Combinatorial clinically driven blood biomarker functional genomics significantly enhances genotype-phenotype resolution and diagnostics in neuromuscular disease.

Published in medRxiv, 2021

Recommended citation: Chakravorty S, Berger L, Rufibach L, Gloster L, Emmons A, Shenoy S, Hegde M, Dinasarapu AR, Gibson G (2021) Combinatorial clinically driven blood biomarker functional genomics significantly enhances genotype-phenotype resolution and diagnostics in neuromuscular disease." medRxiv

50-60% of neuromuscular-disease patients remain undiagnosed even after extensive genetic testing that hinders precision-medicine/clinical-trial-enrollment. Importantly, those with DNA-based molecular diagnosis often remain without known molecular mechanism driving different degrees of disease severity that hinders patient stratification and trial-readiness. These are due to: a) clinical-genetic-heterogeneity (eg: limb-girdle-muscular-dystrophies(LGMDs)>30-subtypes); b) high-prevalence of variants-of-uncertain-significance (VUSs); (c) unresolved genotype-phenotype-correlations for patient stratification, and (d) lack of minimally-invasive biomarker-driven-assays. We therefore implemented a combinatorial phenotype-driven blood-biomarker functional-genomics approach to enhance diagnostics and trial-readiness by elucidating disease mechanisms of a neuromuscular-disease patient-cohort clinically-suspected of Dysferlinopathy/related-LGMD, the second-most-prevalent LGMD in the US.
We used CD14+monocyte protein-expression-assay on 364 Dysferlinopathy/related-LGMD-suspected patient-cohort without complete molecular-diagnosis or genotype-phenotype correlation; and then combined with blood-based targeted-transcriptome-sequencing (RNA-Seq) with tiered-analytical-algorithm correlating with clinical-measurements for a subset of patients.
Our combinatorial-approach significantly increased the diagnostic-yield from 25% (N=326; 18%-27%; 95%CI) to 82% (N=38; 69.08% to 84.92%; 95% CI) by combining monocyte-assay with enhanced-RNA-Seq-analysis and clinical-correlation, following ACMG-AMP-guidelines. The tiered-analytical-approach detected aberrant-splicing, allele-expression-imbalance, nonsense-mediated-decay, and compound-heterozygosity without parental/offspring-DNA-testing, leading to VUS-reclassifications, identification of variant-pathomechanisms, and enhanced genotype-phenotype resolution including those with carrier-range Dysferlin-protein-expression and milder-symptoms, allowing patient-stratification for better trial-readiness. We identified uniform-distribution of pathogenic-variants across DYSF-gene-domains without any hotspot suggesting the relevance of upcoming gene-(full-DYSF-cDNA)-therapy trials. Conclusion Our results show the relevance of using a clinically-driven multi-tiered-approach utilizing a minimally-invasive biomarker-functional-genomic platform for precision-medicine-diagnostics, trial-recruitment/monitoring, elucidating pathogenic-mechanisms for patient stratification to enhance better trial outcomes, which in turn, will guide more rational use of current-therapeutics and development of novel-interventions for neuromuscular-disorders, and applicable to other genetic-disorders.