Adopting High-Resolution Allele Frequencies Substantially Expedites Variant Interpretation in Genetic Diagnostic Laboratories

Abstract
A cohort of 1242 individuals tested in a clinical diagnostic laboratory was used to test whether the filtering allele frequencies (FAFs)-based framework, recently recommended for MHY7-associated cardiomyopathy, is extendable to 45 cardiomyopathy genes. Statistical analysis revealed a threshold of 0.00164% for the extreme outlier allele frequencies (AFs), based on the Genome Aggregation Database (exome fraction) total AFs of 138 unique pathogenic and likely pathogenic variants; 135 of them (97.8%) had AFs of <0.004%, the recommended threshold to apply moderate pathogenicity evidence for MYH7-associated cardiomyopathy. Of the 460 cases reported with only variant(s) of unknown clinical significance (VUCSs), 97 (21%) solely had VUCSs with FAFs >0.03%, frequencies above which were estimated herein as strong evidence against pathogenicity. Interestingly, 74.5% (172/231) of the unique VUCSs with FAFs >0.03% had Genome Aggregation Database maximum allele frequencies across all populations AFs >0.1%, deemed herein as stand-alone evidence against pathogenicity. Accordingly, using an FAF threshold of >0.1%, compared with AF >1%, led us to issue considerably more (25.9% versus 41.3%) negative patient reports. Also, 82.7% (N = 629) of the unique classified benign or likely benign variants with AFs <1% had FAFs >0.1%, reinforcing the use of this filtering strategy.

Together, these data demonstrate that implementing FAF thresholds may considerably decrease the amount of variant interpretations and significantly reduce the cost of genetic testing for clinical genetic laboratories, without compromising the accuracy of genetic diagnostic services.

Lead Researchers

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Researchers

  1. Olga Jarinova

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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  2. Jean McGowan-Jordan

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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