American journal of human genetics. 2018-04-05; 102.4: 609-619.

Identification of Misclassified ClinVar Variants via Disease Population Prevalence

Shah N, Hou YC, Yu HC, Sainger R, Caskey CT, Venter JC, Telenti A

PMID: 29625023


There is a significant interest in the standardized classification of human genetic variants. We used whole-genome sequence data from 10,495 unrelated individuals to contrast population frequency of pathogenic variants to the expected population prevalence of the disease. Analyses included the ACMG-recommended 59 gene-condition sets for incidental findings and 463 genes associated with 265 OrphaNet conditions. A total of 25,505 variants were used to identify patterns of inflation (i.e., excess genetic risk and misclassification). Inflation increases as the level of evidence supporting the pathogenic nature of the variant decreases. We observed up to 11.5% of genetic disorders with inflation in pathogenic variant sets and up to 92.3% for the variant set with conflicting interpretations. This improved to 7.7% and 57.7%, respectively, after filtering for disease-specific allele frequency. The patterns of inflation were replicated using public data from more than 138,000 genomes. The burden of rare variants was a main contributing factor of the observed inflation, indicating collective misclassified rare variants. We also analyzed the dynamics of re-classification of variant pathogenicity in ClinVar over time, which indicates progressive improvement in variant classification. The study shows that databases include a significant proportion of wrongly ascertained variants; however, it underscores the critical role of ClinVar to contrast claims and foster validation across submitters.