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Accumulation of rare coding variants in genes implicated in risk of human cleft lip with or without cleft palate.


Cleft lip with/without cleft palate (CLP) is a common craniofacial malformation with complex etiologies, reflecting both genetic and environmental factors. Most of the suspected genetic risk for CLP has yet to be identified. To further classify risk loci and estimate the contribution of rare variants, we sequenced the exons in 49 candidate genes in 323 CLP cases and 211 nonmalformed controls. Our findings indicated that rare, protein-altering variants displayed markedly higher burdens in CLP cases at relevant loci. First, putative loss-of-function mutations (nonsense, frameshift) were significantly enriched among cases: 13 of 323 cases (~4%) harbored such alleles within these 49 genes, versus one such change in controls (p = 0.01). Second, in gene-level analyses, the burden of rare alleles showed greater case-association for several genes previously implicated in cleft risk. For example, BHMT displayed a 10-fold increase in protein-altering variants in CLP cases (p = .03), including multiple case occurrences of a rare frameshift mutation (K400 fs). Other loci with greater rare, coding allele burdens in cases were in signaling pathways relevant to craniofacial development (WNT9B, BMP4, BMPR1B) as well as the methionine cycle (MTRR). We conclude that rare coding variants may confer risk for isolated CLP.

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