Exome and genome sequencing for inborn errors of immunity

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The advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS) in 2010 has transformed medicine, particularly the growing field of inborn errors of immunity. NGS has facilitated the discovery of novel disease-causing genes and the genetic diagnosis of patients with monogenic inborn errors of immunity. Whole-exome sequencing (WES) is presently the most cost-effective approach for research and diagnostics, although whole-genome sequencing offers several advantages. The scientific or diagnostic challenge consists in selecting 1 or 2 candidate variants among thousands of NGS calls. Variant- and gene-level computational methods, as well as immunologic hypotheses, can help narrow down this genome-wide search. The key to success is a well-informed genetic hypothesis on 3 key aspects: mode of inheritance, clinical penetrance, and genetic heterogeneity of the condition. This determines the search strategy and selection criteria for candidate alleles. Subsequent functional validation of the disease-causing effect of the candidate variant is critical. Even the most up-to-date dry lab cannot clinch this validation without a seasoned wet lab. The multifariousness of variations entails an experimental rigor even greater than traditional Sanger sequencing–based approaches in order not to assign a condition to an irrelevant variant. Finding the needle in the haystack takes patience, prudence, and discernment.

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