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Open Access Research article

Application of DETECTER, an evolutionary genomic tool to analyze genetic variation, to the cystic fibrosis gene family

Eric A Gaucher1*, Danny W De Kee1 and Steven A Benner2

Author Affiliations

1 Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, FL USA

2 Department of Chemistry, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL USA

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BMC Genomics 2006, 7:44  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-7-44

Published: 7 March 2006

Abstract

Background

The medical community requires computational tools that distinguish missense genetic differences having phenotypic impact within the vast number of sense mutations that do not. Tools that do this will become increasingly important for those seeking to use human genome sequence data to predict disease, make prognoses, and customize therapy to individual patients.

Results

An approach, termed DETECTER, is proposed to identify sites in a protein sequence where amino acid replacements are likely to have a significant effect on phenotype, including causing genetic disease. This approach uses a model-dependent tool to estimate the normalized replacement rate at individual sites in a protein sequence, based on a history of those sites extracted from an evolutionary analysis of the corresponding protein family. This tool identifies sites that have higher-than-average, average, or lower-than-average rates of change in the lineage leading to the sequence in the population of interest. The rates are then combined with sequence data to determine the likelihoods that particular amino acids were present at individual sites in the evolutionary history of the gene family. These likelihoods are used to predict whether any specific amino acid replacements, if introduced at the site in a modern human population, would have a significant impact on fitness. The DETECTER tool is used to analyze the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene family.

Conclusion

In this system, DETECTER retrodicts amino acid replacements associated with the cystic fibrosis disease with greater accuracy than alternative approaches. While this result validates this approach for this particular family of proteins only, the approach may be applicable to the analysis of polymorphisms generally, including SNPs in a human population.