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1.  The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7940.
Food waste contributes to excess consumption of freshwater and fossil fuels which, along with methane and CO2 emissions from decomposing food, impacts global climate change. Here, we calculate the energy content of nationwide food waste from the difference between the US food supply and the food consumed by the population. The latter was estimated using a validated mathematical model of metabolism relating body weight to the amount of food eaten. We found that US per capita food waste has progressively increased by ∼50% since 1974 reaching more than 1400 kcal per person per day or 150 trillion kcal per year. Food waste now accounts for more than one quarter of the total freshwater consumption and ∼300 million barrels of oil per year.
PMCID: PMC2775916  PMID: 19946359
2.  Allelic Variants of Melanocortin 3 Receptor Gene (MC3R) and Weight Loss in Obesity: A Randomised Trial of Hypo-Energetic High- versus Low-Fat Diets 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e19934.
The melanocortin system plays an important role in energy homeostasis. Mice genetically deficient in the melanocortin-3 receptor gene have a normal body weight with increased body fat, mild hypophagia compared to wild-type mice. In humans, Thr6Lys and Val81Ile variants of the melanocortin-3 receptor gene (MC3R) have been associated with childhood obesity, higher BMI Z-score and elevated body fat percentage compared to non-carriers. The aim of this study is to assess the association in adults between allelic variants of MC3R with weight loss induced by energy-restricted diets.
Subjects and Methods
This research is based on the NUGENOB study, a trial conducted to assess weight loss during a 10-week dietary intervention involving two different hypo-energetic (high-fat and low-fat) diets. A total of 760 obese patients were genotyped for 10 single nucleotide polymorphisms covering the single exon of MC3R gene and its flanking regions, including the missense variants Thr6Lys and Val81Ile. Linear mixed models and haplotype-based analysis were carried out to assess the potential association between genetic polymorphisms and differential weight loss, fat mass loss, waist change and resting energy expenditure changes.
No differences in drop-out rate were found by MC3R genotypes. The rs6014646 polymorphism was significantly associated with weight loss using co-dominant (p = 0.04) and dominant models (p = 0.03). These p-values were not statistically significant after strict control for multiple testing. Haplotype-based multivariate analysis using permutations showed that rs3827103–rs1543873 (p = 0.06), rs6014646–rs6024730 (p = 0.05) and rs3746619–rs3827103 (p = 0.10) displayed near-statistical significant results in relation to weight loss. No other significant associations or gene*diet interactions were detected for weight loss, fat mass loss, waist change and resting energy expenditure changes.
The study provided overall sufficient evidence to support that there is no major effect of genetic variants of MC3R and differential weight loss after a 10-week dietary intervention with hypo-energetic diets in obese Europeans.
PMCID: PMC3114803  PMID: 21695122
3.  Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies Loci for Body Composition and Structural Soundness Traits in Pigs 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e14726.
The recent completion of the swine genome sequencing project and development of a high density porcine SNP array has made genome-wide association (GWA) studies feasible in pigs.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using Illumina's PorcineSNP60 BeadChip, we performed a pilot GWA study in 820 commercial female pigs phenotyped for backfat, loin muscle area, body conformation in addition to feet and leg (FL) structural soundness traits. A total of 51,385 SNPs were jointly fitted using Bayesian techniques as random effects in a mixture model that assumed a known large proportion (99.5%) of SNPs had zero effect. SNP annotations were implemented through the Sus scrofa Build 9 available from pig Ensembl. We discovered a number of candidate chromosomal regions, and some of them corresponded to QTL regions previously reported. We not only have identified some well-known candidate genes for the traits of interest, such as MC4R (for backfat) and IGF2 (for loin muscle area), but also obtained novel promising genes, including CHCHD3 (for backfat), BMP2 (for loin muscle area, body size and several FL structure traits), and some HOXA family genes (for overall leg action). The candidate regions responsible for body conformation and FL structure soundness did not overlap greatly which implied that these traits were controlled by different genes. Functional clustering analyses classified the genes into categories related to bone and cartilage development, muscle growth and development or the insulin pathway suggesting the traits are regulated by common pathways or gene networks that exert roles at different spatial and temporal stages.
This study is one of the earliest GWA reports on important quantitative traits in pigs, and the findings will contribute to the further biological function analysis of the identified candidate genes and potential utilization of them in marker assisted selection.
PMCID: PMC3044704  PMID: 21383979
4.  Familial Associations of Adiposity: Findings from a Cross-Sectional Study of 12,181 Parental-Offspring Trios from Belarus 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e14607.
It is suggested that maternal adiposity has a stronger association with offspring adiposity than does paternal adiposity. Furthermore, a recent small study reported gender assortment in parental-offspring adiposity associations. We aimed to examine these associations in one of the largest studies to date using data from a low-middle income country that has recently undergone a major political and economic transition.
Methods and Principal Findings
In a cross-sectional study of 12,181 parental-offspring trios from Belarus (mean age (SD) of mothers 31.7 (4.9), fathers 34.1 (5.1) and children 6.6 (0.3) at time of assessment), we found positive graded associations of mother's and father's BMI with offspring adiposity. There was no evidence that these associations differed between mothers and fathers. For example, the odds ratio of offspring overweight or obesity (based on BMI) comparing obese and overweight mothers to normal weight mothers was 2.03 (95%CI 1.77, 2.31) in fully adjusted models; the equivalent result for father's overweight/obesity was 1.81 (1.58, 2.07). Equivalent results for offspring being in the top 10% waist circumference were 1.91 (1.67, 2.18) comparing obese/overweight to normal weight mothers and 1.72 (1.53, 1.95) comparing obese/overweight to normal weight fathers. Similarly, results for offspring being in the top 10% of percent fat mass were 1.58 (1.36, 1.84) and 1.76 (1.49, 2.07), for mother's and father's obese/overweight exposures respectively. There was no strong or consistent evidence of gender assortment - i.e. associations of maternal adiposity exposures with offspring outcomes were similar in magnitude for their daughters compared to equivalent associations in their sons and paternal associations were also similar in sons and daughters.
These findings suggest that genetic and/or shared familial environment explain family clustering of adiposity. Interventions aimed at changing overall family lifestyle are likely to be important for population level obesity prevention.
PMCID: PMC3029263  PMID: 21298034
5.  Inactivation of the Rcan2 Gene in Mice Ameliorates the Age- and Diet-Induced Obesity by Causing a Reduction in Food Intake 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e14605.
Obesity is a serious international health problem that increases the risk of several diet-related chronic diseases. The genetic factors predisposing to obesity are little understood. Rcan2 was originally identified as a thyroid hormone-responsive gene. In the mouse, two splicing variants that harbor distinct tissue-specific expression patterns have been identified: Rcan2-3 is expressed predominately in the brain, whereas Rcan2-1 is expressed in the brain and other tissues such as the heart and skeletal muscle. Here, we show that Rcan2 plays an important role in the development of age- and diet-induced obesity. We found that although the loss of Rcan2 function in mice slowed growth in the first few weeks after birth, it also significantly ameliorated age- and diet-induced obesity in the mice by causing a reduction in food intake rather than increased energy expenditure. Rcan2 expression was most prominent in the ventromedial, dorsomedial and paraventricular hypothalamic nuclei governing energy balance. Fasting and refeeding experiment showed that only Rcan2-3 mRNA expression is up-regulated in the hypothalamus by fasting, and loss of Rcan2 significantly attenuates the hyperphagic response to starvation. Using double-mutant (Lepob/ob Rcan2−/−) mice, we were also able to demonstrate that Rcan2 and leptin regulate body weight through different pathways. Our findings indicate that there may be an Rcan2-dependent mechanism which regulates food intake and promotes weight gain through a leptin-independent pathway. This study provides novel information on the control of body weight in mice and should improve our understanding of the mechanisms of obesity in humans.
PMCID: PMC3029291  PMID: 21298050
6.  Presymptomatic Risk Assessment for Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14338.
The prevalence of common chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) far overshadows the prevalence of both monogenic and infectious diseases combined. All CNCDs, also called complex genetic diseases, have a heritable genetic component that can be used for pre-symptomatic risk assessment. Common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that tag risk haplotypes across the genome currently account for a non-trivial portion of the germ-line genetic risk and we will likely continue to identify the remaining missing heritability in the form of rare variants, copy number variants and epigenetic modifications. Here, we describe a novel measure for calculating the lifetime risk of a disease, called the genetic composite index (GCI), and demonstrate its predictive value as a clinical classifier. The GCI only considers summary statistics of the effects of genetic variation and hence does not require the results of large-scale studies simultaneously assessing multiple risk factors. Combining GCI scores with environmental risk information provides an additional tool for clinical decision-making. The GCI can be populated with heritable risk information of any type, and thus represents a framework for CNCD pre-symptomatic risk assessment that can be populated as additional risk information is identified through next-generation technologies.
PMCID: PMC3013091  PMID: 21217814
7.  Plasma Protein Profiling Reveals Protein Clusters Related to BMI and Insulin Levels in Middle-Aged Overweight Subjects 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14422.
Biomarkers that allow detection of the onset of disease are of high interest since early detection would allow intervening with lifestyle and nutritional changes before the disease is manifested and pharmacological therapy is required. Our study aimed to improve the phenotypic characterization of overweight but apparently healthy subjects and to identify new candidate profiles for early biomarkers of obesity-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In a population of 56 healthy, middle-aged overweight subjects Body Mass Index (BMI), fasting concentration of 124 plasma proteins and insulin were determined. The plasma proteins are implicated in chronic diseases, inflammation, endothelial function and metabolic signaling. Random Forest was applied to select proteins associated with BMI and plasma insulin. Subsequently, the selected proteins were analyzed by clustering methods to identify protein clusters associated with BMI and plasma insulin. Similar analyses were performed for a second population of 20 healthy, overweight older subjects to verify associations found in population I. In both populations similar clusters of proteins associated with BMI or insulin were identified. Leptin and a number of pro-inflammatory proteins, previously identified as possible biomarkers for obesity-related disease, e.g. Complement 3, C Reactive Protein, Serum Amyloid P, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor clustered together and were positively associated with BMI and insulin. IL-3 and IL-13 clustered together with Apolipoprotein A1 and were inversely associated with BMI and might be potential new biomarkers.
Conclusion/ Significance
We identified clusters of plasma proteins associated with BMI and insulin in healthy populations. These clusters included previously reported biomarkers for obesity-related disease and potential new biomarkers such as IL-3 and IL-13. These plasma protein clusters could have potential applications for improved phenotypic characterization of volunteers in nutritional intervention studies or as biomarkers in the early detection of obesity-linked disease development and progression.
PMCID: PMC3009718  PMID: 21203453
8.  Obesity Impact on the Attentional Cost for Controlling Posture 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14387.
This study investigated the effects of obesity on attentional resources allocated to postural control in seating and unipedal standing.
Ten non obese adults (BMI = 22.4±1.3, age = 42.4±15.1) and 10 obese adult patients (BMI = 35.2±2.8, age = 46.2±19.6) maintained postural stability on a force platform in two postural tasks (seated and unipedal). The two postural tasks were performed (1) alone and (2) in a dual-task paradigm in combination with an auditory reaction time task (RT). Performing the RT task together with the postural one was supposed to require some attentional resources that allowed estimating the attentional cost of postural control. 4 trials were performed in each condition for a total of 16 trials.
(1) Whereas seated non obese and obese patients exhibited similar centre of foot pressure oscillations (CoP), in the unipedal stance only obese patients strongly increased their CoP sway in comparison to controls. (2) Whatever the postural task, the additional RT task did not affect postural stability. (3) Seated, RT did not differ between the two groups. (4) RT strongly increased between the two postural conditions in the obese patients only, suggesting that body schema and the use of internal models was altered with obesity.
Obese patients needed more attentional resources to control postural stability during unipedal stance than non obese participants. This was not the case in a more simple posture such as seating. To reduce the risk of fall as indicated by the critical values of CoP displacement, obese patients must dedicate a strong large part of their attentional resources to postural control, to the detriment of non-postural events. Obese patients were not able to easily perform multitasking as healthy adults do, reflecting weakened psycho-motor abilities.
PMCID: PMC3004786  PMID: 21187914
9.  Efficient Utilization of Rare Variants for Detection of Disease-Related Genomic Regions 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14288.
When testing association between rare variants and diseases, an efficient analytical approach involves considering a set of variants in a genomic region as the unit of analysis. One factor complicating this approach is that the vast majority of rare variants in practical applications are believed to represent background neutral variation. As a result, analyzing a single set with all variants may not represent a powerful approach. Here, we propose two alternative strategies. In the first, we analyze the subsets of rare variants exhaustively. In the second, we categorize variants selectively into two subsets: one in which variants are overrepresented in cases, and the other in which variants are overrepresented in controls. When the proportion of neutral variants is moderate to large we show, by simulations, that the both proposed strategies improve the statistical power over methods analyzing a single set with total variants. When applied to a real sequencing association study, the proposed methods consistently produce smaller p-values than their competitors. When applied to another real sequencing dataset to study the difference of rare allele distributions between ethnic populations, the proposed methods detect the overrepresentation of variants between the CHB (Chinese Han in Beijing) and YRI (Yoruba people of Ibadan) populations with small p-values. Additional analyses suggest that there is no difference between the CHB and CHD (Chinese Han in Denver) datasets, as expected. Finally, when applied to the CHB and JPT (Japanese people in Tokyo) populations, existing methods fail to detect any difference, while it is detected by the proposed methods in several regions.
PMCID: PMC3000820  PMID: 21170328
10.  Integrated Genetic and Epigenetic Analysis Identifies Haplotype-Specific Methylation in the FTO Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity Susceptibility Locus 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e14040.
Recent multi-dimensional approaches to the study of complex disease have revealed powerful insights into how genetic and epigenetic factors may underlie their aetiopathogenesis. We examined genotype-epigenotype interactions in the context of Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), focussing on known regions of genomic susceptibility. We assayed DNA methylation in 60 females, stratified according to disease susceptibility haplotype using previously identified association loci. CpG methylation was assessed using methylated DNA immunoprecipitation on a targeted array (MeDIP-chip) and absolute methylation values were estimated using a Bayesian algorithm (BATMAN). Absolute methylation levels were quantified across LD blocks, and we identified increased DNA methylation on the FTO obesity susceptibility haplotype, tagged by the rs8050136 risk allele A (p = 9.40×10−4, permutation p = 1.0×10−3). Further analysis across the 46 kb LD block using sliding windows localised the most significant difference to be within a 7.7 kb region (p = 1.13×10−7). Sequence level analysis, followed by pyrosequencing validation, revealed that the methylation difference was driven by the co-ordinated phase of CpG-creating SNPs across the risk haplotype. This 7.7 kb region of haplotype-specific methylation (HSM), encapsulates a Highly Conserved Non-Coding Element (HCNE) that has previously been validated as a long-range enhancer, supported by the histone H3K4me1 enhancer signature. This study demonstrates that integration of Genome-Wide Association (GWA) SNP and epigenomic DNA methylation data can identify potential novel genotype-epigenotype interactions within disease-associated loci, thus providing a novel route to aid unravelling common complex diseases.
PMCID: PMC2987816  PMID: 21124985
11.  Investigation of a Genome Wide Association Signal for Obesity: Synthetic Association and Haplotype Analyses at the Melanocortin 4 Receptor Gene Locus 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e13967.
Independent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) showed an obesogenic effect of two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP; rs12970134 and rs17782313) more than 150 kb downstream of the melanocortin 4 receptor gene (MC4R). It is unclear if the SNPs directly influence MC4R function or expression, or if the SNPs are on a haplotype that predisposes to obesity or includes functionally relevant genetic variation (synthetic association). As both exist, functionally relevant mutations and polymorphisms in the MC4R coding region and a robust association downstream of the gene, MC4R is an ideal model to explore synthetic association.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We analyzed a genomic region (364.9 kb) encompassing the MC4R in GWAS data of 424 obesity trios (extremely obese child/adolescent and both parents). SNP rs12970134 showed the lowest p-value (p = 0.004; relative risk for the obesity effect allele: 1.37); conditional analyses on this SNP revealed that 7 of 78 analyzed SNPs provided independent signals (p≤0.05). These 8 SNPs were used to derive two-marker haplotypes. The three best (according to p-value) haplotype combinations were chosen for confirmation in 363 independent obesity trios. The confirmed obesity effect haplotype includes SNPs 3′ and 5′ of the MC4R. Including MC4R coding variants in a joint model had almost no impact on the effect size estimators expected under synthetic association.
A haplotype reaching from a region 5′ of the MC4R to a region at least 150 kb from the 3′ end of the gene showed a stronger association to obesity than single SNPs. Synthetic association analyses revealed that MC4R coding variants had almost no impact on the association signal. Carriers of the haplotype should be enriched for relevant mutations outside the MC4R coding region and could thus be used for re-sequencing approaches. Our data also underscore the problems underlying the identification of relevant mutations depicted by GWAS derived SNPs.
PMCID: PMC2981522  PMID: 21085626
12.  First-Borns Carry a Higher Metabolic Risk in Early Adulthood: Evidence from a Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e13907.
Birth order has been associated with early growth variability and subsequent increased adiposity, but the consequent effects of increased fat mass on metabolic risk during adulthood have not been assessed. We aimed to quantify the metabolic risk in young adulthood of being first-born relative to those born second or subsequently.
Methodology and Principal Findings
Body composition and metabolic risk were assessed in 2,249 men, aged 17–19 years, from a birth cohort in southern Brazil. Metabolic risk was assessed using a composite z-score integrating standardized measurements of blood pressure, total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein, triglycerides and fat mass. First-borns had lower birth weight z-score (Δ = −0.25, 95%CI −0.35, −0.15,p<0.001) but showed greater weight gain during infancy (change in weight z-score from birth to 20 months: Δ = 0.39, 95%CI 0.28–0.50, p<0.0001) and had greater mean height (Δ = 1.2 cm, 95%CI: 0.7–1.6, p<0.0001) and weight (Δ = 0.34 kg, 95%CI: 0.13–0.55, p<0.002) at 43 months. This greater weight and height tracked into early adulthood, with first-borns being significantly taller, heavier and with significantly higher fat mass than later-borns. The metabolic risk z-score was significantly higher in first-borns.
First-born status is associated with significantly elevated adiposity and metabolic risk in young adult men in Brazil. Our results, linking cardiovascular risk with life history variables, suggest that metabolic risk may be associated with the worldwide trend to smaller family size and it may interact with changes in behavioural or environmental risk factors.
PMCID: PMC2976719  PMID: 21085691
13.  Changes in Hepatic Gene Expression upon Oral Administration of Taurine-Conjugated Ursodeoxycholic Acid in ob/ob Mice 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e13858.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is highly prevalent and associated with considerable morbidities. Unfortunately, there is no currently available drug established to treat NAFLD. It was recently reported that intraperitoneal administration of taurine-conjugated ursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA) improved hepatic steatosis in ob/ob mice. We hereby examined the effect of oral TUDCA treatment on hepatic steatosis and associated changes in hepatic gene expression in ob/ob mice. We administered TUDCA to ob/ob mice at a dose of 500 mg/kg twice a day by gastric gavage for 3 weeks. Body weight, glucose homeostasis, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, and hepatic gene expression were examined in comparison with control ob/ob mice and normal littermate C57BL/6J mice. Compared to the control ob/ob mice, TUDCA treated ob/ob mice revealed markedly reduced liver fat stained by oil red O (44.2±5.8% vs. 21.1±10.4%, P<0.05), whereas there was no difference in body weight, oral glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and ER stress. Microarray analysis of hepatic gene expression demonstrated that oral TUDCA treatment mainly decreased the expression of genes involved in de novo lipogenesis among the components of lipid homeostasis. At pathway levels, oral TUDCA altered the genes regulating amino acid, carbohydrate, and drug metabolism in addition to lipid metabolism. In summary, oral TUDCA treatment decreased hepatic steatosis in ob/ob mice by cooperative regulation of multiple metabolic pathways, particularly by reducing the expression of genes known to regulate de novo lipogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2974643  PMID: 21079772
14.  Differences in Muscle and Adipose Tissue Gene Expression and Cardio-Metabolic Risk Factors in the Members of Physical Activity Discordant Twin Pairs 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12609.
High physical activity/aerobic fitness predicts low morbidity and mortality. Our aim was to identify the most up-regulated gene sets related to long-term physical activity vs. inactivity in skeletal muscle and adipose tissues and to obtain further information about their link with cardio-metabolic risk factors. We studied ten same-sex twin pairs (age range 50–74 years) who had been discordant for leisure-time physical activity for 30 years. The examinations included biopsies from m. vastus lateralis and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue. RNA was analyzed with the genome-wide Illumina Human WG-6 v3.0 Expression BeadChip. For pathway analysis we used Gene Set Enrichment Analysis utilizing active vs. inactive co-twin gene expression ratios. Our findings showed that among the physically active members of twin pairs, as compared to their inactive co-twins, gene expression in the muscle tissue samples was chronically up-regulated for the central pathways related to energy metabolism, including oxidative phosphorylation, lipid metabolism and supportive metabolic pathways. Up-regulation of these pathways was associated in particular with aerobic fitness and high HDL cholesterol levels. In fat tissue we found physical activity-associated increases in the expression of polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism and branched-chain amino acid degradation gene sets both of which associated with decreased ‘high-risk’ ectopic body fat and plasma glucose levels. Consistent with other findings, plasma lipidomics analysis showed up-regulation of the triacylglycerols containing the polyunsaturated fatty acids. Our findings identified skeletal muscle and fat tissue pathways which are associated with the long-term physical activity and reduced cardio-metabolic disease risk, including increased aerobic fitness. In particular, improved skeletal muscle oxidative energy and lipid metabolism as well as changes in adipocyte function and redistribution of body fat are associated with reduced cardio-metabolic risk.
PMCID: PMC2940764  PMID: 20862330
15.  Ketogenic Essential Amino Acids Modulate Lipid Synthetic Pathways and Prevent Hepatic Steatosis in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12057.
Although dietary ketogenic essential amino acid (KAA) content modifies accumulation of hepatic lipids, the molecular interactions between KAAs and lipid metabolism are yet to be fully elucidated.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We designed a diet with a high ratio (E/N) of essential amino acids (EAAs) to non-EAAs by partially replacing dietary protein with 5 major free KAAs (Leu, Ile, Val, Lys and Thr) without altering carbohydrate and fat content. This high-KAA diet was assessed for its preventive effects on diet-induced hepatic steatosis and whole-animal insulin resistance. C57B6 mice were fed with a high-fat diet, and hyperinsulinemic ob/ob mice were fed with a high-fat or high-sucrose diet. The high-KAA diet improved hepatic steatosis with decreased de novo lipogensis (DNL) fluxes as well as reduced expressions of lipogenic genes. In C57B6 mice, the high-KAA diet lowered postprandial insulin secretion and improved glucose tolerance, in association with restored expression of muscle insulin signaling proteins repressed by the high-fat diet. Lipotoxic metabolites and their synthetic fluxes were also evaluated with reference to insulin resistance. The high-KAA diet lowered muscle and liver ceramides, both by reducing dietary lipid incorporation into muscular ceramides and preventing incorporation of DNL-derived fatty acids into hepatic ceramides.
Our results indicate that dietary KAA intake improves hepatic steatosis and insulin resistance by modulating lipid synthetic pathways.
PMCID: PMC2919399  PMID: 20706589
16.  The Association of Alcohol and Alcohol Metabolizing Gene Variants with Diabetes and Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors in a White Population 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e11735.
Epidemiological studies have shown a J- or U-shaped relation between alcohol and type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease (CHD). The underlying mechanisms are not clear. The aim was to examine the association between alcohol intake and diabetes and intermediate CHD risk factors in relation to selected ADH and ALDH gene variants.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Cross-sectional study including 6,405 Northern European men and women aged 30–60 years from the general population of Copenhagen, Denmark. Data were collected with self-administered questionnaires, a physical examination, a 2 hour oral glucose tolerance test, and various blood tests. J shaped associations were observed between alcohol and diabetes, metabolic syndrome (MS), systolic and diastolic blood pressure, triglyceride, total cholesterol, and total homocysteine. Positive associations were observed with insulin sensitivity and HDL cholesterol, and a negative association with insulin release. Only a few of the selected ADH and ALDH gene variants was observed to have an effect. The ADH1c (rs1693482) fast metabolizing CC genotype was associated with an increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance (IGT)/diabetes compared to the CT and TT genotypes. Significant interactions were observed between alcohol and ADH1b (rs1229984) with respect to LDL and between alcohol and ALDH2 (rs886205) with respect to IGT/diabetes.
The selected ADH and ALDH gene variants had only minor effects, and did not seem to markedly modify the health effects of alcohol drinking. The observed statistical significant associations would not be significant, if corrected for multiple testing.
PMCID: PMC2916825  PMID: 20700531
17.  MicroRNAome of Porcine Pre- and Postnatal Development 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(7):e11541.
The domestic pig is of enormous agricultural significance and valuable models for many human diseases. Information concerning the pig microRNAome (miRNAome) has been long overdue and elucidation of this information will permit an atlas of microRNA (miRNA) regulation functions and networks to be constructed. Here we performed a comprehensive search for porcine miRNAs on ten small RNA sequencing libraries prepared from a mixture of tissues obtained during the entire pig lifetime, from the fetal period through adulthood. The sequencing results were analyzed using mammalian miRNAs, the precursor hairpins (pre-miRNAs) and the first release of the high-coverage porcine genome assembly (Sscrofa9, April 2009) and the available expressed sequence tag (EST) sequences. Our results extend the repertoire of pig miRNAome to 867 pre-miRNAs (623 with genomic coordinates) encoding for 1,004 miRNAs, of which 777 are unique. We preformed real-time quantitative PCR (q-PCR) experiments for selected 30 miRNAs in 47 tissue-specific samples and found agreement between the sequencing and q-PCR data. This broad survey provides detailed information about multiple variants of mature sequences, precursors, chromosomal organization, development-specific expression, and conservation patterns. Our data mining produced a broad view of the pig miRNAome, consisting of miRNAs and isomiRs and a wealth of information of pig miRNA characteristics. These results are prelude to the advancement in pig biology as well the use of pigs as model organism for human biological and biomedical studies.
PMCID: PMC2902522  PMID: 20634961
18.  The Early Nutritional Environment of Mice Determines the Capacity for Adipose Tissue Expansion by Modulating Genes of Caveolae Structure 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e11015.
While the phenomenon linking the early nutritional environment to disease susceptibility exists in many mammalian species, the underlying mechanisms are unknown. We hypothesized that nutritional programming is a variable quantitative state of gene expression, fixed by the state of energy balance in the neonate, that waxes and wanes in the adult animal in response to changes in energy balance. We tested this hypothesis with an experiment, based upon global gene expression, to identify networks of genes in which expression patterns in inguinal fat of mice have been altered by the nutritional environment during early post-natal development. The effects of over- and under-nutrition on adiposity and gene expression phenotypes were assessed at 5, 10, 21 days of age and in adult C57Bl/6J mice fed chow followed by high fat diet for 8 weeks. Under-nutrition severely suppressed plasma insulin and leptin during lactation and diet-induced obesity in adult mice, whereas over-nourished mice were phenotypically indistinguishable from those on a control diet. Food intake was not affected by under- or over-nutrition. Microarray gene expression data revealed a major class of genes encoding proteins of the caveolae and cytoskeleton, including Cav1, Cav2, Ptrf (Cavin1), Ldlr, Vldlr and Mest, that were highly associated with adipose tissue expansion in 10 day-old mice during the dynamic phase of inguinal fat development and in adult animals exposed to an obesogenic environment. In conclusion gene expression profiles, fat mass and adipocyte size in 10 day old mice predicted similar phenotypes in adult mice with variable diet-induced obesity. These results are supported by phenotypes of KO mice and suggest that when an animal enters a state of positive energy balance adipose tissue expansion is initiated by coordinate changes in mRNA levels for proteins required for modulating the structure of the caveolae to maximize the capacity of the adipocyte for lipid storage.
PMCID: PMC2888576  PMID: 20574519
19.  Targeted Genome-Wide Enrichment of Functional Regions 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e11138.
Only a small fraction of large genomes such as that of the human contains the functional regions such as the exons, promoters, and polyA sites. A platform technique for selective enrichment of functional genomic regions will enable several next-generation sequencing applications that include the discovery of causal mutations for disease and drug response. Here, we describe a powerful platform technique, termed “functional genomic fingerprinting” (FGF), for the multiplexed genomewide isolation and analysis of targeted regions such as the exome, promoterome, or exon splice enhancers. The technique employs a fixed part of a uniquely designed Fixed-Randomized primer, while the randomized part contains all the possible sequence permutations. The Fixed-Randomized primers bind with full sequence complementarity at multiple sites where the fixed sequence (such as the splice signals) occurs within the genome, and multiplex amplify many regions bounded by the fixed sequences (e.g., exons). Notably, validation of this technique using cardiac myosin binding protein-C (MYBPC3) gene as an example strongly supports the application and efficacy of this method. Further, assisted by genomewide computational analyses of such sequences, the FGF technique may provide a unique platform for high-throughput sample production and analysis of targeted genomic regions by the next-generation sequencing techniques, with powerful applications in discovering disease and drug response genes.
PMCID: PMC2886846  PMID: 20585402
20.  Switch from Stress Response to Homeobox Transcription Factors in Adipose Tissue After Profound Fat Loss 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e11033.
In obesity, impaired adipose tissue function may promote secondary disease through ectopic lipid accumulation and excess release of adipokines, resulting in systemic low-grade inflammation, insulin resistance and organ dysfunction. However, several of the genes regulating adipose tissue function in obesity are yet to be identified.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In order to identify novel candidate genes that may regulate adipose tissue function, we analyzed global gene expression in abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue before and one year after bariatric surgery (biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch, BPD/DS) (n = 16). Adipose tissue from lean healthy individuals was also analyzed (n = 13). Two different microarray platforms (AB 1700 and Illumina) were used to measure the differential gene expression, and the results were further validated by qPCR. Surgery reduced BMI from 53.3 to 33.1 kg/m2. The majority of differentially expressed genes were down-regulated after profound fat loss, including transcription factors involved in stress response, inflammation, and immune cell function (e.g., FOS, JUN, ETS, C/EBPB, C/EBPD). Interestingly, a distinct set of genes was up-regulated after fat loss, including homeobox transcription factors (IRX3, IRX5, HOXA5, HOXA9, HOXB5, HOXC6, EMX2, PRRX1) and extracellular matrix structural proteins (COL1A1, COL1A2, COL3A1, COL5A1, COL6A3).
The data demonstrate a marked switch of transcription factors in adipose tissue after profound fat loss, providing new molecular insight into a dichotomy between stress response and metabolically favorable tissue development. Our findings implicate homeobox transcription factors as important regulators of adipose tissue function.
PMCID: PMC2882947  PMID: 20543949
21.  Maternal Diet-Induced Obesity Alters Mitochondrial Activity and Redox Status in Mouse Oocytes and Zygotes 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10074.
The negative impact of obesity on reproductive success is well documented but the stages at which development of the conceptus is compromised and the mechanisms responsible for the developmental failure still remain unclear. Recent findings suggest that mitochondria may be a contributing factor. However to date no studies have directly addressed the consequences of maternal obesity on mitochondria in early embryogenesis.
Using an established murine model of maternal diet induced obesity and a live cell dynamic fluorescence imaging techniques coupled with molecular biology we have investigated the underlying mechanisms of obesity-induced reduced fertility. Our study is the first to show that maternal obesity prior to conception is associated with altered mitochondria in mouse oocytes and zygotes. Specifically, maternal diet-induced obesity in mice led to an increase in mitochondrial potential, mitochondrial DNA content and biogenesis. Generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) was raised while glutathione was depleted and the redox state became more oxidised, suggestive of oxidative stress. These altered mitochondrial properties were associated with significant developmental impairment as shown by the increased number of obese mothers who failed to support blastocyst formation compared to lean dams. We propose that compromised oocyte and early embryo mitochondrial metabolism, resulting from excessive nutrient exposure prior to and during conception, may underlie poor reproductive outcomes frequently reported in obese women.
PMCID: PMC2852405  PMID: 20404917
22.  The Relationship of Omental and Subcutaneous Adipocyte Size to Metabolic Disease in Severe Obesity 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e9997.
Several studies have reported the existence of a subgroup of obese individuals with normal metabolic profiles. It remains unclear what factors are responsible for this phenomenon. We proposed that adipocyte size might be a key factor in the protection of metabolically healthy obese (MHO) individuals from the adverse effects of obesity.
Thirty-five patients undergoing bariatric surgery were classified as MHO (n = 15) or metabolically unhealthy obese (MUO, n = 20) according to cut-off points adapted from the International Diabetes Federation definition of the metabolic syndrome. Median body mass index (BMI) was 48 (range 40–71).
There was a moderate correlation between omental adipocyte size and subcutaneous adipocyte size (r = 0.59, p<0.05). The MHO group had significantly lower mean omental adipocyte size (80.9±10.9 µm) when compared with metabolically unhealthy patients (100.0±7.6 µm, p<0.0001). Mean subcutaneous adipocyte size was similar between the two groups (104.1±8.5 µm versus 107.9±7.1 µm). Omental, but not subcutaneous adipocyte size, correlated with the degree of insulin resistance as measured by HOMA-IR (r = 0.73, p<0.0005), as well as other metabolic parameters including triglyceride/HDL-cholesterol ratio and HbA1c. Twenty-eight patients consented to liver biopsy. Of these, 46% had steatohepatitis and fibrosis. Fifty percent (including all the MHO patients) had steatosis only. Both omental and subcutaneous adipocyte size were significantly associated with the degree of steatosis (r = 0.66, p<0.0001 and r = 0.63, p<0.005 respectively). However, only omental adipocyte size was an independent predictor of the presence or absence of fibrosis.
Metabolically healthy individuals are a distinct subgroup of the severely obese. Both subcutaneous and omental adipocyte size correlated positively with the degree of fatty liver, but only omental adipocyte size was related to metabolic health, and possibly progression from hepatic steatosis to fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC2848665  PMID: 20376319
23.  Morbid Obesity as a Risk Factor for Hospitalization and Death Due to 2009 Pandemic Influenza A(H1N1) Disease 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9694.
Severe illness due to 2009 pandemic A(H1N1) infection has been reported among persons who are obese or morbidly obese. We assessed whether obesity is a risk factor for hospitalization and death due to 2009 pandemic influenza A(H1N1), independent of chronic medical conditions considered by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to increase the risk of influenza-related complications.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used a case-cohort design to compare cases of hospitalizations and deaths from 2009 pandemic A(H1N1) influenza occurring between April–July, 2009, with a cohort of the U.S. population estimated from the 2003–2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES); pregnant women and children <2 years old were excluded. For hospitalizations, we defined categories of relative weight by body mass index (BMI, kg/m2); for deaths, obesity or morbid obesity was recorded on medical charts, and death certificates. Odds ratio (OR) of being in each BMI category was determined; normal weight was the reference category. Overall, 361 hospitalizations and 233 deaths included information to determine BMI category and presence of ACIP-recognized medical conditions. Among ≥20 year olds, hospitalization was associated with being morbidly obese (BMI≥40) for individuals with ACIP-recognized chronic conditions (OR = 4.9, 95% CI 2.4–9.9) and without ACIP-recognized chronic conditions (OR = 4.7, 95%CI 1.3–17.2). Among 2–19 year olds, hospitalization was associated with being underweight (BMI≤5th percentile) among those with (OR = 12.5, 95%CI 3.4–45.5) and without (OR = 5.5, 95%CI 1.3–22.5) ACIP-recognized chronic conditions. Death was not associated with BMI category among individuals 2–19 years old. Among individuals aged ≥20 years without ACIP-recognized chronic medical conditions death was associated with obesity (OR = 3.1, 95%CI: 1.5–6.6) and morbid obesity (OR = 7.6, 95%CI 2.1–27.9).
Our findings support observations that morbid obesity may be associated with hospitalization and possibly death due to 2009 pandemic H1N1 infection. These complications could be prevented by early antiviral therapy and vaccination.
PMCID: PMC2837749  PMID: 20300571
24.  A General Framework for Formal Tests of Interaction after Exhaustive Search Methods with Applications to MDR and MDR-PDT 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9363.
The initial presentation of multifactor dimensionality reduction (MDR) featured cross-validation to mitigate over-fitting, computationally efficient searches of the epistatic model space, and variable construction with constructive induction to alleviate the curse of dimensionality. However, the method was unable to differentiate association signals arising from true interactions from those due to independent main effects at individual loci. This issue leads to problems in inference and interpretability for the results from MDR and the family-based compliment the MDR-pedigree disequilibrium test (PDT). A suggestion from previous work was to fit regression models post hoc to specifically evaluate the null hypothesis of no interaction for MDR or MDR-PDT models. We demonstrate with simulation that fitting a regression model on the same data as that analyzed by MDR or MDR-PDT is not a valid test of interaction. This is likely to be true for any other procedure that searches for models, and then performs an uncorrected test for interaction. We also show with simulation that when strong main effects are present and the null hypothesis of no interaction is true, that MDR and MDR-PDT reject at far greater than the nominal rate. We also provide a valid regression-based permutation test procedure that specifically tests the null hypothesis of no interaction, and does not reject the null when only main effects are present. The regression-based permutation test implemented here conducts a valid test of interaction after a search for multilocus models, and can be applied to any method that conducts a search to find a multilocus model representing an interaction.
PMCID: PMC2826406  PMID: 20186329
25.  Differential Effects of Thiazolidinediones on Adipocyte Growth and Recruitment in Zucker Fatty Rats 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8196.
Adipose tissue grows by two mechanisms: hyperplasia (cell number increase) and hypertrophy (cell size increase). Thiazolidinediones are insulin-sensitizing peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma agonists that are known to affect the morphology of adipose tissue.
In this study, adipose cell-size probability distributions were measured in six Zucker fa/fa rats over a period of 24 days, from four weeks of age, using micro-biopsies to obtain subcutaneous (inguinal) fat tissue from the animals. Three of the rats were gavaged daily with rosiglitazone, a thiazolidinedione, and three served as controls. These longitudinal probability distributions were analyzed to obtain the rate of increase in cell-size diameter in rosiglitazone-treated animals, and the hyperplasia induced by treatment quantitatively.
We found that treatment leads to hypertrophy that leads to an approximately linear rate of cell diameter increase (2 m/day), and that the hyperplasia evident in treated animals occurs largely within the first eight days of treatment. The availability of additional lipid storage due to treatment may alleviate lipotoxicity and thereby promote insulin sensitivity. The hypothesis that a TZD regimen involving repeated treatments of limited duration may suffice for improvements in insulin sensitivity merits further investigation.
PMCID: PMC2794370  PMID: 20041138

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