Hum. Genet. 140 (5) 775-790 [2021-05-00; online 2020-12-14]
Chromoanagenesis is a genomic event responsible for the formation of complex structural chromosomal rearrangements (CCRs). Germline chromoanagenesis is rare and the majority of reported cases are associated with an affected phenotype. Here, we report a healthy female carrying two de novo CCRs involving chromosomes 4, 19, 21 and X and chromosomes 7 and 11, respectively, with a total of 137 breakpoint junctions (BPJs). We characterized the CCRs using a hybrid-sequencing approach, combining short-read sequencing, nanopore sequencing, and optical mapping. The results were validated using multiple cytogenetic methods, including fluorescence in situ hybridization, spectral karyotyping, and Sanger sequencing. We identified 137 BPJs, which to our knowledge is the highest number of reported breakpoint junctions in germline chromoanagenesis. We also performed a statistical assessment of the positioning of the breakpoints, revealing a significant enrichment of BPJ-affecting genes (96 intragenic BPJs, 26 genes, p < 0.0001), indicating that the CCRs formed during active transcription of these genes. In addition, we find that the DNA fragments are unevenly and non-randomly distributed across the derivative chromosomes indicating a multistep process of scattering and re-joining of DNA fragments. In summary, we report a new maximum number of BPJs (137) in germline chromoanagenesis. We also show that a hybrid sequencing approach is necessary for the correct characterization of complex CCRs. Through in-depth statistical assessment, it was found that the CCRs most likely was formed through an event resembling chromoplexy-a catastrophic event caused by erroneous transcription factor binding.