Phenotypic variability and genetic susceptibility to genomic disorders

Santhosh Girirajan, Evan E. Eichler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Scopus citations


The duplication architecture of the human genome predisposes our species to recurrent copy number variation and disease. Emerging data suggest that this mechanism of mutation contributes to both common and rare diseases. Two features regarding this form of mutation have emerged. First, common structural polymorphisms create susceptible and protective chromosomal architectures. These structural polymorphisms occur at varying frequencies in populations, leading to different susceptibility and ethnic predilection. Second, a subset of rearrangements shows extreme variability in expressivity. We propose that two types of genomic disorders may be distinguished: syndromic forms where the phenotypic features are largely invariant and those where the same molecular lesion associates with a diverse set of diagnoses including epilepsy, schizophrenia, autism, intellectual disability and congenital malformations. Copy number variation analyses of patient genomes reveal that disease type and severity may be explained by the occurrence of additional rare events and their inheritance within families. We propose that the overall burden of copy number variants creates differing sensitized backgrounds during development leading to different thresholds and disease outcomes. We suggest that the accumulation of multiple high-penetrant alleles of low frequency may serve as a more general model for complex genetic diseases, posing a significant challenge for diagnostics and disease management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R176-R187
JournalHuman molecular genetics
Issue numberR2
StatePublished - Oct 15 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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