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Canadian Journal of Cardiology

WHOLE GENOME SEQUENCING IDENTIFIES NOVEL CRYPTIC SPLICE SITE VARIANTS IN CHILDREN WITH CARDIOMYOPATHY

      BACKGROUND

      Cardiomyopathy is a genetic disorder of heart muscle; 2/3 of cases are gene-elusive on panel testing. Cryptic splice site variants disrupt the normal pattern of mRNA splicing through the creation of novel exon boundaries, resulting in abnormal protein isoforms. These variants are not routinely evaluated during genetic testing in cardiomyopathy. Our objective was to identify the contribution of cryptic splice site variants in childhood cardiomyopathy.

      METHODS AND RESULTS

      Cryptic splice site variants were identified using the SpliceAI software in whole genome sequencing data from 231 unrelated pediatric cardiomyopathy probands enrolled in the Heart Centre Biobank. Rare variants (gnomAD population allele frequency < 0.01%) in cardiomyopathy genes were prioritized. RNAseq and proteomics data from available matched myocardial samples were assessed for altered gene splicing and/or expression. Eleven putatively pathogenic cryptic splice-altering variants were detected in 5% of cases in CTNNA3, DSP, FHOD3, FKTN, FLNC, LDB3, MYBPC3, and VCL. FLNC:c.3791-1G>C, FLNC:c.3790+5G>A, and CTNNA3:c.-6+12024G>A were validated in cases with available tissue data (Figure 1). All three variants were associated with altered mRNA splicing and reduced protein abundance.

      CONCLUSION

      Cryptic splice site variants may contribute to the genetics of cardiomyopathy through altered mRNA splicing and reduced expression of disease genes. These findings highlight the importance of searching not only for canonical splice site but also cryptic splice site variants as part of the genetic evaluation of cardiomyopathy.
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