A fundamental challenge to contemporary genetics is to distinguish rare missense alleles that disrupt protein functions from the majority of alleles neutral on protein activities. High-throughput experimental tools to securely discriminate between disruptive and non-disruptive missense alleles are currently missing. Here we establish a scalable cell-based strategy to profile the biological effects and likely disease relevance of rare missense variants in vitro. We apply this strategy to systematically characterize missense alleles in the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) gene identified through exome sequencing of 3,235 individuals and exome-chip profiling of 39,186 individuals. Our strategy reliably identifies disruptive missense alleles, and disruptive-allele carriers have higher plasma LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C). Importantly, considering experimental data refined the risk of rare LDLR allele carriers from 4.5- to 25.3-fold for high LDL-C, and from 2.1- to 20-fold for early-onset myocardial infarction. Our study generates proof-of-concept that systematic functional variant profiling may empower rare variant-association studies by orders of magnitude.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research