Exome Sequencing in Individuals with Isolated Biliary Atresia

Biliary atresia (BA) is a severe pediatric liver disease resulting in obliteration of the extrahepatic biliary tree. BA presents within the first few months of life as either an isolated finding or with additional features. The cause of isolated BA is unknown, with evidence for infectious, environmental, and genetic risk factors described. However, to date, there are no definitive causal genes identified for isolated BA in humans, and the question of whether single gene defects play a major role remains open. We performed exome-sequencing in 101 North American patients of European descent with isolated BA (including 30 parent-child trios) and considered several experimental designs to identify potentially deleterious protein-altering variants that may be involved in the disease. In a case-only analysis, we did not identify genes with variants shared among more than two probands, and burden tests of rare variants using a case-case control design did not yield significant results. In the trio analysis of 30 families (patient and parent trios), we identified 66 new variants in 66 genes including potentially deleterious variants in STIP1 and REV1. STIP1 is a chaperone for the heat-shock protein, HSP90, and has been shown to have diverse functions in yeast, flies and mammals, including stress-responses. REV1 is known to be a key player in DNA repair pathway and to interact with HSP90. In conclusion, our results do not support the hypothesis that a simple genetic model is responsible for the majority of cases of isolated BA. Our finding of de novo variants in genes linked to evolutionarily conserved stress responses (STIP1 and REV1) suggests that exploration of how genetic susceptibility and environmental exposure may interact to cause BA is warranted.

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