Background and objectives
There is no doubt that the dramatic worldwide increase in obesity prevalence is due to changes in environmental factors. However, twin studies suggest that genetic differences are responsible for the major part of the variation in body mass index (BMI) and other measures of body fatness within populations. Several recent studies suggest that the genetic effects on adiposity may be stronger when combined with presumed risk factors for obesity. We tested the hypothesis that a higher prevalence of obesity and overweight and a higher BMI mean is associated with a larger genetic variation in BMI.
The data consisted of self-reported height and weight from two Danish twin surveys in 1994 and 2002. A total of 15,017 monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs were divided into subgroups by year of birth (from 1931 through 1982) and sex. The genetic and environmental variance components of BMI were calculated for each subgroup using the classical twin design. Likewise, the prevalence of obesity, prevalence of overweight and the mean of the BMI distribution was calculated for each subgroup and tested as explanatory variables in a random effects meta-regression model with the square root of the additive genetic variance (equal to the standard deviation) as the dependent variable.
The size of additive genetic variation was positively and significantly associated with obesity prevalence (p = 0.001) and the mean of the BMI distribution (p = 0.015). The association with prevalence of overweight was positive but not statistically significant (p = 0.177).
The results suggest that the genetic variation in BMI increases as the prevalence of obesity, prevalence of overweight and the BMI mean increases. The findings suggest that the genes related to body fatness are expressed more aggressively under the influence of an obesity-promoting environment.
Physical activity (PA) begins to decline in adolescence with concomitant increase in weight. We hypothesized that a vicious circle may arise between decreasing physical activity and weight gain from adolescence to early adulthood.
Research Methods and Procedures
PA and self-perceived physical fitness assessed in adolescence (16-18 years) were used to predict the development of obesity (BMI≥30 kg/m2) and abdominal obesity (waist≥88 cm in females and ≥102 cm in males) at age 25 in 4240 twin individuals (90% of twins born in Finland 1975-1979). Ten 25-year-old monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs discordant for obesity (16 kg weight difference) were then carefully evaluated for current PA (triaxial accelerometer), total energy expenditure (TEE, doubly labeled water), and basal metabolic rate (BMR, indirect calorimetry).
Physical inactivity in adolescence strongly predicted the risk of obesity (OR 3.9, 95%CI 1.4-10.9) and abdominal obesity (4.8, 1.9-12.0) at age 25, even after adjusting for baseline and current BMI. Poor physical fitness in adolescence also increased the risk of overall (5.1, 2.0-12.7) and abdominal obesity (3.2, 1.5-6.7) in adulthood. Physical inactivity was both causative and secondary to the development of obesity discordance in the MZ pairs. TEE did not differ between the MZ co-twins. PA levels were lower whereas BMR was higher in the obese co-twins.
Physical inactivity in adolescence strongly and independently predicts total and especially abdominal obesity in young adulthood, favoring the development of a self-perpetuating vicious circle of obesity and physical inactivity. Physical (in)activity should be a major target of obesity prevention in the young.
longitudinal; twin studies; body mass index; waist circumference; energy expenditure
Monozygotic twin pairs who are genetically identical would be potentially useful in gene expression study for specific traits as cases and controls, because there would be much less gene expression variation within pairs compared to two unrelated individuals. However the twin pair has to be discordant for the particular trait or phenotype excluding those resulting from known confounders. Such discordant monozygotic twin pairs are rare and very few studies have explored the potential usefulness of this approach.
We studied genome-wide gene expression in primary osteoblast-like culture from marrow aspirates obtained from three pairs of monozygotic twins. We used the latest Affymetrix microchip contains probe sets for more than 20,000 genes. Two pairs were discordant for bone mineral density at the hip by more than one standard deviation, and the third pair was unrelated concordant and used as control. Only 1.5% on average of genes showed variation in expression within pairs as compared to 5% between pairs or over 15% from the literature. Importantly we identified several groups of genes showing variations within the discordant pairs and not within the concordant pair such as chondroitin beta 1,4 N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase, inhibin beta A, interleukin 1 beta and colony stimulating factor 1 macrophage. These genes are known to have potential roles in bone physiology relating to bone density, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
Using the example of osteoblast-like cells in our monozygotic discordant twins for osteoporosis, we identified genes showing differential expression. Although without further experiment, we cannot confirm or conclude these are genes definitely related to bone physiology, we believe we have shown the potential and cost-effectiveness of further gene expression studies in discordant monozygotic twin pairs. A replication study for confirmation is essential.
Monozygotic twins discordant for type 2 diabetes constitute an ideal model to study environmental contributions to type 2 diabetic traits. We aimed to examine whether global DNA methylation differences exist in major glucose metabolic tissues from these twins.
Skeletal muscle (n = 11 pairs) and subcutaneous adipose tissue (n = 5 pairs) biopsies were collected from 53–80 year-old monozygotic twin pairs discordant for type 2 diabetes. DNA methylation was measured by microarrays at 26,850 cytosine-guanine dinucleotide (CpG) sites in the promoters of 14,279 genes. Bisulfite sequencing was applied to validate array data and to quantify methylation of intergenic repetitive DNA sequences. The overall intra-pair variation in DNA methylation was large in repetitive (LINE1, D4Z4 and NBL2) regions compared to gene promoters (standard deviation of intra-pair differences: 10% points vs. 4% points, P<0.001). Increased variation of LINE1 sequence methylation was associated with more phenotypic dissimilarity measured as body mass index (r = 0.77, P = 0.007) and 2-hour plasma glucose (r = 0.66, P = 0.03) whereas the variation in promoter methylation did not associate with phenotypic differences. Validated methylation changes were identified in the promoters of known type 2 diabetes-related genes, including PPARGC1A in muscle (13.9±6.2% vs. 9.0±4.5%, P = 0.03) and HNF4A in adipose tissue (75.2±3.8% vs. 70.5±3.7%, P<0.001) which had increased methylation in type 2 diabetic individuals. A hypothesis-free genome-wide exploration of differential methylation without correction for multiple testing identified 789 and 1,458 CpG sites in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue, respectively. These methylation changes only reached some percentage points, and few sites passed correction for multiple testing.
Our study suggests that likely acquired DNA methylation changes in skeletal muscle or adipose tissue gene promoters are quantitatively small between type 2 diabetic and non-diabetic twins. The importance of methylation changes in candidate genes such as PPARGC1A and HNF4A should be examined further by replication in larger samples.
Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is a traumatic life event associated with an increased lifetime risk for psychopathology/morbidity. The long-term biological consequences of CSA-elicited stress on chromosomal stability in adults are unknown. The primary aim of this study was to determine if the rate of acquired chromosomal changes, measured using the cytokinesis-block micronucleus assay on stimulated peripheral blood lymphocytes, differs in adult female monozygotic twins discordant for CSA.
Monozygotic twin pairs discordant for CSA were identified from a larger population-based sample of female adult twins for whom the experience of CSA was assessed by self-report (51 individuals including a reference sample). Micronuclei (MN) contain chromatin from structurally normal or abnormal chromosomes that are excluded from the daughter nuclei during cell division and serve as a biomarker to assess acquired chromosomal instability.
Female twins exposed to CSA exhibited a 1.63-fold average increase in their frequency of MN compared to their nonexposed genetically identical cotwins (Paired t-test, t16 = 2.65, P = 0.017). No additional effects of familial factors were detected after controlling for the effect of CSA exposure. A significant interaction between CSA history and age was observed, suggesting that the biological effects of CSA on MN formation may be cumulative.
These data support a direct link between CSA exposure and MN formation measured in adults that is not attributable to genetic or environmental factors shared by siblings. Further research is warranted to understand the biological basis for the observed increase in acquired chromosomal findings in people exposed to CSA and to determine if acquired somatic chromosomal abnormalities/somatic clonal mosaicism might mediate the adult pathology associated with CSA.
Asthma and obesity are common conditions that are strongly associated. This association might be due to shared genetic or environmental causes.
We sought to determine whether a shared genetic cause is responsible for the association between asthma and obesity and to estimate the magnitude of shared genetic cause.
The analyses were performed with 1001 monozygotic and 383 dizygotic same-sex twin pairs within the University of Washington Twin Registry. The presence of asthma was determined by self-report of a physician diagnosis of asthma, and body mass index (BMI) was calculated by using self-reported height and weight. Obesity was defined as a BMI of 30 or greater. The association between asthma and BMI was assessed by means of mixed-effects ordinal regression. Twin correlations examined the association of asthma and obesity. Univariate and bivariate structural equation models estimated the components of variance attributable to genetic and environmental effects.
A strong association between asthma and BMI was identified in the sample population (P < .001). Substantial heritability was detected for asthma (53%) and obesity (77%), which is indicative of additive genetic influences on each disorder. The best-fitting model of shared components of variance indicated that 8% of the genetic component of obesity is shared with asthma.
The covariation between obesity and asthma is predominantly caused by shared genetic risk factors for both conditions.
Asthma; obesity; genetic; twin
BMI is highly heritable. Yet, trends in obesity highlight environmental influences on body weight. Monozygotic (MZ) twins discordant for overweight offer a unique opportunity to examine these factors.
MZ male (n = 8 pairs) and female twins (n = 10 pairs) discordant for overweight (defined as the BMI of one twin being at least 24.5, and the BMI of his/her co-twin being below 24.5 and at least three points lower) were identified from the Mid-Atlantic Twin Registry. Variables were assessed via self-report questionnaires.
One overweight and two non-overweight females met criteria for bulimia nervosa. Rates of dieting and binge eating were high among all males and females. Hunger scores were higher among non-overweight females; disinhibition scores were higher among overweight males. Only one non-overweight and three overweight males smoked; 90% of non-overweight and 40% of overweight females smoked.
Assessing tobacco use and eating disorders may be important when sampling on the basis of family members who are discordant for BMI. Finally, results suggest possibilities for interventions in individuals at-risk for overweight.
BMI discordance; twins; eating disorders; smoking
Both genetic and environmental factors are involved in the etiology of obesity and the associated lipid disturbances. We determined whether acquired obesity is associated with changes in global serum lipid profiles independent of genetic factors in young adult monozygotic (MZ) twins. 14 healthy MZ pairs discordant for obesity (10 to 25 kg weight difference) and ten weight concordant control pairs aged 24–27 years were identified from a large population-based study. Insulin sensitivity was assessed by the euglycemic clamp technique, and body composition by DEXA (% body fat) and by MRI (subcutaneous and intra-abdominal fat). Global characterization of lipid molecular species in serum was performed by a lipidomics strategy using liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Obesity, independent of genetic influences, was primarily related to increases in lysophosphatidylcholines, lipids found in proinflammatory and proatherogenic conditions and to decreases in ether phospholipids, which are known to have antioxidant properties. These lipid changes were associated with insulin resistance, a pathogonomic characteristic of acquired obesity in these young adult twins. Our results show that obesity, already in its early stages and independent of genetic influences, is associated with deleterious alterations in the lipid metabolism known to facilitate atherogenesis, inflammation and insulin resistance.
To get beyond the “low-hanging fruits” so far identified by genome-wide association (GWA) studies, new methods must be developed in order to discover the numerous remaining genes that estimates of heritability indicate should be contributing to complex human phenotypes, such as obesity. Here we describe a novel integrative method for complex disease gene identification utilizing both genome-wide transcript profiling of adipose tissue samples and consequent analysis of genome-wide association data generated in large SNP scans. We infer causality of genes with obesity by employing a unique set of monozygotic twin pairs discordant for BMI (n = 13 pairs, age 24–28 years, 15.4 kg mean weight difference) and contrast the transcript profiles with those from a larger sample of non-related adult individuals (N = 77). Using this approach, we were able to identify 27 genes with possibly causal roles in determining the degree of human adiposity. Testing for association of SNP variants in these 27 genes in the population samples of the large ENGAGE consortium (N = 21,000) revealed a significant deviation of P-values from the expected (P = 4×10−4). A total of 13 genes contained SNPs nominally associated with BMI. The top finding was blood coagulation factor F13A1 identified as a novel obesity gene also replicated in a second GWA set of ∼2,000 individuals. This study presents a new approach to utilizing gene expression studies for informing choice of candidate genes for complex human phenotypes, such as obesity.
Obesity has a strong genetic component and an estimated 45%–85% of the variation in adult relative weight is genetically determined. Many genes have recently been identified in genome-wide association studies. The individual effects of the identified genes, however, have been very modest, and their identification required very large sample sizes. New approaches are therefore needed to uncover further genetic variants that contribute to the development of obesity and related conditions. Much can be learned from studying the expression of genes in adipose tissue of obese and non-obese subjects, but it is very difficult to distinguish which genes' expression differences represent reactions to obesity from those related to causal processes. We studied monozygotic twin pairs discordant for obesity and contrasted the gene expression profiles of obese and lean co-twins (controlling for genetic variation) to those from unrelated individuals to try to discern the cause-and-effect relationships of the identified changes in gene expression in fat. Testing the identified genes in 21,000 individuals identified numerous new genes with possible roles in the development of obesity. Among the top findings was a gene involved in blood coagulation (Factor XIIIA1), possibly linking obesity with known complications including deep vein thrombosis, heart attack, and stroke.
Background and Objectives
There is no doubt that the dramatic worldwide increase in obesity prevalence is due to changes in environmental factors. However, twin and family studies suggest that genetic differences are responsible for the major part of the variation in adiposity within populations. Recent studies show that the genetic effects on body mass index (BMI) may be stronger when combined with presumed risk factors for obesity. We tested the hypothesis that the genetic variance of BMI has increased during the obesity epidemic.
The data comprised height and weight measurements of 1,474,065 Swedish conscripts at age 18–19 y born between 1951 and 1983. The data were linked to the Swedish Multi-Generation Register and the Swedish Twin Register from which 264,796 full-brother pairs, 1,736 monozygotic (MZ) and 1,961 dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs were identified. The twin pairs were analysed to identify the most parsimonious model for the genetic and environmental contribution to BMI variance. The full-brother pairs were subsequently divided into subgroups by year of birth to investigate trends in the genetic variance of BMI.
The twin analysis showed that BMI variation could be explained by additive genetic and environmental factors not shared by co-twins. On the basis of the analyses of the full-siblings, the additive genetic variance of BMI increased from 4.3 [95% CI 4.04–4.53] to 7.9 [95% CI 7.28–8.54] within the study period, as did the unique environmental variance, which increased from 1.4 [95% CI 1.32–1.48] to 2.0 [95% CI 1.89–2.22]. The BMI heritability increased from 75% to 78.8%.
The results confirm the hypothesis that the additive genetic variance of BMI has increased strongly during the obesity epidemic. This suggests that the obesogenic environment has enhanced the influence of adiposity related genes.
Earlier studies have established that a substantial percentage of variance in obesity-related phenotypes is explained by genetic components. However, only one study has used both virtual twins (VTs) and biological twins and was able to simultaneously estimate additive genetic, non-additive genetic, shared environmental and unshared environmental components in body mass index (BMI). Our current goal was to re-estimate four components of variance in BMI, applying a more rigorous model to biological and virtual multiples with additional data. Virtual multiples share the same family environment, offering unique opportunities to estimate common environmental influence on phenotypes that cannot be separated from the non-additive genetic component using only biological multiples.
Data included 929 individuals from 164 monozygotic twin pairs, 156 dizygotic twin pairs, five triplet sets, one quadruplet set, 128 VT pairs, two virtual triplet sets and two virtual quadruplet sets. Virtual multiples consist of one biological child (or twins or triplets) plus one same-aged adoptee who are all raised together since infancy. We estimated the additive genetic, non-additive genetic, shared environmental and unshared random components in BMI using a linear mixed model. The analysis was adjusted for age, age2, age3, height, height2, height3, gender and race.
Both non-additive genetic and common environmental contributions were significant in our model (P-values < 0.0001). No significant additive genetic contribution was found. In all, 63.6% (95% confidence interval (CI) 51.8–75.3%) of the total variance of BMI was explained by a non-additive genetic component, 25.7% (95% CI 13.8–37.5%) by a common environmental component and the remaining 10.7% by an unshared component.
Our results suggest that genetic components play an essential role in BMI and that common environmental factors such as diet or exercise also affect BMI. This conclusion is consistent with our earlier study using a smaller sample and shows the utility of virtual multiples for separating non-additive genetic variance from common environmental variance.
twins; virtual twins; body mass index
The regulation of gene expression plays a pivotal role in complex phenotypes, and epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation are essential to this process. The availability of next-generation sequencing technologies allows us to study epigenetic variation at an unprecedented level of resolution. Even so, our understanding of the underlying sources of epigenetic variability remains limited. Twin studies have played an essential role in estimating phenotypic heritability, and these now offer an opportunity to study epigenetic variation as a dynamic quantitative trait. High monozygotic twin discordance rates for common diseases suggest that unexplained environmental or epigenetic factors could be involved. Recent genome-wide epigenetic studies in disease-discordant monozygotic twins emphasize the power of this design to successfully identify epigenetic changes associated with complex traits. We describe how large-scale epigenetic studies of twins can improve our understanding of how genetic, environmental and stochastic factors impact upon epigenetics, and how such studies can provide a comprehensive understanding of how epigenetic variation affects complex traits.
Background & Aims
Lifestyle and genetic factors dominate the etiology of gastroesophageal reflux disease. We investigated associations between lifestyle factors and gastroesophageal reflux (GER) symptoms, with and without controlling for genetic predisposition.
In the Swedish Twin Registry, lifestyle exposures were collected by questionnaires in 1967 and 1973, and GER symptoms were interviewed by telephone during 1998-2002. Two analytic methods were used, external control analysis (4,083 twins with GER symptoms and 21,383 controls) using Generalized Estimating Equations model and monozygotic co-twin control analysis (869 monozygotic twin pairs discordant for GER symptoms) using conditional logistic regression model.
In the external control analysis, leanness (body-mass index [BMI] <20), upper normal weight (BMI 22.5-24.9), overweightness (BMI 25-29.9) and obese (BMI ≥30) conferred -19%, 25%, 46% and 59% increased risk of frequent GER symptoms compared with normal weight (BMI 20-22.4), respectively, among women, while no such associations were evident among men. When adjusted for genetic and non-genetic familial factors, these estimates were -28%, 44%, 187% and 277% among men. Frequent smoking rendered a 37% increased risk of frequent GER symptoms among women and 53% among men compared with nonsmokers. Physical activity at work was dose-dependently associated with increased risk of frequent GER symptoms, while recreational physical activity decreased this risk.
BMI, tobacco smoking and physical activity at work appear to be risk factors for frequent GER symptoms, whereas recreational physical activity appears to be beneficial. Association between BMI and frequent GER symptoms among men seems to be attenuated by genetic factors.
The cardiometabolic syndrome comprised of multiple correlated traits, but its origin is incompletely understood. Chromogranin A (CHGA) is required for formation of the catecholamine secretory pathway in sympathochromaffin cells. In twin pair studies, we found that CHGA traits aggregated with body mass index (BMI), as well as its biochemical determinant leptin.
Here we used the twin method to probe the role of heredity in generating such risk traits, and then investigated the role of risk-trait-associated CHGA promoter genetic variation in transfected chromaffin cells. Trait heritability (h2) and shared genetic determination among traits (pleiotropy, genetic covariance, ρG) were estimated by variance components in twin pairs.
CHGA, BMI, and leptin each displayed substantial h2, and the traits also aggregated with several features of the metabolic syndrome (e.g., insulin resistance, blood pressure (BP), hypertension, catecholamines, and C-reactive protein (CRP)). Twin studies demonstrated genetic covariance (pleiotropy, ρG) for CHGA, BMI, and leptin with other metabolic traits (insulin resistance, BP, and CRP). We therefore investigated the CHGA locus for mechanisms of codetermination with such metabolic traits. A common functional variant in the human CHGA promoter (G-462A, rs9658634, minor allele frequency ~21%) was associated with leptin and CRP secretion, as well as BMI, especially in women; marker-on-trait effects on BMI were replicated across twin populations on two continents. In CHGA promoter/luciferase reporter plasmids transfected into chromaffin cells, G-462A alleles differed markedly in reporter expression. The G-462A variant disrupted predicted transcriptional control by a PPARγ/RXRα motif and costimulation by PPARγ/RXRα and their cognate ligands, differentially activated the two alleles. During chromatin immunoprecipitation, endogenous PPARγ bound the motif.
Multiple features of the metabolic syndrome are thus under joint (pleiotropic) genetic determination, with CHGA as one such contributory locus: a common polymorphism in the promoter (G-462A) of CHGA predicts such heritable metabolic traits as BMI and leptin. CHGA promoter variant G-462A was not only associated with such metabolic traits but also disrupted a PPARγ/RXRα motif and responded differentially to characteristic trans-activators of that motif. The results suggest novel links between the catecholaminergic system and risk for the metabolic syndrome as well as systemic hypertension.
adrenal; blood pressure; BMI; C-reactive protein; catecholamine; chromaffin; chromogranin; hypertension; leptin; metabolic syndrome; twin study
Background—A large number of monozygotic and
dizygotic twin pairs with inflammatory bowel disease have been
reported. To date no twin pair has developed phenotypically discordant
inflammatory bowel disease. This case report is the first documented
occurrence of discordant inflammatory bowel disease occurring in
Case report—Twenty two year old identical male
twins presented within three months of each other with inflammatory
bowel disease that proved to be discordant in overall disease type,
disease distribution, clinical course, and histopathological findings. Twin 1 developed a severe pancolitis necessitating total colectomy while twin 2 developed a predominantly distal patchy colitis with frequent granulomas, controlled by aminosalicylates. Twin 1 was antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA) negative at the time of
testing while twin 2 (Crohn's disease) was ANCA positive.
Significantly, the twins possessed the HLA type DR3-DR52-DQ2 previously
associated with extensive colitis.
Conclusion—This case report confirms the important
role played by genetic factors in the development of inflammatory bowel disease. It also highlights the crucial role of undetermined
environmental agents in dictating disease expression and phenotype.
monozygotic twins; ulcerative colitis; Crohn's
disease; inflammatory bowel disease
The factors controlling immunoglobulin (Ig) gene repertoire formation are poorly understood. Studies on monozygotic twins have helped discern the contributions of genetic versus environmental factors on expressed traits. In the present experiments, we applied a novel anchored PCR-ELISA system to compare the heavy chain V gene (V(H)) subgroup repertoires of mu and gamma expressing B lymphocytes from ten pairs of adult monozygotic twins, including eight pairs who are concordant or discordant for rheumatoid arthritis. The results disclosed that the relative expression of each Ig V(H) gene subgroup is not precisely proportional to its relative genomic size. The monozygotic twins had more similar IgM V(H) gene repertoires than did unrelated subjects. Moreover, monozygotic twins who are discordant for RA also use highly similar IgM V(H) gene-subgroup repertoires. Finally, the V(H) gene repertoire remained stable over time. Collectively, these data reveal that genetic factors predominantly control V(H) gene repertoire formation.
Intestinal atresia in both twins from the same pregnancy is very rare. Only seven pairs of twins have been described. The authors report on two cases of monozygotic twins with different types of intestinal atresia and clinical evolution. Both pairs of observed twins turned out to be concordant for the presence of intestinal malformations and for the absence of other linked malformations; nevertheless, the atresic lesions were anatomically discordant in each pair of monozygotic twins. Therefore, the diagnostic and therapeutic procedures have shown some differences in phenotypic expression between the twins of both pairs. Possible etiologic factors and pathogenetic pathways are discussed, and the importance of an accurate clinical and instrumental investigation and a long-term follow-up is underlined. Very rare models, such as pairs of monozygotic twins presenting intestinal atresia, represent an extraordinary resource to add new clinical and laboratory information likely to be useful in future advancements to understand the underlying etiology and pathogenesis.
Intestinal atresia; monozygotic twins; apple peel; double-bubble sign; malformation; concordance
Discordance of birth weight has been observed in twin pairs, though little is known about prenatal and early neonatal discordance of head and brain size, and the role that zygosity and chorionicity play in discordances of early brain development in twins.
To compare prenatal and neonatal discordances of head size in monozygotic –monochorionic (MZ-MC), monozygotic-dichorionic (MZ-DC), and same-sex dizygotic-dichorionic twin pairs (DZ).
Subjects prospectively had ultrasounds at 22 and 32 weeks gestational age, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain MRI after birth.
88 twin pairs recruited from two university hospital prenatal diagnostic clinics; 22 MZ-MC, 17 MZ-DC, and 49 same sex DZ pairs.
Discordance of head circumference (HC) and weight at 22 weeks, 32 weeks and birth, as well as intracranial volume (ICV) on neonatal MRI.
There were no group differences in discordance of head circumference and weight on the 22 or 32 week ultrasounds, or at birth. MZ-MC twins tended to have numerically greater discordances of HC and weight. There was a significant group difference in ICV on neonatal MRI (ANOVA, p = 0.0143), with DZ twins having significantly greater discordance than MZ-MC (p = 0.028) or MZ-DC (p = 0.0131) twins.
This study indicates that zygosity and chorionicity do not contribute to significant discordances of head size in late prenatal development. DZ twins do have significantly greater discordances of ICV on neonatal MRI, suggesting a relatively greater genetic influence on brain growth in the first weeks after birth.
To identify strabismus-related proteins, we performed proteome analysis in monozygotic twins with discordance of congenital esotropic phenotypes and in normal children.
Surface-enhanced laser desorption/ ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (SELDI-TOF-MS) technology was used to detect changes in protein expression in a pair of twins with discordant esotropic phenotypes (twin A is orthotropic and twin B is esotropic). In addition, two non-twin esotropic children and two orthotropic children of the same age were chosen. The differentially expressed proteome obtained was validated in twelve non-twin esotropic children and eighteen orthotropic children and compared to the protein database.
We detected four differentially expressed proteins in monozygotic twins with discordance of congenital esotropic phenotypes. The corresponding molecular weights were 4,146 Da, 4,801 Da, 7,786 Da, and 5,859 Da, respectively. Among these 4 proteins, the first three proteins were down-regulated and the last was upregulated. The initial characterization of these detected proteins via protein library revealed that their characteristics were similar to those of the glucagon precursor, pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP), camp-dependent protein kinase inhibitor α, and anti-metastasis gene (antigen), respectively.
There were differentially expressed proteins between monozygotic twins with discordance of congenital esotropic phenotypes and normal children. These differentially expressed proteins were mainly down-regulated in the strabismus patients and may be involved in the occurrence and development of congenital esotropia.
Present personality traits (Freiburg personality inventory,
FPI-R), depression (von Zerssen's depression scale), and self assessed
state of health were evaluated in 15 twin pairs (six monozygotic and
nine dizygotic; mean age 62.5 years) discordant for idiopathic
Parkinson's disease and in 17 unrelated healthy control subjects. The
twins had additional questionnaire based interviews on premorbid lifestyle.
For disability, twins with Parkinson's disease scored lower on
FPI-R than controls in "achievement orientation" and
"extraversion", higher in "inhibitedness", "somatic
complaints", and "emotionality". They scored higher for
depression and for state of health than unaffected twins and controls.
For zygosity, monozygotic twins scored lower than
dizygotic twins in "achievement orientation", "aggressiveness", and "strain". Monozygotic twins had less
"achievement orientation" and "extraversion" and more
"somatic complaints" than controls. Monozygotic twins had a lower
within pair difference than dizygotic twins in "social
orientation". During premorbid times the affected twin with later
Parkinson's disease was estimated to have been "less often the
leader" in the twin pair.
Although small in sample size, this twin study indicates a
genetic impact for some personality features beyond the Parkinson's disease motor syndrome.
Causative gene mutations have been identified in about 2% of those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often, but not always, when there is a strong family history. There is an assumption that there is a genetic component to all ALS, but genome-wide association studies have yet to produce a robustly replicated result. A definitive estimate of ALS heritability is therefore required to determine whether ongoing efforts to find susceptibility genes are worth while.
The authors performed two twin studies, one population- and one clinic-based. The authors used structural equation modelling to perform a meta-analysis of data from these studies and an existing twin study to estimate ALS heritability, and identified 171 twin pairs in which at least one twin had ALS.
Results and discussion
Five monozygotic twin pairs were concordant-affected, and 44 discordant-affected. No dizygotic twin pairs were concordant-affected, and 122 discordant-affected. The heritability of sporadic ALS was estimated as 0.61 (0.38 to 0.78) with the unshared environmental component 0.39 (0.22 to 0.62). ALS has a high heritability, and efforts to find causative genes should continue.
Twin study; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; genetics; heritability; frontotemporal dementia; ALS; genetics; motor neuron disease
We determined the genetic contribution of 18 anthropometric and metabolic risk factors of type 2 diabetes using a young healthy twin population.
Traits were measured in 240 monozygotic (MZ) and 138 dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs aged 18 to 34 years. Twins were recruited from the Belgian population-based East Flanders Prospective Twin Survey, which is characterised by its accurate zygosity determination and extensive collection of perinatal and placental data, including information on chorionicity. Heritability was estimated using structural equation modelling implemented in the Mx software package.
Intra-pair correlations of the anthropometric and metabolic characteristics did not differ between MZ monochorionic and MZ dichorionic pairs; consequently heritabilities were estimated using the classical twin approach. For body mass, BMI and fat mass, quantitative sex differences were observed; genetic variance explained 84, 85 and 81% of the total variation in men and 74, 75 and 70% in women, respectively. Heritability estimates of the waist-to-hip ratio, sum of four skinfold thicknesses and lean body mass were 70, 74 and 81%, respectively. The heritability estimates of fasting glucose, fasting insulin, homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance and beta cell function, as well as insulin-like growth factor binding protein-1 levels were 67, 49, 48, 62 and 47%, in that order. Finally, for total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol:HDL-cholesterol ratio, triacylglycerol, NEFA and leptin levels, genetic factors explained 75, 78, 76, 79, 58, 37 and 53% of the total variation, respectively.
Genetic factors explain the greater part of the variation in traits related to obesity, glucose intolerance/insulin resistance and dyslipidaemia.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00125-007-0784-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorised users.
Anthropometry; Carbohydrate metabolism; Chorionicity; East Flanders Prospective Twin Survey; Heritability; Lipid metabolism; Metabolic risk factors; Structural equation modelling; Twin study; Type 2 diabetes
Phenotypically discordant monozygotic twins offer the possibility of gene discovery through delineation of molecular abnormalities in one member of the twin pair. One proposed mechanism of discordance is postzygotically occurring genomic alterations resulting from mitotic recombination and other somatic changes. Detection of altered genomic fragments can reveal candidate gene loci that can be verified through additional analyses. We investigated this hypothesis using array comparative genomic hybridization; the 50K and 250K Affymetrix GeneChip® SNP arrays and an Illumina custom array consisting of 1,536 SNPs, to scan for genomic alterations in a sample of monozygotic twin pairs with discordant cleft lip and/or palate phenotypes. Paired analysis for deletions, amplifications and loss of heterozygosity, along with sequence verification of SNPs with discordant genotype calls did not reveal any genomic discordance between twin pairs in lymphocyte DNA samples. Our results demonstrate that postzygotic genomic alterations are not a common cause of monozygotic twin discordance for isolated cleft lip and/or palate. However, rare or balanced genomic alterations, tissue-specific events and small aberrations beyond the detection level of our experimental approach cannot be ruled out. The stability of genomes we observed in our study samples also suggests that detection of discordant events in other monozygotic twin pairs would be remarkable and of potential disease significance.
Monozygotic twins; discordant; cleft lip and palate; genome-wide
Our understanding of major depressive disorder (MDD) has focused on the influence of genetic variation and environmental risk factors. Growing evidence suggests the additional role of epigenetic mechanisms influencing susceptibility for complex traits. DNA sequence within discordant monozygotic twin (MZT) pairs is virtually identical; thus, they represent a powerful design for studying the contribution of epigenetic factors to disease liability. The aim of this study was to investigate whether specific methylation profiles in white blood cells could contribute to the aetiology of MDD. Participants were drawn from the Queensland Twin Registry and comprised 12 MZT pairs discordant for MDD and 12 MZT pairs concordant for no MDD and low neuroticism. Bisulphite treatment and genome-wide interrogation of differentially methylated CpG sites using the Illumina Human Methylation 450 BeadChip were performed in WBC-derived DNA. No overall difference in mean global methylation between cases and their unaffected co-twins was found; however, the differences in females was significant (P=0.005). The difference in variance across all probes between affected and unaffected twins was highly significant (P<2.2 × 10−16), with 52.4% of probes having higher variance in cases (binomial P-value<2.2 × 10−16). No significant differences in methylation were observed between discordant MZT pairs and their matched concordant MZT (permutation minimum P=0.11) at any individual probe. Larger samples are likely to be needed to identify true associations between methylation differences at specific CpG sites.
depression; epigenetics; MDD; methylation; twins
Studies of the major psychoses, schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder (BD), have traditionally focused on genetic and environmental risk factors, although more recent work has highlighted an additional role for epigenetic processes in mediating susceptibility. Since monozygotic (MZ) twins share a common DNA sequence, their study represents an ideal design for investigating the contribution of epigenetic factors to disease etiology. We performed a genome-wide analysis of DNA methylation on peripheral blood DNA samples obtained from a unique sample of MZ twin pairs discordant for major psychosis. Numerous loci demonstrated disease-associated DNA methylation differences between twins discordant for SZ and BD individually, and together as a combined major psychosis group. Pathway analysis of our top loci highlighted a significant enrichment of epigenetic changes in biological networks and pathways directly relevant to psychiatric disorder and neurodevelopment. The top psychosis-associated, differentially methylated region, significantly hypomethylated in affected twins, was located in the promoter of ST6GALNAC1 overlapping a previously reported rare genomic duplication observed in SZ. The mean DNA methylation difference at this locus was 6%, but there was considerable heterogeneity between families, with some twin pairs showing a 20% difference in methylation. We subsequently assessed this region in an independent sample of postmortem brain tissue from affected individuals and controls, finding marked hypomethylation (>25%) in a subset of psychosis patients. Overall, our data provide further evidence to support a role for DNA methylation differences in mediating phenotypic differences between MZ twins and in the etiology of both SZ and BD.