Computational Detection of Known Pathogenic Gene Fusions in a Normal Tissue Database and Implications for Genetic Disease Research

Gavin Robert Oliver, Garrett Jenkinson, Eric W. Klee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Several recent studies have demonstrated the utility of RNA-Seq in the diagnosis of rare inherited disease. Diagnostic rates 35% higher than those previously achievable with DNA-Seq alone have been attained. These studies have primarily profiled gene expression and splicing defects, however, some have also shown that fusion transcripts are diagnostic or phenotypically relevant in patients with constitutional disorders. Fusion transcripts have traditionally been studied as oncogenic phenomena, with relevance only to cancer testing. Consequently, fusion detection algorithms were biased toward the detection of well-known oncogenic fusions, hindering their application to rare Mendelian genetic disease studies. A recent methodology published by the authors successfully tailored a traditional algorithm to the detection of pathogenic fusion events in inherited disease. A key mechanism of decreasing false positive or biologically benign events was comparison to a database of events detected in normal tissues. This approach is akin to population frequency-based filtering of genetic variants. It is predicated on the idea that pathogenic fusion transcripts are absent from normal tissue. We report on an analysis of RNA-Seq data from the genotype-tissue expression (GTEx) project in which known pathogenic fusions are computationally detected at low levels in normal tissues unassociated with the disease phenotype. Examples include archetypal cancer fusion transcripts, as well as fusions responsible for rare inherited disease. We consider potential explanations for the detectability of such transcripts and discuss the bearing such results have on the future profiling of genetic disease patients for pathogenic gene fusions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number173
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
StatePublished - Feb 28 2020


  • GTEx
  • RNA-Seq
  • fusion transcript
  • normal tissue
  • rare genetic disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Computational Detection of Known Pathogenic Gene Fusions in a Normal Tissue Database and Implications for Genetic Disease Research'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this