A phenotype centric benchmark of variant prioritisation tools

Denise Anderson, Timo Lassmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Web of Science)


Next generation sequencing is a standard tool used in clinical diagnostics. In Mendelian diseases the challenge is to discover the single etiological variant among thousands of benign or functionally unrelated variants. After calling variants from aligned sequencing reads, variant prioritisation tools are used to examine the conservation or potential functional consequences of variants. We hypothesised that the performance of variant prioritisation tools may vary by disease phenotype. To test this we created benchmark data sets for variants associated with different disease phenotypes. We found that performance of 24 tested tools is highly variable and differs by disease phenotype. The task of identifying a causative variant amongst a large number of benign variants is challenging for all tools, highlighting the need for further development in the field. Based on our observations, we recommend use of five top performers found in this study (FATHMM, M-CAP, MetaLR, MetaSVM and VEST3). In addition we provide tables indicating which analytical approach works best in which disease context. Variant prioritisation tools are best suited to investigate variants associated with well-studied genetic diseases, as these variants are more readily available during algorithm development than variants associated with rare diseases. We anticipate that further development into disease focussed tools will lead to significant improvements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Journalnpj Genomic Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


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