Navigating MARRVEL, a Web-Based Tool that Integrates Human Genomics and Model Organism Genetics Information

This article has been accepted and is currently in production

Abstract

Through whole-exome/genome sequencing, human geneticists identify rare variants that segregate with disease phenotypes. To assess if a specific variant is pathogenic, one must query many databases to determine whether the gene of interest is linked to a genetic disease, whether the specific variant has been reported before, and what functional data is available in model organism databases that may provide clues about the gene’s function in human. MARRVEL (Model organism Aggregated Resources for Rare Variant ExpLoration) is a one-stop data collection tool for human genes and variants and their orthologous genes in seven model organisms including in mouse, rat, zebrafish, fruit fly, nematode worm, fission yeast, and budding yeast. In this Protocol, we provide an overview of what MARRVEL can be used for and discuss how different datasets can be used to assess whether a variant of unknown significance (VUS) in a known disease-causing gene or a variant in a gene of uncertain significance (GUS) may be pathogenic. This protocol will guide a user through searching multiple human databases simultaneously starting with a human gene with or without a variant of interest. We also discuss how to utilize data from OMIM, ExAC/gnomAD, ClinVar, Geno2MP, DGV and DECHIPHER. Moreover, we illustrate how to interpret a list of ortholog candidate genes, expression patterns, and GO terms in model organisms associated with each human gene. Furthermore, we discuss the value protein structural domain annotations provided and explain how to use the multiple species protein alignment feature to assess whether a variant of interest affects an evolutionarily conserved domain or amino acid. Finally, we will discuss three different use-cases of this website. MARRVEL is an easily accessible open access website designed for both clinical and basic researchers and serves as a starting point to design experiments for functional studies.