Genomic regions of autozygosity (ROAs) represent segments of individual genomes that are homozygous for haplotypes inherited identical-by-descent (IBD) from a common ancestor. ROAs are nonuniformly distributed across the genome, and increased ROA levels are a reported risk factor for numerous complex diseases. Previously, we hypothesized that long ROAs are enriched for deleterious homozygotes as a result of young haplotypes with recent deleterious mutations—relatively untouched by purifying selection—being paired IBD as a consequence of recent parental relatedness, a pattern supported by ROA and whole-exome sequence data on 27 individuals. Here, we significantly bolster support for our hypothesis and expand upon our original analyses using ROA and whole-genome sequence data on 2,436 individuals from The 1000 Genomes Project. Considering CADD deleteriousness scores, we reaffirm our previous observation that long ROAs are enriched for damaging homozygotes worldwide. We show that strongly damaging homozygotes experience greater enrichment than weaker damaging homozygotes, while overall enrichment varies appreciably among populations. Mendelian disease genes and those encoding FDA-approved drug targets have significantly increased rates of gain in damaging homozygotes with increasing ROA coverage relative to all other genes. In genes implicated in eight complex phenotypes for which ROA levels have been identified as a risk factor, rates of gain in damaging homozygotes vary across phenotypes and populations but frequently differ significantly from non-disease genes. These findings highlight the potential confounding effects of population background in the assessment of associations between ROA levels and complex disease risk, which might underlie reported inconsistencies in ROA-phenotype associations.
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