• cost-effective;
  • group testing;
  • overlapping pool sequencing;
  • rare variants


Genome-wide association studies have identified hundreds of genetic variants associated with complex diseases although most variants identified so far explain only a small proportion of heritability, suggesting that rare variants are responsible for missing heritability. Identification of rare variants through large-scale resequencing becomes increasing important but still prohibitively expensive despite the rapid decline in the sequencing costs. Nevertheless, group testing based overlapping pool sequencing in which pooled rather than individual samples are sequenced will greatly reduces the efforts of sample preparation as well as the costs to screen for rare variants. Here, we proposed an overlapping pool sequencing to screen rare variants with optimal sequencing depth and a corresponding cost model. We formulated a model to compute the optimal depth for sufficient observations of variants in pooled sequencing. Utilizing shifted transversal design algorithm, appropriate parameters for overlapping pool sequencing could be selected to minimize cost and guarantee accuracy. Due to the mixing constraint and high depth for pooled sequencing, results showed that it was more cost-effective to divide a large population into smaller blocks which were tested using optimized strategies independently. Finally, we conducted an experiment to screen variant carriers with frequency equaled 1%. With simulated pools and publicly available human exome sequencing data, the experiment achieved 99.93% accuracy. Utilizing overlapping pool sequencing, the cost for screening variant carriers with frequency equaled 1% in 200 diploid individuals dropped to at least 66% at which target sequencing region was set to 30 Mb.