Using a nontargeted metabolomics approach of 447 fasting plasma metabolites, we searched for novel molecular markers that arise before and after hyperglycemia in a large population-based cohort of 2,204 females (115 type 2 diabetic [T2D] case subjects, 192 individuals with impaired fasting glucose [IFG], and 1,897 control subjects) from TwinsUK. Forty-two metabolites from three major fuel sources (carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins) were found to significantly correlate with T2D after adjusting for multiple testing; of these, 22 were previously reported as associated with T2D or insulin resistance. Fourteen metabolites were found to be associated with IFG. Among the metabolites identified, the branched-chain keto-acid metabolite 3-methyl-2-oxovalerate was the strongest predictive biomarker for IFG after glucose (odds ratio [OR] 1.65 [95% CI 1.39–1.95], P = 8.46 × 10−9) and was moderately heritable (h2 = 0.20). The association was replicated in an independent population (n = 720, OR 1.68 [ 1.34–2.11], P = 6.52 × 10−6) and validated in 189 twins with urine metabolomics taken at the same time as plasma (OR 1.87 [1.27–2.75], P = 1 × 10−3). Results confirm an important role for catabolism of branched-chain amino acids in T2D and IFG. In conclusion, this T2D-IFG biomarker study has surveyed the broadest panel of nontargeted metabolites to date, revealing both novel and known associated metabolites and providing potential novel targets for clinical prediction and a deeper understanding of causal mechanisms.
Genome-wide association scans with high-throughput metabolic profiling provide unprecedented insights into how genetic variation influences metabolism and complex disease. Here we report the most comprehensive exploration of genetic loci influencing human metabolism to date, including 7,824 adult individuals from two European population studies. We report genome-wide significant associations at 145 metabolic loci and their biochemical connectivity regarding more than 400 metabolites in human blood. We extensively characterize the resulting in vivo blueprint of metabolism in human blood by integrating it with information regarding gene expression, heritability, overlap with known drug targets, previous association with complex disorders and inborn errors of metabolism. We further developed a database and web-based resources for data mining and results visualization. Our findings contribute to a greater understanding of the role of inherited variation in blood metabolic diversity, and identify potential new opportunities for pharmacologic development and disease understanding.
Esophageal adenocarcinoma (EA) is an increasingly common cancer with poor survival. Barrett’s esophagus (BE) is the main precursor to EA, and every year 0.12% to 0.5% of BE patients progress to EA. BE typically arises on a background of chronic gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), one of the risk factors for EA.
We used genome-wide association data to investigate the genetic architecture underlying GERD, BE, and EA. We applied a method to estimate the variance explained (array heritability, h2
g) and the genetic correlation (rg) between GERD, BE, and EA by considering all single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) simultaneously. We also estimated the polygenic overlap between GERD, BE, and EA using a prediction approach. All tests were two-sided, except in the case of variance-explained estimation where one-sided tests were used.
We estimated a statistically significant genetic variance explained for BE (h2
g = 35%; standard error [SE] = 6%; one-sided P = 1 × 10−9) and for EA (h2
g = 25 %; SE = 5%; one-sided P = 2 × 10−7). The genetic correlation between BE and EA was found to be high (rg = 1.0; SE = 0.37). We also estimated a statistically significant polygenic overlap between BE and EA (one-sided P = 1 × 10−6), which suggests, together with the high genetic correlation, that shared genes underlie the development of BE and EA. Conversely, no statistically significant results were obtained for GERD.
We have demonstrated that risk to BE and EA is influenced by many germline genetic variants of small effect and that shared polygenic effects contribute to risk of these two diseases.
Background: Twin and family studies that estimated the heritability of daily physical activity have been limited by poor measurement quality and a small sample size.
Objective: We examined the heritability of daily physical activity and sedentary behavior assessed objectively by using combined heart rate and movement sensing in a large twin study.
Design: Physical activity traits were assessed in daily life for a mean (±SD) 6.7 ± 1.1 d in 1654 twins from 420 monozygotic and 352 dizygotic same-sex twin pairs aged 56.3 ± 10.4 y with body mass index (in kg/m2) of 26.1 ± 4.8. We estimated the average daily movement, physical activity energy expenditure, and time spent in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity and sedentary behavior from heart rate and acceleration data. We used structural equation modeling to examine the contribution of additive genetic, shared environmental, and unique environmental factors to between-individual variation in traits.
Results: Additive genetic factors (ie, heritability) explained 47% of the variance in physical activity energy expenditure (95% CI: 23%, 53%) and time spent in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (95% CI: 29%, 54%), 35% of the variance in acceleration of the trunk (95% CI: 0%, 44%), and 31% of the variance in the time spent in sedentary behavior (95% CI: 9%, 51%). The remaining variance was predominantly explained by unique environmental factors and random error, whereas shared environmental factors played only a marginal role for all traits with a range of 0–15%.
Conclusions: The between-individual variation in daily physical activity and sedentary behavior is mainly a result of environmental influences. Nevertheless, genetic factors explain up to one-half of the variance, suggesting that innate biological processes may be driving some of our daily physical activity.
Telomere length (TL) has been associated with aging and mortality, but individual differences are also influenced by genetic factors, with previous studies reporting heritability estimates ranging from 34 to 82%. Here we investigate the heritability, mode of inheritance and the influence of parental age at birth on TL in six large, independent cohort studies with a total of 19 713 participants. The meta-analysis estimate of TL heritability was 0.70 (95% CI 0.64–0.76) and is based on a pattern of results that is highly similar for twins and other family members. We observed a stronger mother–offspring (r=0.42; P-value=3.60 × 10−61) than father–offspring correlation (r=0.33; P-value=7.01 × 10−5), and a significant positive association with paternal age at offspring birth (β=0.005; P-value=7.01 × 10−5). Interestingly, a significant and quite substantial correlation in TL between spouses (r=0.25; P-value=2.82 × 10−30) was seen, which appeared stronger in older spouse pairs (mean age ≥55 years; r=0.31; P-value=4.27 × 10−23) than in younger pairs (mean age<55 years; r=0.20; P-value=3.24 × 10−10). In summary, we find a high and very consistent heritability estimate for TL, evidence for a maternal inheritance component and a positive association with paternal age.
telomere length; heritability; paternal age effect
Adiponectin is strongly inversely associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, but its causal role remains controversial. We used a Mendelian randomization approach to test the hypothesis that adiponectin causally influences insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. We used genetic variants at the ADIPOQ gene as instruments to calculate a regression slope between adiponectin levels and metabolic traits (up to 31,000 individuals) and a combination of instrumental variables and summary statistics–based genetic risk scores to test the associations with gold-standard measures of insulin sensitivity (2,969 individuals) and type 2 diabetes (15,960 case subjects and 64,731 control subjects). In conventional regression analyses, a 1-SD decrease in adiponectin levels was correlated with a 0.31-SD (95% CI 0.26–0.35) increase in fasting insulin, a 0.34-SD (0.30–0.38) decrease in insulin sensitivity, and a type 2 diabetes odds ratio (OR) of 1.75 (1.47–2.13). The instrumental variable analysis revealed no evidence of a causal association between genetically lower circulating adiponectin and higher fasting insulin (0.02 SD; 95% CI −0.07 to 0.11; N = 29,771), nominal evidence of a causal relationship with lower insulin sensitivity (−0.20 SD; 95% CI −0.38 to −0.02; N = 1,860), and no evidence of a relationship with type 2 diabetes (OR 0.94; 95% CI 0.75–1.19; N = 2,777 case subjects and 13,011 control subjects). Using the ADIPOQ summary statistics genetic risk scores, we found no evidence of an association between adiponectin-lowering alleles and insulin sensitivity (effect per weighted adiponectin-lowering allele: −0.03 SD; 95% CI −0.07 to 0.01; N = 2,969) or type 2 diabetes (OR per weighted adiponectin-lowering allele: 0.99; 95% CI 0.95–1.04; 15,960 case subjects vs. 64,731 control subjects). These results do not provide any consistent evidence that interventions aimed at increasing adiponectin levels will improve insulin sensitivity or risk of type 2 diabetes.
The cardiac sodium channel SCN5A regulates atrioventricular
and ventricular conduction. Genetic variants in this gene are associated with PR and QRS
intervals. We sought to further characterize the contribution of rare and common coding
variation in SCN5A to cardiac conduction.
Methods and Results
In the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology Targeted
Sequencing Study (CHARGE), we performed targeted exonic sequencing of
SCN5A (n=3699, European-ancestry individuals) and identified 4 common
(minor allele frequency >1%) and 157 rare variants. Common and rare
SCN5A coding variants were examined for association with PR and QRS intervals through
meta-analysis of European ancestry participants from CHARGE, NHLBI’s Exome
Sequencing Project (ESP, n=607) and the UK10K (n=1275) and by examining ESP
African-ancestry participants (N=972). Rare coding SCN5A variants in
aggregate were associated with PR interval in European and African-ancestry participants
(P=1.3×10−3). Three common variants were associated with PR
and/or QRS interval duration among European-ancestry participants and one among
African-ancestry participants. These included two well-known missense variants;
rs1805124 (H558R) was associated with PR and QRS shortening in European-ancestry
participants (P=6.25×10−4 and
P=5.2×10−3 respectively) and rs7626962 (S1102Y) was
associated with PR shortening in those of African ancestry
(P=2.82×10−3). Among European-ancestry participants, two
novel synonymous variants, rs1805126 and rs6599230, were associated with cardiac
conduction. Our top signal, rs1805126 was associated with PR and QRS lengthening
(P=3.35×10−7 and P=2.69×10−4
respectively), and rs6599230 was associated with PR shortening
By sequencing SCN5A, we identified novel common and rare
coding variants associated with cardiac conduction.
PR interval; QRS interval; genetics; sequencing; cohort
Epigenetic regulation of gene expression has been shown to change over time and may be associated with environmental exposures in common complex traits. Age-related hearing impairment is a complex disorder, known to be heritable, with heritability estimates of 57–70%. Epigenetic regulation might explain the observed difference in age of onset and magnitude of hearing impairment with age. Epigenetic epidemiology studies using unrelated samples can be limited in their ability to detect small effects, and recent epigenetic findings in twins underscore the power of this well matched study design. We investigated the association between venous blood DNA methylation epigenome-wide and hearing ability. Pure-tone audiometry (PTA) and Illumina HumanMethylation array data were obtained from female twin volunteers enrolled in the TwinsUK register. Two study groups were explored: first, an epigenome-wide association scan (EWAS) was performed in a discovery sample (n = 115 subjects, age range: 47–83 years, Illumina 27 k array), then replication of the top ten associated probes from the discovery EWAS was attempted in a second unrelated sample (n = 203, age range: 41–86 years, Illumina 450 k array). Finally, a set of monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs (n = 21 pairs) within the discovery sample (Illumina 27 k array) was investigated in more detail in an MZ discordance analysis. Hearing ability was strongly associated with DNA methylation levels in the promoter regions of several genes, including TCF25 (cg01161216, p = 6.6×10−6), FGFR1 (cg15791248, p = 5.7×10−5) and POLE (cg18877514, p = 6.3×10−5). Replication of these results in a second sample confirmed the presence of differential methylation at TCF25 (p(replication) = 6×10−5) and POLE (p(replication) = 0.016). In the MZ discordance analysis, twins' intrapair difference in hearing ability correlated with DNA methylation differences at ACP6 (cg01377755, r = −0.75, p = 1.2×10−4) and MEF2D (cg08156349, r = −0.75, p = 1.4×10−4). Examination of gene expression in skin, suggests an influence of differential methylation on expression, which may account for the variation in hearing ability with age.
To analyze the effect of using one reading, the mean of two readings (from the same eye), or the mean of four readings (two from each eye) on the heritability estimates of intraocular pressure (IOP). This was a cohort study in which 344 pairs of twins, 163 monozygotic (MZ) and 181 dizygotic (DZ), were enrolled.
IOP was measured using three tonometers: the gold standard Goldmann applanation tonometer (GAT), the Ocular Response Analyzer (ORA; Reichert Buffalo, NY), and the Dynamic Contour Tonometer (DCT, Pascal; Swiss Microtechnology AG, Port, Switzerland). The main outcome measure was the heritability of IOP correlated with the number of measurements.
The mean IOPs of all four readings with the three tonometers were: 14.1 ± 2.9 mm Hg for GAT, 15.9 ± 3.2 mm Hg for ORA, and 16.9 ± 2.7 mm Hg for DCT. As the number of readings increased, the calculated heritability (h2) of IOP measured using the GAT readings increased from 0.56 for one reading (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.44–0.65) to 0.58 for the mean of two readings (95% CI, 0.46–0.67) to 0.64 for the mean of all four readings (two right and two left; 95% CI, 0.55–0.72). Similar results were seen with the other two instruments.
The results demonstrated that the use of the mean of several readings from both eyes reduced measurement error, yielding a higher heritability estimate. The higher heritability would increase the power to detect linkage in a genome-wide analysis.
Several recent studies using instrumental variables based on changes in compulsory schoolleaving age laws have estimated the causal effect of schooling on health outcomes and health-related behaviors in the U.K. Despite using the same identification strategy and similar datasets, no consensus has been reached. We contribute to the literature by providing results for the U.K. using a different research design and a different dataset. Specifically, we estimate the effect of schooling on health outcomes (obesity and physical health) and health-related behaviors (smoking, alcohol consumption and exercise) for women through within-MZ twins estimates using the TwinsUK database. For physical health, alcohol consumption and exercise, the within-MZ twins estimates are uninformative about whether there is a causal effect. However, we find (1) that the significant association between schooling and smoking status is due to unobserved endowments that are correlated with schooling and smoking (2) there is some indication that more schooling reduces the body mass index for women, even once these unobserved endowments have been controlled for.
Schooling; health; twins fixed-effects
Obesity is of global health concern. There are well-described inverse relationships between female pubertal timing and obesity. Recent genome-wide association studies of age at menarche identified several obesity-related variants. Using data from the ReproGen Consortium, we employed meta-analytical techniques to estimate the associations of 95 a priori and recently identified obesity-related (body mass index (weight (kg)/height (m)2), waist circumference, and waist:hip ratio) single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with age at menarche in 92,116 women of European descent from 38 studies (1970–2010), in order to estimate associations between genetic variants associated with central or overall adiposity and pubertal timing in girls. Investigators in each study performed a separate analysis of associations between the selected SNPs and age at menarche (ages 9–17 years) using linear regression models and adjusting for birth year, site (as appropriate), and population stratification. Heterogeneity of effect-measure estimates was investigated using meta-regression. Six novel associations of body mass index loci with age at menarche were identified, and 11 adiposity loci previously reported to be associated with age at menarche were confirmed, but none of the central adiposity variants individually showed significant associations. These findings suggest complex genetic relationships between menarche and overall obesity, and to a lesser extent central obesity, in normal processes of growth and development.
adiposity; body mass index; genetic association studies; menarche; obesity; waist circumference; waist:hip ratio; women's health
The phenotypic effect of some single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) depends on their parental origin. We present a novel approach to detect parent-of-origin effects (POEs) in genome-wide genotype data of unrelated individuals. The method exploits increased phenotypic variance in the heterozygous genotype group relative to the homozygous groups. We applied the method to >56,000 unrelated individuals to search for POEs influencing body mass index (BMI). Six lead SNPs were carried forward for replication in five family-based studies (of ∼4,000 trios). Two SNPs replicated: the paternal rs2471083-C allele (located near the imprinted KCNK9 gene) and the paternal rs3091869-T allele (located near the SLC2A10 gene) increased BMI equally (beta = 0.11 (SD), P<0.0027) compared to the respective maternal alleles. Real-time PCR experiments of lymphoblastoid cell lines from the CEPH families showed that expression of both genes was dependent on parental origin of the SNPs alleles (P<0.01). Our scheme opens new opportunities to exploit GWAS data of unrelated individuals to identify POEs and demonstrates that they play an important role in adult obesity.
Large genetic association studies have revealed many genetic factors influencing common traits, such as body mass index (BMI). These studies assume that the effect of genetic variants is the same regardless of whether they are inherited from the mother or the father. In our study, we have developed a new approach that allows us to investigate variants whose impact depends on their parental origin (parent-of-origin effects), in unrelated samples when the parental origin cannot be inferred. This is feasible because at genetic markers at which such effects occur there is increased variability of the trait among individuals who inherited different genetic codes from their mother and their father compared to individuals who inherited the same genetic code from both parents. We applied this methodology to discover genetic markers with parent-of-origin effects (POEs) on BMI. This resulted in six candidate markers showing strong POE association. We then attempted to replicate the POE effects of these markers in family studies (where one can infer the parental origin of the inherited variants). Two of our candidates showed significant association in the family studies, the paternal and maternal effects of these markers were in the opposite direction.
Monozygotic (MZ) twins share nearly all of their genetic variants and many similar environments before and after birth. However, they can also show phenotypic discordance for a wide range of traits. Differences at the epigenetic level may account for such discordances. It is well established that epigenetic states can contribute to phenotypic variation, including disease. Epigenetic states are dynamic and potentially reversible marks involved in gene regulation, which can be influenced by genetics, environment, and stochastic events. Here, we review advances in epigenetic studies of discordant MZ twins, focusing on disease. The study of epigenetics and disease using discordant MZ twins offers the opportunity to control for many potential confounders encountered in general population studies, such as differences in genetic background, early-life environmental exposure, age, gender, and cohort effects. Recently, analysis of disease-discordant MZ twins has been successfully used to study epigenetic mechanisms in aging, cancer, autoimmune disease, psychiatric, neurological, and multiple other traits. Epigenetic aberrations have been found in a range of phenotypes, and challenges have been identified, including sampling time, tissue specificity, validation, and replication. The results have relevance for personalized medicine approaches, including the identification of prognostic, diagnostic, and therapeutic targets. The findings also help to identify epigenetic markers of environmental risk and molecular mechanisms involved in disease and disease progression, which have implications both for understanding disease and for future medical research.
Hearing function is known to be heritable, but few significant and reproducible associations of genetic variants have been identified to date in the adult population. In this study, genome-wide association results of hearing function from the G-EAR consortium and TwinsUK were used for meta-analysis. Hearing ability in eight population samples of Northern and Southern European ancestry (n = 4591) and the Silk Road (n = 348) was measured using pure-tone audiometry and summarized using principal component (PC) analysis. Genome-wide association analyses for PC1–3 were conducted separately in each sample assuming an additive model adjusted for age, sex and relatedness of subjects. Meta-analysis was performed using 2.3 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) tested against each of the three PCs of hearing ability in 4939 individuals. A single SNP lying in intron 6 of the salt-inducible kinase 3 (SIK3) gene was found to be associated with hearing PC2 (P = 3.7×10−8) and further supported by whole-genome sequence in a subset. To determine the relevance of this gene in the ear, expression of the Sik3 protein was studied in mouse cochlea of different ages. Sik3 was expressed in murine hair cells during early development and in cells of the spiral ganglion during early development and adulthood. Our results suggest a developmental role of Sik3 in hearing and may be required for the maintenance of adult auditory function.
Understanding the complexity of aging is of utmost importance. This can now be addressed by the novel and powerful approach of metabolomics. However, to date, only a few metabolic studies based on large samples are available. Here, we provide novel and specific information on age-related metabolite concentration changes in human homeostasis. We report results from two population-based studies: the KORA F4 study from Germany as a discovery cohort, with 1038 female and 1124 male participants (32–81 years), and the TwinsUK study as replication, with 724 female participants. Targeted metabolomics of fasting serum samples quantified 131 metabolites by FIA-MS/MS. Among these, 71/34 metabolites were significantly associated with age in women/men (BMI adjusted). We further identified a set of 13 independent metabolites in women (with P values ranging from 4.6 × 10−04 to 7.8 × 10−42, αcorr = 0.004). Eleven of these 13 metabolites were replicated in the TwinsUK study, including seven metabolite concentrations that increased with age (C0, C10:1, C12:1, C18:1, SM C16:1, SM C18:1, and PC aa C28:1), while histidine decreased. These results indicate that metabolic profiles are age dependent and might reflect different aging processes, such as incomplete mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation. The use of metabolomics will increase our understanding of aging networks and may lead to discoveries that help enhance healthy aging.
age; aging; epidemiology; metabolomics; population-based study
Forearm fractures affect 1.7 million individuals worldwide each year and most occur earlier in life than hip fractures. While the heritability of forearm bone mineral density (BMD) and fracture is high, their genetic determinants are largely unknown.
To identify genetic variants associated with forearm BMD and forearm fractures.
BMD at distal radius measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry was tested for association with common genetic variants. We conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies for BMD in 5,866 subjects of European descent and then selected variants for replication in 715 Mexican American samples. Gene-based association was carried out to supplement the single-SNP test. We then tested the BMD-associated SNPs for association with forearm fracture in 2,023 cases and 3,740 controls.
We found that five SNPs in the introns of MEF2C were associated with forearm BMD at a genome-wide significance level (P<5×10−8) in meta-analysis (lead SNP, rs11951031[T] −0.20 standard deviations per allele, P=9.01×10−9). The gene-based association test suggested an association between MEF2C and forearm BMD (P=0.003). The association between MEF2C variants and risk of fracture did not achieve statistical significance (SNP rs12521522[A]: odds ratio = 1.14 [95% CI: 0.92–1.35], P = 0.14). Meta analysis also revealed two genome-wide suggestive loci at CTNNA2 and 6q23.2.
These findings demonstrate that variants at MEF2C were associated with forearm BMD thereby implicating this gene in the determination of bone mineral density at forearm.
Genome-wide association study; Osteoporosis; Bone mineral density; Forearm; Fracture; Meta-analysis; Gene-base; Conditional analysis
Elevated resting heart rate is associated with greater risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. In a 2-stage meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies in up to 181,171 individuals, we identified 14 new loci associated with heart rate and confirmed associations with all 7 previously established loci. Experimental downregulation of gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster and Danio rerio identified 20 genes at 11 loci that are relevant for heart rate regulation and highlight a role for genes involved in signal transmission, embryonic cardiac development and the pathophysiology of dilated cardiomyopathy, congenital heart failure and/or sudden cardiac death. In addition, genetic susceptibility to increased heart rate is associated with altered cardiac conduction and reduced risk of sick sinus syndrome, and both heart rate–increasing and heart rate–decreasing variants associate with risk of atrial fibrillation. Our findings provide fresh insights into the mechanisms regulating heart rate and identify new therapeutic targets.
A newly-described syndrome called Aneurysm-Osteoarthritis Syndrome (AOS) was recently reported. AOS presents with early onset osteoarthritis (OA) in multiple joints, together with aneurysms in major arteries, and is caused by rare mutations in SMAD3. Because of the similarity of AOS to idiopathic generalized OA (GOA), we hypothesized that SMAD3 is also associated with GOA and tested the hypothesis in a population-based cohort.
Study participants were derived from the Chingford study. Kellgren-Lawrence (KL) grades and the individual features of osteophytes and joint space narrowing (JSN) were scored from radiographs of hands, knees, hips, and lumbar spines. The total KL score, osteophyte score, and JSN score were calculated and used as indicators of the total burden of radiographic OA. Forty-one common SNPs within SMAD3 were genotyped using the Illumina HumanHap610Q array. Linear regression modelling was used to test the association between the total KL score, osteophyte score, and JSN score and each of the 41 SNPs, with adjustment for patient age and BMI. Permutation testing was used to control the false positive rate.
A total of 609 individuals were included in the analysis. All were Caucasian females with a mean age of 60.9±5.8. We found that rs3825977, with a minor allele (T) frequency of 20%, in the last intron of SMAD3, was significantly associated with total KL score (β = 0.14, Ppermutation = 0.002). This association was stronger for the total JSN score (β = 0.19, Ppermutation = 0.002) than for total osteophyte score (β = 0.11, Ppermutation = 0.02). The T allele is associated with a 1.47-fold increased odds for people with 5 or more joints to be affected by radiographic OA (Ppermutation = 0.046).
We found that SMAD3 is significantly associated with the total burden of radiographic OA. Further studies are required to reveal the mechanism of the association.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol are heritable, modifiable, risk factors for coronary artery disease. To identify new loci and refine known loci influencing these lipids, we examined 188,578 individuals using genome-wide and custom genotyping arrays. We identify and annotate 157 loci associated with lipid levels at P < 5×10−8, including 62 loci not previously associated with lipid levels in humans. Using dense genotyping in individuals of European, East Asian, South Asian, and African ancestry, we narrow association signals in 12 loci. We find that loci associated with blood lipids are often associated with cardiovascular and metabolic traits including coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, blood pressure, waist-hip ratio, and body mass index. Our results illustrate the value of genetic data from individuals of diverse ancestries and provide insights into biological mechanisms regulating blood lipids to guide future genetic, biological, and therapeutic research.
Triglycerides are transported in plasma by specific triglyceride-rich lipoproteins; in epidemiologic studies, increased triglyceride levels correlate with higher risk for coronary artery disease (CAD). However, it is unclear whether this association reflects causal processes. We used 185 common variants recently mapped for plasma lipids (P<5×10−8 for each) to examine the role of triglycerides on risk for CAD. First, we highlight loci associated with both low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and triglycerides, and show that the direction and magnitude of both are factors in determining CAD risk. Second, we consider loci with only a strong magnitude of association with triglycerides and show that these loci are also associated with CAD. Finally, in a model accounting for effects on LDL-C and/or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, a polymorphism's strength of effect on triglycerides is correlated with the magnitude of its effect on CAD risk. These results suggest that triglyceride-rich lipoproteins causally influence risk for CAD.
Inter-individual variation in mean leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is associated with cancer and several age-associated diseases. Here, in a genome-wide meta-analysis of 37,684 individuals with replication of selected variants in a further 10,739 individuals, we identified seven loci, including five novel loci, associated with mean LTL (P<5x10−8). Five of the loci contain genes (TERC, TERT, NAF1, OBFC1, RTEL1) that are known to be involved in telomere biology. Lead SNPs at two loci (TERC and TERT) associate with several cancers and other diseases, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Moreover, a genetic risk score analysis combining lead variants at all seven loci in 22,233 coronary artery disease cases and 64,762 controls showed an association of the alleles associated with shorter LTL with increased risk of CAD (21% (95% CI: 5–35%) per standard deviation in LTL, p=0.014). Our findings support a causal role of telomere length variation in some age-related diseases.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of global morbidity and mortality and, whilst smoking remains the single most important risk factor, COPD risk is heritable. Of 26 independent genomic regions showing association with lung function in genome-wide association studies, eleven have been reported to show association with airflow obstruction. Although the main risk factor for COPD is smoking, some individuals are observed to have a high forced expired volume in 1 second (FEV1) despite many years of heavy smoking. We hypothesised that these “resistant smokers” may harbour variants which protect against lung function decline caused by smoking and provide insight into the genetic determinants of lung health. We undertook whole exome re-sequencing of 100 heavy smokers who had healthy lung function given their age, sex, height and smoking history and applied three complementary approaches to explore the genetic architecture of smoking resistance. Firstly, we identified novel functional variants in the “resistant smokers” and looked for enrichment of these novel variants within biological pathways. Secondly, we undertook association testing of all exonic variants individually with two independent control sets. Thirdly, we undertook gene-based association testing of all exonic variants. Our strongest signal of association with smoking resistance for a non-synonymous SNP was for rs10859974 (P = 2.34×10−4) in CCDC38, a gene which has previously been reported to show association with FEV1/FVC, and we demonstrate moderate expression of CCDC38 in bronchial epithelial cells. We identified an enrichment of novel putatively functional variants in genes related to cilia structure and function in resistant smokers. Ciliary function abnormalities are known to be associated with both smoking and reduced mucociliary clearance in patients with COPD. We suggest that genetic influences on the development or function of cilia in the bronchial epithelium may affect growth of cilia or the extent of damage caused by tobacco smoke.
Very large genome-wide association studies in general population cohorts have successfully identified at least 26 genes or gene regions associated with lung function and a number of these also show association with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, these findings explain a small proportion of the heritability of lung function. Although the main risk factor for COPD is smoking, some individuals have normal or good lung function despite many years of heavy smoking. We hypothesised that studying these individuals might tell us more about the genetics of lung health. Re-sequencing of exomes, where all of the variation in the protein-coding portion of the genome can be measured, is a recent approach for the study of low frequency and rare variants. We undertook re-sequencing of the exomes of “resistant smokers” and used publicly available exome data for comparisons. Our findings implicate CCDC38, a gene which has previously shown association with lung function in the general population, and genes involved in cilia structure and lung function as having a role in resistance to smoking.
To examine the relative roles of genetic and environmental factors in central retinal thickness, by performing a classical twin study.
310 subjects were recruited from the TwinsUK adult registry at St Thomas' Hospital. Optical coherence tomography (Zeiss, stratus OCT3) was used to measure the average retinal thickness in the central 1 mm diameter area. The covariance of central retinal thickness (CRT), within MZ and DZ twin pairs, was compared and genetic modelling techniques were used to determine the relative contributions of genes and environment to the variation in CRT observed in this population.
Main outcome measure
CRT (average retinal thickness in the central 1 mm diameter area, centred on the fovea).
The mean CRT of all subjects was 212.1 μm (range 165–277). CRT was statistically related to refractive error, with increasing myopia associated with a thinner CRT. CRT was more highly correlated within MZ twin pairs (r = 0.88) than with DZ twin pairs (r = 0.58), suggesting a genetic role. A model combining additive genetic and unique environmental factors provided the best fitting model and gave a heritability estimate of 0.90.
Genetic factors appear to play an important role in CRT, with a heritability estimate of 0.90.
Although genetic variation is believed to contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to major depressive disorder, genome-wide association studies have not yet identified associations that could explain the full etiology of the disease. Epigenetics is increasingly believed to play a major role in the development of common clinical phenotypes, including major depressive disorder.
Genome-wide MeDIP-Sequencing was carried out on a total of 50 monozygotic twin pairs from the UK and Australia that are discordant for depression. We show that major depressive disorder is associated with significant hypermethylation within the coding region of ZBTB20, and is replicated in an independent cohort of 356 unrelated case-control individuals. The twins with major depressive disorder also show increased global variation in methylation in comparison with their unaffected co-twins. ZBTB20 plays an essential role in the specification of the Cornu Ammonis-1 field identity in the developing hippocampus, a region previously implicated in the development of major depressive disorder.
Our results suggest that aberrant methylation profiles affecting the hippocampus are associated with major depressive disorder and show the potential of the epigenetic twin model in neuro-psychiatric disease.
Emerging technologies based on mass spectrometry or nuclear magnetic resonance enable the monitoring of hundreds of small metabolites from tissues or body fluids. Profiling of metabolites can help elucidate causal pathways linking established genetic variants to known disease risk factors such as blood lipid traits.
We applied statistical methodology to dissect causal relationships between single nucleotide polymorphisms, metabolite concentrations, and serum lipid traits, focusing on 95 genetic loci reproducibly associated with the four main serum lipids (total-, low-density lipoprotein-, and high-density lipoprotein- cholesterol and triglycerides). The dataset used included 2,973 individuals from two independent population-based cohorts with data for 151 small molecule metabolites and four main serum lipids. Three statistical approaches, namely conditional analysis, Mendelian randomization, and structural equation modeling, were compared to investigate causal relationship at sets of a single nucleotide polymorphism, a metabolite, and a lipid trait associated with one another.
A subset of three lipid-associated loci (FADS1, GCKR, and LPA) have a statistically significant association with at least one main lipid and one metabolite concentration in our data, defining a total of 38 cross-associated sets of a single nucleotide polymorphism, a metabolite and a lipid trait. Structural equation modeling provided sufficient discrimination to indicate that the association of a single nucleotide polymorphism with a lipid trait was mediated through a metabolite at 15 of the 38 sets, and involving variants at the FADS1 and GCKR loci.
These data provide a framework for evaluating the causal role of components of the metabolome (or other intermediate factors) in mediating the association between established genetic variants and diseases or traits.