National Genomic Databases: Documenting Populations' Genography


National Genomic Databases are online repositories documenting the innate genetic heterogeneity of human population and ethnic groups. These include the incidence of genetic diseases among populations, their genomic variations spectrum in qualitative and quantitative terms, for example variant type, along with information as far as the causality of the said variant is concerned, and the respective allelic frequencies. These resources, although serve a very well‐defined niche of human genome informatics, have enjoyed an exponential growth in the post‐genomic era, and together with locus‐specific and general databases nowadays constitute an integral part of human genome informatics.

Key Concepts

  • In recent years, human genomics research has progressed at a very rapid pace, resulting in very high amounts of data production in many laboratories.
  • It is imperative to efficiently integrate all of this information in structured repositories to establish a detailed understanding of how variants in the human genome sequence affect human health.
  • National Genomic Databases are online repositories documenting the observed genetic heterogeneity of human population and ethnic groups.
  • The first National Genomic Databases that appeared online were the National Genetic (or Disease Mutation) Databases and the National Mutation Frequency Databases.
  • FINDbase is a comprehensive data repository that records the prevalence of clinically relevant genomic variants in various populations worldwide, such as pathogenic variants leading mostly to monogenic disorders, pharmacogenomics biomarkers and summaries of genetic diseases that appear in certain population groups, provided in distinct data modules.
  • National Genomic Databases can be really useful resources not only for population genomics but also for genomic medicine applications.
  • Existence of an ‘off‐the‐shelf’ web application for National Genomic Database development and curation allows interested users, with minimal or even no (bio)informatics background, either to start a new National Genomic Database or continue curation of an existing one.
  • Although there have been significant advancements in the field of National Genomic Databases, there are still limitations that hold back the fields that need to be overcome, being mostly the lack of adequate incentives for data sharing and funding.

Keywords: Genomic Databases; National Genomic Databases; database management systems; microattribution; genomic variants; pharmacogenomics; allele frequencies

Figure 1. Data content of FINDbase causative genomic variants (a) and pharmacogenomic biomarker modules (b), respectively, based on Microsoft's PivotViewer and Silverlight technology. Differences in the number of data records in each module are depicted by the differences in the different data cards in each module (7419 data records in the causative genomic variants and 2795 data records in the pharmacogenomic biomarker modules, respectively). In each module, the data‐querying interface is provided on the left.
Figure 2. Example of a display item provided for causative genomic variants (a) and pharmacogenomic biomarker (b), respectively. Every display item resembles a data card (with the variant name appearing in prominent position), accompanied by a sidebar textbox with in‐depth data concerning the particular variant and population (shown on the right of each data card). Each item includes the name of the allele in its official HGVS or other nomenclature systems, if available, the population for which this information is available (shown by the country's flag) and a chromosomal map, where the gene's position is indicated. Hyperlinks for each gene to other related linked databases (such as HGMD and PharmGKB) offer to the user the possibility of easily accessing additional information. Finally, each item displays the corresponding PubMed and Researcher IDs, if applicable. Similar display items are also used for the Genetic Disease Summaries modules (not shown).
Figure 3. Overview of the next‐generation Greek NGDB that has derived from the new version of the ETHNOS software. The home page (a) provides brief information and a direct link to the causative genomic variants (b), pharmacogenomic biomarkers (c) and genetic disease summaries modules (not shown). Data records can be clustered by different querying options (in this example by OMIM ID (b) and gene name (c), respectively).
Figure 4. The map display visualisation tool, available from FINDbase home page, allowing the user to get a visual impression of FINDbase data content and, at the same time, providing a quick access to the available data per population and per module. The user can get a worldwide impression, select a continent or can zoom in and out in the map, using the + and − keys and select the data module desired, namely causative genomic variants, pharmacogenomic biomarkers or disease summaries from the top left corner of the map. Different shades of blue depict the wealth of data records per population (the darker the colour, the more the data that are recorded).


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Further Reading

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Patrinos GP (2006) National and ethnic mutation databases: recording populations' genography. Human Mutation 27: 879–887.

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Patrinos, George P(Jul 2018) National Genomic Databases: Documenting Populations' Genography. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0028111]