Signatures of natural selection and ethnic-specific prevalence of NPC1 pathogenic mutations contributing to obesity and Niemann–Pick disease type C1 Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Abstract While homozygous pathogenic mutations in the NPC1 gene cause Niemann-Pick type C1 disease, heterozygous mutations cause highly-penetrant obesity. We aimed to investigate the prevalence of NPC1 mutations and their signatures of natural selection in 122,678 exome sequenced participants from six ethnic groups in the Genome Aggregation Database. Pathogenic missense coding mutations were identified by in silico tools and the ClinVar database. Signatures of natural selection were assessed by the probability of NPC1 being loss-of-function mutation intolerant and Z-scores of observed/expected synonymous and non-synonymous mutation ratios. There was no evidence of negative selection observed for synonymous, non-synonymous and loss-of-function mutations. However, there were significant ethnic differences in the prevalence of heterozygous pathogenic NPC1 mutations ranging from 0.56% in Ashkenazi Jewish to 3.26% in African/African Americans (5.8-fold difference). Four homozygous carriers of pathogenic NPC1 mutations were also identified, belonging to the South Asian population. In conclusion, NPC1 mutations are consistent with a model of balanced selection, where heterozygotes and homozygotes have higher and lower reproductive fitness, respectively. Therefore, NPC1 heterozygous mutations may account for a substantial and ethnic-dependent percentage of obesity in the general population, while NPC1 homozygous mutations may be frequent in the South Asian populations and warrants more investigation.

publication date

  • December 2020