Non-syndromic autosomal dominant hearing impairment is characteristically postlingual in onset. Genetic diagnostics are essential for genetic counselling, disease prognosis and understanding of the molecular mechanisms of disease. To date, 36 causative genes have been identified, many in only individual families. Gene selection for genetic screening by traditional methods and genetic diagnosis in autosomal dominant patients has therefore been fraught with difficulty. Whole-exome sequencing provides a powerful tool to analyze all protein-coding genomic regions in parallel, thus allowing the comprehensive screening of all known genes and associated alterations.
In this study, a previously undiagnosed late-onset progressive autosomal dominant hearing loss in an Austrian family was investigated by means of whole-exome sequencing. Results were confirmed by Sanger sequencing.
A previously described c.151C>T missense (p.Pro51Ser) mutation in the LCCL (limulus factor C, cochlin, late gestation lung protein Lgl1) domain of the cochlin gene (COCH) was identified as causative and segregated with disease in five members of the family. Molecular diagnostics led to the decision to perform cochlear implantation in an index patient who subsequently showed excellent postoperative auditory performance. The c.151C>T mutation was not found in 18 screened Austrian families with autosomal dominant hearing loss but was represented alongside other known pathogenic mutant COCH alleles in the Genome Aggregation Database (gnomAD) in European populations. A combined allele frequency of 0.000128 implies an orphan disease frequency for COCH-induced hearing loss of 1:3900 in Europe.
Exome sequencing successfully resolved the genetic diagnosis in a family suffering from autosomal dominant hearing impairment and allowed prediction of purported auditory outcome after cochlear implantation in an index patient. Personalized treatment approaches based on the molecular mechanisms of disease may become increasingly important in the future.