Some missense variants have significant impact on the protein function, some do not. In the absence of global comprehensive functional assays of missense variants, the next best way to assess if a missense variant is likely to be pathogenic is through prediction tools which take into account factors like the chemical properties of amino acids, functional protein domains and protein conservation to predict how likely it is that a missense variant will impact function. A number of different missense pathogenicity predictors are available for human through Ensembl VEP, and these are are optimised for different purposes.

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HGVS notation is an excellent way to describe variants in proteins, and VEP can interpret variants described this way to see if they are already known or if they affect other genomic features, so long as there is enough information to find a unique genomic location. If there isn’t, the Variant Recoder can help you to find the variant you need.

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If you’re really delving into the role of a particular genetic variant, you might want to know about that base position in other species. VEP can get you ancestral alleles in human and conservation scores in many species for a variant position allowing you to assess if a position is evolutionarily important, or if an allele matches our primate ancestors.

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Did you know you can upload your own data for display alongside the reference genomes in Ensembl? For some file types, and files larger than 20MB in size you will need to create a URL to attach the data, rather than uploading from your local directory. It’s not difficult to create these URLs, but there are quite a few steps, so read on to find out how!

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