In humans, abnormal thickening of the left ventricle of the heart clinically defines hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a common inherited cardiovascular disorder that can precede a sudden cardiac death event. The wide range of clinical presentations in HCM obscures genetic variants that may influence an individual’s susceptibility to sudden cardiac death. Although exon sequencing of major sarcomere genes can be used to detect high-impact causal mutations, this strategy is successful in only half of patient cases. The incidence of left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) in a managed research colony of rhesus macaques provides an excellent comparative model in which to explore the genomic etiology of severe HCM and sudden cardiac death. Because no rhesus HCM-associated mutations have been reported, we used a next-generation genotyping assay that targets 7 sarcomeric rhesus genes within 63 genomic sites that are orthologous to human genomic regions known to harbor HCM disease variants. Amplicon sequencing was performed on 52 macaques with confirmed LVH and 42 unrelated, unaffected animals representing both the Indian and Chinese rhesus macaque subspecies. Bias-reduced logistic regression uncovered a risk haplotype in the rhesus MYBPC3 gene, which is frequently disrupted in both human and feline HCM; this haplotype implicates an intronic variant strongly associated with disease in either homozygous or carrier form. Our results highlight that leveraging evolutionary genomic data provides a unique, practical strategy for minimizing population bias in complex disease studies.
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