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Genome-wide noninvasive prenatal screening for carriers of balanced reciprocal translocations



Balanced reciprocal translocation carriers are at increased risk of producing gametes with unbalanced forms of the translocation leading to miscarriage, fetal anomalies, and birth defects. We sought to determine if genome-wide cell-free DNA based noninvasive prenatal screening (gw-NIPS) could provide an alternative to prenatal diagnosis for carriers of these chromosomal rearrangements.


This pilot series comprises a retrospective analysis of gw-NIPS and clinical outcome data from 42 singleton pregnancies where one parent carried a balanced reciprocal translocation. Gw-NIPS was performed between August 2015 and March 2018. Inclusion criteria required at least one translocation segment to be ≥15 Mb in size.


Forty samples (95%) returned an informative result; 7 pregnancies (17.5%) were high risk for an unbalanced translocation and confirmed after diagnostic testing. The remaining 33 informative samples were low risk and confirmed after diagnostic testing or normal newborn physical exam. Test sensitivity of 100% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 64.6–100%) and specificity of 100% (95% CI: 89.6–100%) were observed for this pilot series.


We demonstrate that gw-NIPS is a potential option for a majority of reciprocal translocation carriers. Further confirmation of this methodology could lead to adoption of this noninvasive alternative.

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Fig. 1: Example of genome-wide cell-free DNA based noninvasive prenatal screening (gw-NIPS) and prenatal single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) microarray results for t(11;22)(q23.3q11.2) unbalanced translocation analysis.
Fig. 2: Example of genome-wide cell-free DNA based noninvasive prenatal screening (gw-NIPS) and prenatal single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) microarray results for t(3;15)(p23;q26.1) unbalanced translocation analysis.


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We acknowledge the expert technical assistance and additional analytical support provided by R. Manser, I. Burns, S. Baeffel, T. Harrington, and A. Tsegay.

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Correspondence to Mark Domenic Pertile PhD.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Flowers, N.J., Burgess, T., Giouzeppos, O. et al. Genome-wide noninvasive prenatal screening for carriers of balanced reciprocal translocations. Genet Med 22, 1944–1955 (2020).

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  • cell-free DNA
  • subchromosomal abnormality
  • reciprocal translocation
  • genome-wide NIPS

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