A bioinformatics pipeline for estimating mitochondrial DNA copy number and heteroplasmy levels from whole genome sequencing data

Stephanie L. Battle, Daniela Puiu, TOPMed mtDNA Working Group, Joost Verlouw, Linda Broer, Eric Boerwinkle, Kent D. Taylor, Jerome I. Rotter, Stephan S. Rich, Megan L. Grove, Nathan Pankratz, Jessica L. Fetterman, Chunyu Liu, Dan E. Arking*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Mitochondrial diseases are a heterogeneous group of disorders that can be caused by mutations in the nuclear or mitochondrial genome. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variants may exist in a state of heteroplasmy, where a percentage of DNA molecules harbor a variant, or homoplasmy, where all DNA molecules have the same variant. The relative quantity of mtDNA in a cell, or copy number (mtDNA-CN), is associated with mitochondrial function, human disease, and mortality. To facilitate accurate identification of heteroplasmy and quantify mtDNA-CN, we built a bioinformatics pipeline that takes whole genome sequencing data and outputs mitochondrial variants, and mtDNA-CN. We incorporate variant annotations to facilitate determination of variant significance. Our pipeline yields uniform coverage by remapping to a circularized chrM and by recovering reads falsely mapped to nuclear-encoded mitochondrial sequences. Notably, we construct a consensus chrM sequence for each sample and recall heteroplasmy against the sample's unique mitochondrial genome. We observe an approximately 3-fold increased association with age for heteroplasmic variants in non-homopolymer regions and, are better able to capture genetic variation in the D-loop of chrM compared to existing software. Our bioinformatics pipeline more accurately captures features of mitochondrial genetics than existing pipelines that are important in understanding how mitochondrial dysfunction contributes to disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberlqac034
JournalNAR Genomics and Bioinformatics
Volume4
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2022

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