Copy-number variations (CNVs) are widespread in the human genome, but comprehensive assignments of integer locus copy-numbers ( i.e., copy-number genotypes) that, for example, enable discrimination of homozygous from heterozygous CNVs, have remained challenging. Here we present CopySeq, a novel computational approach with an underlying statistical framework that analyzes the depth-of-coverage of high-throughput DNA sequencing reads, and can incorporate paired-end and breakpoint junction analysis based CNV-analysis approaches, to infer locus copy-number genotypes. We benchmarked CopySeq by genotyping 500 chromosome 1 CNV regions in 150 personal genomes sequenced at low-coverage. The assessed copy-number genotypes were highly concordant with our performed qPCR experiments (Pearson correlation coefficient 0.94), and with the published results of two microarray platforms (95–99% concordance). We further demonstrated the utility of CopySeq for analyzing gene regions enriched for segmental duplications by comprehensively inferring copy-number genotypes in the CNV-enriched >800 olfactory receptor (OR) human gene and pseudogene loci. CopySeq revealed that OR loci display an extensive range of locus copy-numbers across individuals, with zero to two copies in some OR loci, and two to nine copies in others. Among genetic variants affecting OR loci we identified deleterious variants including CNVs and SNPs affecting ∼15% and ∼20% of the human OR gene repertoire, respectively, implying that genetic variants with a possible impact on smell perception are widespread. Finally, we found that for several OR loci the reference genome appears to represent a minor-frequency variant, implying a necessary revision of the OR repertoire for future functional studies. CopySeq can ascertain genomic structural variation in specific gene families as well as at a genome-wide scale, where it may enable the quantitative evaluation of CNVs in genome-wide association studies involving high-throughput sequencing.
Human individual genome sequencing has recently become affordable, enabling highly detailed genetic sequence comparisons. While the identification and genotyping of single-nucleotide polymorphisms has already been successfully established for different sequencing platforms, the detection, quantification and genotyping of large-scale copy-number variants (CNVs), i.e., losses or gains of long genomic segments, has remained challenging. We present a computational approach that enables detecting CNVs in sequencing data and accurately identifies the actual copy-number at which DNA segments of interest occur in an individual genome. This approach enabled us to obtain novel insights into the largest human gene family – the olfactory receptors (ORs) – involved in smell perception. While previous studies reported an abundance of CNVs in ORs, our approach enabled us to globally identify absolute differences in OR gene counts that exist between humans. While several OR genes have very high gene counts, other ORs are found only once or are missing entirely in some individuals. The latter have a particularly high probability of influencing individual differences in the perception of smell, a question that future experimental efforts can now address. Furthermore, we observed differences in OR gene counts between populations, pointing at ORs that might contribute to population-specific differences in smell.