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Public Library of Science, PLoS Genetics, 9(18), p. e1010356, 2022

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1010356



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The impact of Mendelian sleep and circadian genetic variants in a population setting

This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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Data provided by SHERPA/RoMEO


Rare variants in ten genes have been reported to cause Mendelian sleep conditions characterised by extreme sleep duration or timing. These include familial natural short sleep (ADRB1, DEC2/BHLHE41, GRM1 and NPSR1), advanced sleep phase (PER2, PER3, CRY2, CSNK1D and TIMELESS) and delayed sleep phase (CRY1). The association of variants in these genes with extreme sleep conditions were usually based on clinically ascertained families, and their effects when identified in the population are unknown. We aimed to determine the effects of these variants on sleep traits in large population-based cohorts. We performed genetic association analysis of variants previously reported to be causal for Mendelian sleep and circadian conditions. Analyses were performed using 191,929 individuals with data on sleep and whole-exome or genome-sequence data from 4 population-based studies: UK Biobank, FINRISK, Health-2000-2001, and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). We identified sleep disorders from self-report, hospital and primary care data. We estimated sleep duration and timing measures from self-report and accelerometery data. We identified carriers for 10 out of 12 previously reported pathogenic variants for 8 of the 10 genes. They ranged in frequency from 1 individual with the variant in CSNK1D to 1,574 individuals with a reported variant in the PER3 gene in the UK Biobank. No carriers for variants reported in NPSR1 or PER2 were identified. We found no association between variants analyzed and extreme sleep or circadian phenotypes. Using sleep timing as a proxy measure for sleep phase, only PER3 and CRY1 variants demonstrated association with earlier and later sleep timing, respectively; however, the magnitude of effect was smaller than previously reported (sleep midpoint ~7 mins earlier and ~5 mins later, respectively). We also performed burden tests of protein truncating (PTVs) or rare missense variants for the 10 genes. Only PTVs in PER2 and PER3 were associated with a relevant trait (for example, 64 individuals with a PTV in PER2 had an odds ratio of 4.4 for being “definitely a morning person”, P = 4x10-8; and had a 57-minute earlier midpoint sleep, P = 5x10-7). Our results indicate that previously reported variants for Mendelian sleep and circadian conditions are often not highly penetrant when ascertained incidentally from the general population.