Pediatrics. 2021 Jun 30:e2020019000. doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-019000. Online ahead of print.
Congenital anomalies affect 3% to 5% of births and remain the leading cause of infant death in the United States. As whole exome and genome sequencing are increasingly used to diagnose underlying genetic disease, the patient’s clinical presentation remains the most important context for interpreting sequencing results, including frequently reported variants of uncertain significance (VUS). Classification of a variant as VUS acknowledges limits on evidence to establish whether a variant can be classified as pathogenic or benign according to the American College of Medical Genetics guidelines. Importantly, the VUS designation reflects limits on the breadth of evidence linking the genetic variant to a disease. However, available evidence, although limited, may be surprisingly relevant in an individual patient’s case. Accordingly, a VUS result should be approached neither as nondiagnostic genetic result nor as automatically “uncertain” in its potential to guide clinical decision-making. In this article, we discuss a case of an infant born at 29 weeks 4 days without a corpus callosum, whose whole genome sequencing yielded compound heterozygous variants both classified as VUS in ROBO1, a gene encoding for a receptor involved in a canonical signaling mechanism that guides axons across midline. Approaching the VUS result as potentially pathogenic, we found the infant ultimately had pituitary dysfunction and renal anomalies consistent with other reported ROBO1 variants and basic science literature. Accordingly, we highlight resources for variant interpretation available to clinicians to evaluate VUS results, particularly as they inform the diagnosis of individually rare but collectively common rare diseases.