Document Type


Publication Date



PMCID: PMC5098274 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2016.00466


BACKGROUND: Recently, a growing number of novel genetic defects underlying primary immunodeficiencies (PIDs) have been identified, increasing the number of PID up to more than 250 well-defined forms. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies and proper filtering strategies greatly contributed to this rapid evolution, providing the possibility to rapidly and simultaneously analyze large numbers of genes or the whole exome.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the role of targeted NGS and whole exome sequencing (WES) in the diagnosis of a case series, characterized by complex or atypical clinical features suggesting a PID, difficult to diagnose using the current diagnostic procedures.

METHODS: We retrospectively analyzed genetic variants identified through targeted NGS or WES in 45 patients with complex PID of unknown etiology.

RESULTS: Forty-seven variants were identified using targeted NGS, while 5 were identified using WES. Newly identified genetic variants were classified into four groups: (I) variations associated with a well-defined PID, (II) variations associated with atypical features of a well-defined PID, (III) functionally relevant variations potentially involved in the immunological features, and (IV) non-diagnostic genotype, in whom the link with phenotype is missing. We reached a conclusive genetic diagnosis in 7/45 patients (~16%). Among them, four patients presented with a typical well-defined PID. In the remaining three cases, mutations were associated with unexpected clinical features, expanding the phenotypic spectrum of typical PIDs. In addition, we identified 31 variants in 10 patients with complex phenotype, individually not causative per se of the disorder.

CONCLUSION: NGS technologies represent a cost-effective and rapid first-line genetic approach for the evaluation of complex PIDs. WES, despite a moderate higher cost compared to targeted, is emerging as a valuable tool to reach in a timely manner, a PID diagnosis with a considerable potential to draw genotype-phenotype correlation. Nevertheless, a large fraction of patients still remains without a conclusive diagnosis. In these patients, the sum of non-diagnostic variants might be proven informative in future studies with larger cohorts of patients.

Journal Title

Front Immunol



First Page


Last Page


MeSH Keywords

Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes; Genetic Association Studies; Whole Genome Sequencing; High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing


genetic diagnosis; genotype–phenotype correlation; primary immunodeficiencies; targeted next-generation sequencing; whole exome sequencing