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Title: Leveraging base-pair mammalian constraint to understand genetic variation and human disease
INTRODUCTION Thousands of genetic variants have been associated with human diseases and traits through genome-wide association studies (GWASs). Translating these discoveries into improved therapeutics requires discerning which variants among hundreds of candidates are causally related to disease risk. To date, only a handful of causal variants have been confirmed. Here, we leverage 100 million years of mammalian evolution to address this major challenge. RATIONALE We compared genomes from hundreds of mammals and identified bases with unusually few variants (evolutionarily constrained). Constraint is a measure of functional importance that is agnostic to cell type or developmental stage. It can be applied to investigate any heritable disease or trait and is complementary to resources using cell type– and time point–specific functional assays like Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) and Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx). RESULTS Using constraint calculated across placental mammals, 3.3% of bases in the human genome are significantly constrained, including 57.6% of coding bases. Most constrained bases (80.7%) are noncoding. Common variants (allele frequency ≥ 5%) and low-frequency variants (0.5% ≤ allele frequency < 5%) are depleted for constrained bases (1.85 versus 3.26% expected by chance, P < 2.2 × 10 −308 ). Pathogenic ClinVar variants are more constrained than benign variants ( P < 2.2 × 10 −16 ). The most constrained common variants are more enriched for disease single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)–heritability in 63 independent GWASs. The enrichment of SNP-heritability in constrained regions is greater (7.8-fold) than previously reported in mammals and is even higher in primates (11.1-fold). It exceeds the enrichment of SNP-heritability in nonsynonymous coding variants (7.2-fold) and fine-mapped expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL)–SNPs (4.8-fold). The enrichment peaks near constrained bases, with a log-linear decrease of SNP-heritability enrichment as a function of the distance to a constrained base. Zoonomia constraint scores improve functionally informed fine-mapping. Variants at sites constrained in mammals and primates have greater posterior inclusion probabilities and higher per-SNP contributions. In addition, using both constraint and functional annotations improves polygenic risk score accuracy across a range of traits. Finally, incorporating constraint information into the analysis of noncoding somatic variants in medulloblastomas identifies new candidate driver genes. CONCLUSION Genome-wide measures of evolutionary constraint can help discern which variants are functionally important. This information may accelerate the translation of genomic discoveries into the biological, clinical, and therapeutic knowledge that is required to understand and treat human disease. Using evolutionary constraint in genomic studies of human diseases. ( A ) Constraint was calculated across 240 mammal species, including 43 primates (teal line). ( B ) Pathogenic ClinVar variants ( N = 73,885) are more constrained across mammals than benign variants ( N = 231,642; P < 2.2 × 10 −16 ). ( C ) More-constrained bases are more enriched for trait-associated variants (63 GWASs). ( D ) Enrichment of heritability is higher in constrained regions than in functional annotations (left), even in a joint model with 106 annotations (right). ( E ) Fine-mapping (PolyFun) using a model that includes constraint scores identifies an experimentally validated association at rs1421085. Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals. BMI, body mass index; LF, low frequency; PIP, posterior inclusion probability.  more » « less
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National Science Foundation
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