Nature Reviews Genetics 13, 565-575 (August 2012) | doi:10.1038/nrg3241

Article series: Applications of next-generation sequencing

De novo mutations in human genetic disease

Joris A. Veltman1 & Han G. Brunner1  About the authors


New mutations have long been known to cause genetic disease, but their true contribution to the disease burden can only now be determined using family-based whole-genome or whole-exome sequencing approaches. In this Review we discuss recent findings suggesting that de novo mutations play a prominent part in rare and common forms of neurodevelopmental diseases, including intellectual disability, autism and schizophrenia. De novo mutations provide a mechanism by which early-onset reproductively lethal diseases remain frequent in the population. These mutations, although individually rare, may capture a significant part of the heritability for complex genetic diseases that is not detectable by genome-wide association studies.

Author affiliations

  1. Department of Human Genetics, Nijmegen Centre for Molecular Life Sciences, Institute for Genetic and Metabolic disease, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, PO Box 9101, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Correspondence to: Joris A. Veltman1 Email:

Published online 18 July 2012