Properties of human disease genes and the role of genes linked to Mendelian disorders in complex disease aetiology

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Abstract

Do genes presenting variation that has been linked to human disease have different biological properties than genes that have never been related to disease? What is the relationship between disease and fitness? Are the evolutionary pressures that affect genes linked to Mendelian diseases the same to those acting on genes whose variation contributes to complex disorders? The answers to these questions could shed light on the architecture of human genetic disorders and may have relevant implications when designing mapping strategies in future genetic studies. Here we show that, relative to non-disease genes, human disease (HD) genes have specific evolutionary profiles and protein network properties. Additionally, our results indicate that the mutation-selection balance renders an insufficient account of the evolutionary history of some HD genes and that adaptive selection could also contribute to shape their genetic architecture. Notably, several biological features of HD genes depend on the type of pathology (complex or Mendelian) with which they are related. For example, genes harbouring both causal variants for Mendelian disorders and risk factors for complex disease traits (Complex-Mendelian genes), tend to present higher functional relevance in the protein network and higher expression levels than genes associated only with complex disorders. Moreover, risk variants in Complex-Mendelian genes tend to present higher odds ratios than those on genes associated with the same complex disorders but with no link to Mendelian diseases. Taken together, our results suggest that genetic variation at genes linked to Mendelian disorders plays an important role in driving susceptibility to complex disease.

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