We characterize the landscape of somatic mutations-mutations occurring after fertilization-in the human brain using ultra-deep (~250×) whole-genome sequencing of prefrontal cortex from 59 donors with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 15 control donors. We observe a mean of 26 somatic single-nucleotide variants per brain present in ≥4% of cells, with enrichment of mutations in coding and putative regulatory regions. Our analysis reveals that the first cell division after fertilization produces ~3.4 mutations, followed by 2-3 mutations in subsequent generations. This suggests that a typical individual possesses ~80 somatic single-nucleotide variants present in ≥2% of cells-comparable to the number of de novo germline mutations per generation-with about half of individuals having at least one potentially function-altering somatic mutation somewhere in the cortex. ASD brains show an excess of somatic mutations in neural enhancer sequences compared with controls, suggesting that mosaic enhancer mutations may contribute to ASD risk.
Although germline de novo copy number variants (CNVs) are known causes of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the contribution of mosaic (early-developmental) copy number variants (mCNVs) has not been explored. In this study, we assessed the contribution of mCNVs to ASD by ascertaining mCNVs in genotype array intensity data from 12,077 probands with ASD and 5,500 unaffected siblings. We detected 46 mCNVs in probands and 19 mCNVs in siblings, affecting 2.8-73.8% of cells. Probands carried a significant burden of large (>4-Mb) mCNVs, which were detected in 25 probands but only one sibling (odds ratio = 11.4, 95% confidence interval = 1.5-84.2, P = 7.4 × 10). Event size positively correlated with severity of ASD symptoms (P = 0.016). Surprisingly, we did not observe mosaic analogues of the short de novo CNVs recurrently observed in ASD (eg, 16p11.2). We further experimentally validated two mCNVs in postmortem brain tissue from 59 additional probands. These results indicate that mCNVs contribute a previously unexplained component of ASD risk.
Elucidating the lineage relationships among different cell types is key to understanding human brain development. Here we developed parallel RNA and DNA analysis after deep sequencing (PRDD-seq), which combines RNA analysis of neuronal cell types with analysis of nested spontaneous DNA somatic mutations as cell lineage markers, identified from joint analysis of single-cell and bulk DNA sequencing by single-cell MosaicHunter (scMH). PRDD-seq enables simultaneous reconstruction of neuronal cell type, cell lineage, and sequential neuronal formation ("birthdate") in postmortem human cerebral cortex. Analysis of two human brains showed remarkable quantitative details that relate mutation mosaic frequency to clonal patterns, confirming an early divergence of precursors for excitatory and inhibitory neurons, and an "inside-out" layer formation of excitatory neurons as seen in other species. In addition our analysis allows an estimate of excitatory neuron-restricted precursors (about 10) that generate the excitatory neurons within a cortical column. Inhibitory neurons showed complex, subtype-specific patterns of neurogenesis, including some patterns of development conserved relative to mouse, but also some aspects of primate cortical interneuron development not seen in mouse. PRDD-seq can be broadly applied to characterize cell identity and lineage from diverse archival samples with single-cell resolution and in potentially any developmental or disease condition.
Whole-genome sequencing of DNA from single cells has the potential to reshape our understanding of mutational heterogeneity in normal and diseased tissues. However, a major difficulty is distinguishing amplification artifacts from biologically derived somatic mutations. Here, we describe linked-read analysis (LiRA), a method that accurately identifies somatic singlenucleotide variants (sSNVs) by using read-level phasing with nearby germline heterozygous polymorphisms, thereby enabling the characterization of mutational signatures and estimation of somatic mutation rates in single cells.
It has long been hypothesized that aging and neurodegeneration are associated with somatic mutation in neurons; however, methodological hurdles have prevented testing this hypothesis directly. We used single-cell whole-genome sequencing to perform genome-wide somatic single-nucleotide variant (sSNV) identification on DNA from 161 single neurons from the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of fifteen normal individuals (aged 4 months to 82 years) as well as nine individuals affected by early-onset neurodegeneration due to genetic disorders of DNA repair (Cockayne syndrome and Xeroderma pigmentosum). sSNVs increased approximately linearly with age in both areas (with a higher rate in hippocampus) and were more abundant in neurodegenerative disease. The accumulation of somatic mutations with age-which we term genosenium-shows age-related, region-related, and disease-related molecular signatures, and may be important in other human age-associated conditions.
Single cell whole-genome sequencing (scWGS) is providing novel insights into the nature of genetic heterogeneity in normal and diseased cells. However, the whole-genome amplification process required for scWGS introduces biases into the resulting sequencing that can confound downstream analysis. Here, we present a statistical method, with an accompanying package PaSD-qc (Power Spectral Density-qc), that evaluates the properties and quality of single cell libraries. It uses a modified power spectral density to assess amplification uniformity, amplicon size distribution, autocovariance and inter-sample consistency as well as to identify chromosomes with aberrant read-density profiles due either to copy alterations or poor amplification. These metrics provide a standard way to compare the quality of single cell samples as well as yield information necessary to improve variant calling strategies. We demonstrate the usefulness of this tool in comparing the properties of scWGS protocols, identifying potential chromosomal copy number variation, determining chromosomal and subchromosomal regions of poor amplification, and selecting high-quality libraries from low-coverage data for deep sequencing. The software is available free and open-source at https://github.com/parklab/PaSDqc.
Whether somatic mutations contribute functional diversity to brain cells is a long-standing question. Single-neuron genomics enables direct measurement of somatic mutation rates in human brain and promises to answer this question. A recent study (Upton et al., 2015) reported high rates of somatic LINE-1 element (L1) retrotransposition in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex that would have major implications for normal brain function, and further claimed these mutation events preferentially impact genes important for neuronal function. We identify errors in single-cell sequencing approach, bioinformatic analysis, and validation methods that led to thousands of false-positive artifacts being mistakenly interpreted as somatic mutation events. Our reanalysis of the data supports a corrected mutation frequency (0.2 per cell) more than fifty-fold lower than reported, inconsistent with the authors' conclusion of 'ubiquitous' L1 mosaicism, but consistent with L1 elements mobilizing occasionally. Through consideration of the challenges and pitfalls identified, we provide a foundation and framework for designing single-cell genomics studies.
Neurons live for decades in a postmitotic state, their genomes susceptible to DNA damage. Here we survey the landscape of somatic single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) in the human brain. We identified thousands of somatic SNVs by single-cell sequencing of 36 neurons from the cerebral cortex of three normal individuals. Unlike germline and cancer SNVs, which are often caused by errors in DNA replication, neuronal mutations appear to reflect damage during active transcription. Somatic mutations create nested lineage trees, allowing them to be dated relative to developmental landmarks and revealing a polyclonal architecture of the human cerebral cortex. Thus, somatic mutations in the brain represent a durable and ongoing record of neuronal life history, from development through postmitotic function.
Somatic mutations occur during brain development and are increasingly implicated as a cause of neurogenetic disease. However, the patterns in which somatic mutations distribute in the human brain are unknown. We used high-coverage whole-genome sequencing of single neurons from a normal individual to identify spontaneous somatic mutations as clonal marks to track cell lineages in human brain. Somatic mutation analyses in >30 locations throughout the nervous system identified multiple lineages and sublineages of cells marked by different LINE-1 (L1) retrotransposition events and subsequent mutation of poly-A microsatellites within L1. One clone contained thousands of cells limited to the left middle frontal gyrus, whereas a second distinct clone contained millions of cells distributed over the entire left hemisphere. These patterns mirror known somatic mutation disorders of brain development and suggest that focally distributed mutations are also prevalent in normal brains. Single-cell analysis of somatic mutation enables tracing of cell lineage clones in human brain.
A major unanswered question in neuroscience is whether there exists genomic variability between individual neurons of the brain, contributing to functional diversity or to an unexplained burden of neurological disease. To address this question, we developed a method to amplify genomes of single neurons from human brains. Because recent reports suggest frequent LINE-1 (L1) retrotransposition in human brains, we performed genome-wide L1 insertion profiling of 300 single neurons from cerebral cortex and caudate nucleus of three normal individuals, recovering >80% of germline insertions from single neurons. While we find somatic L1 insertions, we estimate <0.6 unique somatic insertions per neuron, and most neurons lack detectable somatic insertions, suggesting that L1 is not a major generator of neuronal diversity in cortex and caudate. We then genotyped single cortical cells to characterize the mosaicism of a somatic AKT3 mutation identified in a child with hemimegalencephaly. Single-neuron sequencing allows systematic assessment of genomic diversity in the human brain.