A detailed analysis of data from 185 human genomes sequenced in the course of the 1000 Genomes Project, by scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, in collaboration with researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, as well as the University of Washington and Harvard Medical School, both in the USA, has identified the genetic sequence of an unprecedented 28 000 structural variants (SVs) – large portions of the human genome which differ from one person to another. The work, published today in Nature, could help find the genetic causes of some diseases and also begins to explain why certain parts of the human genome change more than others.
The international team of scientists identified over a thousand SVs that disrupt the sequence of one or more genes. These gene-altering mutations may be linked to diseases, so knowing the exact genetic sequence of these variations will help clinical geneticists to narrow down their searches for disease-causing mutations.
“Knowing the exact genetic sequence of SVs and their context in the genome could help find the genetic causes for as-yet unexplained diseases,” says Jan Korbel, who led the research at EMBL: “this may help us understand why some people remain healthy until old age whereas others develop diseases early in their lives.”
This unprecedented catalogue of large-scale genetic variants also sheds light on why some parts of the genome mutate more frequently than others. The scientists found that deletions, where genetic material is lost, and insertions, where it is gained, tend to happen in different places in the genome and through different molecular processes. For instance, large-scale deletions are more likely to occur in regions where DNA often breaks and has to be put back together, as ‘chunks’ of genetic material can be lost in the process.
“We found 51 hotspots where certain SVs, such as large deletions, appear to occur particularly often” Korbel says: “Six of those hotspots are in regions known to be related to genetic conditions such as Miller-Dieker syndrome, a congenital brain disease that can lead to infant death.”
Previous research had already linked SVs – also called copy-number variants – to many genetic conditions, such as colour-blindness, schizophrenia, and certain forms of cancer. However, because of their large size and complex DNA sequence, SVs were difficult to identify. In this study, the researchers overcame these difficulties, developing novel computational approaches that allowed them to pinpoint the exact locations of these large-scale variations in the genome, broadening the potential scope of future disease studies.
“There are many structural variants in everyone’s genomes and they are increasingly being associated with various aspects of human health” says Charles Lee, a clinical cytogeneticist and associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and joint leader of the study: “It is important to be able to identify and comprehensively characterize these genetic variants using state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technologies.”
Data from this study is being made publicly available to the scientific community through the 1000 Genomes Project, an international public-private consortium to build the most detailed map of human genetic variation to date. The 1000 Genomes Project aims to sequence 2500 whole genomes by the end of 2012, resulting, by far, in the largest collection of human genomes to date.Sonia Furtado
Sonia Furtado | EMBL Research News
Copper hydroxide nanoparticles provide protection against toxic oxygen radicals in cigarette smoke
29.05.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University
The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.
The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences