Background: A great amount of data has been accumulated on genetic variations in the human genome, but we still do not know much about how the genetic variations affect gene function. In particular, little is known about the distribution of nonsense polymorphisms in human genes despite their drastic effects on gene products. Methodology/Principal Findings: To detect polymorphisms affecting gene function, we analyzed all publicly available polymorphisms in a database for single nucleotide polymorphisms (dbSNP build 125) located in the exons of 36,712 known and predicted protein-coding genes that were defined in an annotation project of all human genes and transcripts (H-InvDB ver3.8). We found a total of 252,555 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and 8,479 insertion and deletions in the representative transcripts in these genes. The SNPs located in ORFs include 40,484 synonymous and 53,754 nonsynonymous SNPs, and 1,258 SNPs that were predicted to be nonsense SNPs or read-through SNPs. We estimated the density of nonsense SNPs to be 0.85 × 10-3 per site, which is lower than that of nonsynonymous SNPs (2.1 × 10-3 per site). On average, nonsense SNPs were located 250 codons upstream of the original termination codon, with the substitution occurring most frequently at the first codon position. Of the nonsense SNPs, 581 were predicted to cause nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) of transcripts that would prevent translation. We found that nonsense SNPs causing NMD were more common in genes involving kinase activity and transport. The remaining 602 nonsense SNPs are predicted to produce truncated polypeptides, with an average truncation of 75 amino acids. In addition, 110 read-through SNPs at termination codons were detected. Conclusion/Significance: Our comprehensive exploration of nonsense polymorphisms showed that nonsense SNPs exist at a lower density than nonsynonymous SNPs, suggesting that nonsense mutations have more severe effects than amino acid changes. The correspondence of nonsense SNPs to known pathological variants suggests that phenotypic effects of nonsense SNPs have been reported for only a small fraction of nonsense SNPs, and that nonsense SNPs causing NMD are more likely to be involved in phenotypic variations. These nonsense SNPs may include pathological variants that have not yet been reported. These data are available from Transcript View of H-InvDB and VarySysDB (http://h-invitational.jp/ varygene/).
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