Exome sequencing of an adolescent with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease identifies a clinically actionable case of Wilson disease

Julia Wattacheril, Patrick R. Shea, Saeed Mohammad, Cynthia Behling, Vimla Aggarwal, Laura A. Wilson, Katherine P. Yates, Joy Ito, Mark Fishbein, Nicholas Stong, Joel E. Lavine, David B. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Diagnostic whole-exome sequencing has proven highly successful in a range of rare diseases, particularly early-onset genetic conditions. In more common conditions, however, exome sequencing for diagnostic purposes remains the exception. Here we describe a patient initially diagnosed with a common, complex liver disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), who was determined to have Wilson disease (WD) upon research-related exome sequencing. The patient presented as a 14.5-yr-old adolescent with chronically elevated aminotransferases, normal ceruloplasmin, and histologic examination consistent with NAFLD with advanced fibrosis. He was enrolled in a large longitudinal study of patients with NAFLD and was found to have WD by exome sequencing performed 4 yr later. This new diagnosis, confirmed clinically by 24 h urine copper quantification, led to a change in the therapy from lifestyle counseling to directed treatment with d-penicillamine, a copper chelating agent. In this case, the likelihood of making the correct diagnosis and thereby choosing the appropriate treatment was increased by exome sequencing and careful interpretation. This example illustrates the utility of exome sequencing diagnostically in more common conditions not currently considered as targets for genome-wide evaluation and adds to a growing body of evidence that patients diagnosed with more common conditions often in fact have rarer genetically determined syndromes that have escaped clinical detection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCold Spring Harbor Molecular Case Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • increased urinary copper concentration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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