth J. Perlman, Penny Chow, Anne V. Hing, Margaret P. Adam, Angela Sun, Christina Lam, Irene Chang, University of Washington Center for Mendelian Genomics, Tim Cherry, Jessica X. Chong, Michael J. Bamshad, Deborah A. Nickerson, Heather C. Mefford, Dan Doherty, Evan E. Eichler