Sequencing large cohorts of ethnically homogeneous individuals yields genetic insights with implications for the entire population rather than a single individual. In order to evaluate the genetic basis of certain diseases encountered at high frequency in the Ashkenazi Jewish population (AJP), as well as to improve variant annotation among the AJP, we examined the entire exome, focusing on specific genes with known clinical implications in 128 Ashkenazi Jews and compared these data to other non-Jewish populations (European, African, South Asian and East Asian). We targeted American College of Medical Genetics incidental finding recommended genes and the Catalogue of Somatic Mutations in Cancer (COSMIC) germline cancer-related genes. We identified previously known disease-causing variants and discovered potentially deleterious variants in known disease-causing genes that are population specific or substantially more prevalent in the AJP, such as in the ATP and HGFAC genes associated with colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer, respectively. Additionally, we tested the advantage of utilizing the database of the AJP when assigning pathogenicity to rare variants of independent whole-exome sequencing data of 49 Ashkenazi Jew early-onset breast cancer (BC) patients. Importantly, population-based filtering using our AJP database enabled a reduction in the number of potential causal variants in the BC cohort by 36%. Taken together, population-specific sequencing of the AJP offers valuable, clinically applicable information and improves AJP filter annotation.
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