Genome-wide association (GWA) studies of psychiatric disorders have been criticized for their lack in explaining a considerable proportion of the heritability established in twin and family studies. GWA studies of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in particular have so far been unsuccessful in detecting genome-wide significant SNPs. Using two different recently proposed methods designed to estimate the heritability of a phenotype that is attributable to genome-wide SNPs, we show that SNPs on current platforms contain substantial information concerning the additive genetic variance of MDD. To assess the consistency of these two different methods we analyzed four other complex phenotypes from different domains. The pattern of results is consistent with estimates of heritability obtained in twin studies carried out in the same population.
Increased sympathetic activity has been hypothesized to have a role in the elevated somatic disease risk in persons with depressive or anxiety disorders. However, it remains unclear whether increased sympathetic activity reflects a direct effect of anxiety or depression or an indirect effect of antidepressant medication. The aim of this study was to test longitudinally whether cardiac sympathetic control, measured by pre-ejection period (PEP), was increased by depression/anxiety status and by antidepressant use. Cross-sectional and longitudinal data were from a depression and anxiety cohort: the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA). Baseline data of 2838 NESDA subjects (mean age 41.7 years, 66.7% female) and 2-year follow-up data of 2226 subjects were available for analyses. Included were subjects with and without depressive/anxiety disorders, using or not using different antidepressants at baseline or follow-up. The PEP was measured non-invasively by 1.5 h of ambulatory impedance cardiography. Cross-sectional analyses compared PEP across psychopathology and antidepressant groups. Longitudinal analyses compared 2-year changes in PEP in relation to changes in psychopathology and antidepressant use. Cross-sectional analyses showed that antidepressant-naïve depressive/anxious subjects had comparable PEP as controls, whereas subjects using tricyclic (TCA) or combined serotonergic/noradrenergic antidepressants (SNRI) had significantly shorter PEP compared with controls. In contrast, subjects using selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) had longer PEP than controls. Longitudinal results confirmed these findings: compared with 2-year change in PEP in continuous non-users (+2 ms), subjects who started TCA or SNRI treatment showed significantly shortened PEP (−11 ms, p=0.005 and p<0.001), whereas subjects who started SSRI treatment showed significant prolongation of PEP (+9 ms, p=0.002). Reversed findings were observed among those who stopped antidepressant use. These findings suggest that depressive and anxiety disorders are not associated with increased cardiac sympathetic control. However, results pose that TCA and SNRI use increases sympathetic control, whereas SSRI use decreases sympathetic control.
sympathetic nervous system; major depressive disorder; pre-ejection period; antidepressants; anxiety disorder; biological psychiatry; epidemiology; depression; unipolar/bipolar; psychopharmacology; antidepressants; autonomic nervous system; cardiac sympathetic effects
The aim of this study was to investigate the relative influence of genetic and environmental factors on children’s leisure time exercise behavior, through the classical twin design.
Data were taken from the Netherlands Twin Register. The twins were 7 (N=3,966 subjects), 10 (N=3,562) and 12 years old (N=8,687), with longitudinal data for 27% of the sample. Parents were asked to indicate the children’s regular participation in leisure time exercise activities, including frequency and duration. Resemblance between monozygotic and dizygotic twins for weekly MET hours spent on exercise activities was analyzed as a function of their genetic relatedness.
Average weekly MET hours increased with age for both boys [age 7: 14.0 (SD=11.8); age 10: 22.6 (SD=18.7); age 12: 28.4 (SD=24.9)] and girls [age 7: 9.7 (SD=9.5); age 10: 15.3 (SD=15.1); age 12: 19.3 (SD=19.8)]. Around 13% of boys and girls across all age groups did not participate in any regular leisure time exercise activities. Tracking of exercise behavior from age 7 to age 12 was modest (.168 < r < .534). For boys, genetic effects accounted for 24% (CI: 18–30%) of the variance at age 7, 66% (53–81%) at age 10 and 38% (32–46%) at age 12. For girls, this was 22% (15–30%), 16% (9–24%), and 36% (30–43%), respectively. Environmental influences shared by children from the same family explained 71%, 25% and 50% of the variance in boys (aged 7, 10, 12) and 67%, 72% and 53% in girls. The shared environment influencing exercise behavior was partially different between boys and girls.
Our results stress the important role of shared environment for exercise behavior in young children.
Twin design; physical activity; heritability; genes; tracking; childhood
Personality can be thought of as a set of characteristics that influence people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviour across a variety of settings. Variation in personality is predictive of many outcomes in life, including mental health. Here we report on a meta-analysis of genome-wide association (GWA) data for personality in ten discovery samples (17 375 adults) and five in-silico replication samples (3 294 adults). All participants were of European ancestry. Personality scores for Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness were based on the NEO Five-Factor Inventory. Genotype data were available of ~2.4M Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs; directly typed and imputed using HAPMAP data). In the discovery samples, classical association analyses were performed under an additive model followed by meta-analysis using the weighted inverse variance method. Results showed genome-wide significance for Openness to Experience near the RASA1 gene on 5q14.3 (rs1477268 and rs2032794, P = 2.8 × 10−8 and 3.1 × 10−8) and for Conscientiousness in the brain-expressed KATNAL2 gene on 18q21.1 (rs2576037, P = 4.9 × 10−8). We further conducted a gene-based test that confirmed the association of KATNAL2 to Conscientiousness. In-silico replication did not, however, show significant associations of the top SNPs with Openness and Conscientiousness, although the direction of effect of the KATNAL2 SNP on Conscientiousness was consistent in all replication samples. Larger scale GWA studies and alternative approaches are required for confirmation of KATNAL2 as a novel gene affecting Conscientiousness.
Personality; Five-Factor Model; Genome-wide association; Meta-analysis; Genetic variants
Serum gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) activity is a marker of liver disease which is also prospectively associated with the risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancers. We have discovered novel loci affecting GGT in a genome-wide association study (rs1497406 in an intergenic region of chromosome 1, P = 3.9 × 10−8; rs944002 in C14orf73 on chromosome 14, P = 4.7 × 10−13; rs340005 in RORA on chromosome 15, P = 2.4 × 10−8), and a highly significant heterogeneity between adult and adolescent results at the GGT1 locus on chromosome 22 (maximum PHET = 5.6 × 10−12 at rs6519520). Pathway analysis of significant and suggestive single-nucleotide polymorphism associations showed significant overlap between genes affecting GGT and those affecting common metabolic and inflammatory diseases, and identified the hepatic nuclear factor (HNF) family as controllers of a network of genes affecting GGT. Our results reinforce the disease associations of GGT and demonstrate that control by the GGT1 locus varies with age.
Maladaptive impulsivity is a core symptom in various psychiatric disorders. However, there is only limited evidence available on whether different measures of impulsivity represent largely unrelated aspects or a unitary construct. In a cross-species translational study, thirty rats were trained in impulsive choice (delayed reward task) and impulsive action (five-choice serial reaction time task) paradigms. The correlation between those measures was assessed during baseline performance and after pharmacological manipulations with the psychostimulant amphetamine and the norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor atomoxetine. In parallel, to validate the animal data, 101 human subjects performed analogous measures of impulsive choice (delay discounting task, DDT) and impulsive action (immediate and delayed memory task, IMT/DMT). Moreover, all subjects completed the Stop Signal Task (SST, as an additional measure of impulsive action) and filled out the Barratt impulsiveness scale (BIS-11). Correlations between DDT and IMT/DMT were determined and a principal component analysis was performed on all human measures of impulsivity. In both rats and humans measures of impulsive choice and impulsive action did not correlate. In rats the within-subject pharmacological effects of amphetamine and atomoxetine did not correlate between tasks, suggesting distinct underlying neural correlates. Furthermore, in humans, principal component analysis identified three independent factors: (1) self-reported impulsivity (BIS-11); (2) impulsive action (IMT/DMT and SST); (3) impulsive choice (DDT). This is the first study directly comparing aspects of impulsivity using a cross-species translational approach. The present data reveal the non-unitary nature of impulsivity on a behavioral and pharmacological level. Collectively, this warrants a stronger focus on the relative contribution of distinct forms of impulsivity in psychopathology.
This study tests in a genetically informative design whether exercise behavior causally influences subjective wellbeing (SWB) and internalizing problems (INT). If exercise causally influences SWB and INT, genetic and environmental factors influencing exercise behavior will also influence SWB and INT. Furthermore, within genetically identical (MZ) twin pairs, the twin who exercises more should also show higher levels of SWB and lower levels of INT, than the co-twin who exercises less, because genetic confounding is excluded. Data on these phenotypes were available in a sample of 6317 adolescent twins and 1180 non-twin-siblings. Most participants had longitudinal data with 2-year follow-up. Exercise behavior was cross-sectionally and longitudinally associated with fewer internalizing problems and increased SWB (correlations ranged from 0.12 to 0.16). Cross-sectional and longitudinal associations were mainly accounted for by genetic factors, whereas the contribution of environmental factors was negligible. Within MZ twin pairs, the twin who exercised more did not show fewer internalizing problems and increased SWB. This was found cross-sectionally and longitudinally. We conclude that exercise behavior is associated with fewer internalizing problems and higher levels of SWB. The association largely reflects the effects of common genetic factors on these traits.
regular exercise; subjective wellbeing; internalizing behavior; causality; genetic pleiotropy; twin-sibling
This study examined the heritability of problem drinking and investigated the phenotypic and genetic relationships between problem drinking and personality. In a sample of 5,870 twins and siblings and 4,420 additional family members from the Netherlands Twin Register. Data on problem drinking (assessed with the AUDIT and CAGE; 12 items) and personality [NEO Five-Factor Inventory (FFI); 60 items] were collected in 2009/2010 by surveys. Confirmatory factor analysis on the AUDIT and CAGE items showed that the items clustered on two separate but highly correlated (r = 0.74) underlying factors. A higher-order factor was extracted that reflected those aspects of problem drinking that are common to the AUDIT and CAGE, which showed a heritability of 40%. The correlations between problem drinking and the five dimensions of personality were small but significant, ranging from 0.06 for Extraversion to −0.12 for Conscientiousness. All personality dimensions (with broad-sense heritabilities between 32 and 55%, and some evidence for non-additive genetic influences) were genetically correlated with problem drinking. The genetic correlations were small to modest (between |0.12| and |0.41|). Future studies with longitudinal data and DNA polymorphisms are needed to determine the biological mechanisms that underlie the genetic link between problem drinking and personality.
problem drinking; personality; five-factor model; factor analysis; heritability; genetic correlation; twins
Higher resting heart rate is associated with increased cardiovascular disease and mortality risk. Though heritable factors play a substantial role in population variation, little is known about specific genetic determinants. This knowledge can impact clinical care by identifying novel factors that influence pathologic heart rate states, modulate heart rate through cardiac structure and function or by improving our understanding of the physiology of heart rate regulation. To identify common genetic variants associated with heart rate, we performed a meta-analysis of 15 genome-wide association studies (GWAS), including 38 991 subjects of European ancestry, estimating the association between age-, sex- and body mass-adjusted RR interval (inverse heart rate) and ∼2.5 million markers. Results with P < 5 × 10−8 were considered genome-wide significant. We constructed regression models with multiple markers to assess whether results at less stringent thresholds were likely to be truly associated with RR interval. We identified six novel associations with resting heart rate at six loci: 6q22 near GJA1; 14q12 near MYH7; 12p12 near SOX5, c12orf67, BCAT1, LRMP and CASC1; 6q22 near SLC35F1, PLN and c6orf204; 7q22 near SLC12A9 and UfSp1; and 11q12 near FADS1. Associations at 6q22 400 kb away from GJA1, at 14q12 MYH6 and at 1q32 near CD34 identified in previously published GWAS were confirmed. In aggregate, these variants explain ∼0.7% of RR interval variance. A multivariant regression model including 20 variants with P < 10−5 increased the explained variance to 1.6%, suggesting that some loci falling short of genome-wide significance are likely truly associated. Future research is warranted to elucidate underlying mechanisms that may impact clinical care.
We report a genome-wide association study to iron status. We identify an association of SNPs in TPMRSS6 to serum iron (rs855791, combined P = 1.5×10−20), transferrin saturation (combined P = 2.2×10−23), and erythrocyte mean cell volume (MCV, combined P = 1.1×10−10). We also find suggestive evidence of association with blood haemoglobin levels (combined P = 5.3×10−7). These findings demonstrate the involvement of TMPRSS6 in control of iron homeostasis and in normal erythropoiesis.
Neuroimaging studies have indicated abnormalities in cortico-striatal-thalamo-cortical circuits in patients with obsessive–compulsive disorder compared with controls. However, there are inconsistencies between studies regarding the exact set of brain structures involved and the direction of anatomical and functional changes. These inconsistencies may reflect the differential impact of environmental and genetic risk factors for obsessive–compulsive disorder on different parts of the brain. To distinguish between functional brain changes underlying environmentally and genetically mediated obsessive–compulsive disorder, we compared task performance and brain activation during a Tower of London planning paradigm in monozygotic twins discordant (n = 38) or concordant (n = 100) for obsessive–compulsive symptoms. Twins who score high on obsessive–compulsive symptoms can be considered at high risk for obsessive–compulsive disorder. We found that subjects at high risk for obsessive–compulsive disorder did not differ from the low-risk subjects behaviourally, but we obtained evidence that the high-risk subjects differed from the low-risk subjects in the patterns of brain activation accompanying task execution. These regions can be separated into those that were affected by mainly environmental risk (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and lingual cortex), genetic risk (frontopolar cortex, inferior frontal cortex, globus pallidus and caudate nucleus) and regions affected by both environmental and genetic risk factors (cingulate cortex, premotor cortex and parts of the parietal cortex). Our results suggest that neurobiological changes related to obsessive–compulsive symptoms induced by environmental factors involve primarily the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, whereas neurobiological changes induced by genetic factors involve orbitofrontal–basal ganglia structures. Regions showing similar changes in high-risk twins from discordant and concordant pairs may be part of compensatory networks that keep planning performance intact, in spite of cortico-striatal-thalamo-cortical deficits.
discordant/concordant monozygotic twin design; obsessive–compulsive symptoms; fMRI; planning
Deficiency in signal transduction might play a role in the development of anxiety and depression, as suggested by a study on the involvement of the PKA-independent Epac pathway. We investigated the association between Epac-1 gene variants, also known as RapGEF-3, and measures of anxiety and depression in a Dutch twin-family sample. Replication was sought in a USA sample consisting of unrelated individuals. Genotype and phenotype data were available for 910 Dutch and 684 USA individuals. Longitudinal self-report measures of neuroticism, anxiety and depression and genetic factor scores (GFS-NL), based on these measures, were analyzed in the Dutch sample. In the USA sample, neuroticism and Genetic Factor Scores (GFS-USA), based on neuroticism and diagnoses of anxiety disorders and depression, were analyzed. Three intronic SNPs were genotyped. Analyses were performed in QTDT. Genotype and haplotype frequencies differed significantly between the samples. In the Dutch sample, rs2072115 showed a significant dominant effect for anxiety and depression. Subjects with haplotype G-C-C (ordered rs2072115-rs757281-2074533) had significantly lower anxiety, neuroticism and GFS-NL scores. In the USA sample, a significant additive effect of rs2074533 on GFS-USA was found. Subjects with haplotypes G-C-C and A-C-T had significantly higher and lower GFS-USA scores, respectively. Both samples showed an association between Epac-1 gene variants and anxiety and depression, but for different variants or in opposite directions. The divergent results could be due to differences in linkage disequilibrium between the investigated SNPs and a functional polymorphism in the Dutch and USA sample.
RapGEF-3; association study; anxiety; depression
The aim of this study was to investigate the degree to which genetic and environmental influences affect variation in adolescent exercise behavior. Data on regular leisure time exercise activities were analyzed in 8,355 adolescent twins, from three-age cohorts (13-14, 15-16, and 17–19 years). Exercise behavior was assessed with survey items about type of regular leisure time exercise, frequency, and duration of the activities. Participants were classified as sedentary, regular exercisers, or vigorous exercisers. The prevalence of moderate exercise behavior declined from age 13 to 19 years with a parallel increase in prevalence of sedentary behavior, whereas the prevalence of vigorous exercise behavior remained constant across age cohorts. Variation in exercise behavior was analyzed with genetic structural equation modeling employing a liability threshold model. Variation was largely accounted for by genetic factors (72% to 85% of the variance was explained by genetic factors), whereas shared environmental factors only accounted for a substantial part of the variation in girls aged 13-14 years (46%). We hypothesize that genetic effects on exercise ability may explain the high heritability of exercise behavior in this phase of life.
In contrast to the large number of studies in children, there is little information on the contribution of genetic factors to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults.
To estimate the heritability of ADHD in adults as assessed by the ADHD index scored from the CAARS (Conners' Adult ADHD Rating Scales).
Phenotype data from over 12,000 adults (twins, siblings and parents) registered with the Netherlands Twin Register were analyzed using genetic structural equation modeling.
Main outcome measures
Heritability estimates for ADHD from the twin-family study.
Heritability of ADHD in adults is estimated around 30% in men and women. There is some evidence for assortative mating. All familial transmission is explained by genetic inheritance, there is no support for the hypothesis that cultural transmission from parents to offspring is important.
Heritability for ADHD features in adults is present, but is substantially lower than it is in children.
It is well established that major depressive disorder (MDD) is partly heritable. We present a genome-wide linkage study aiming to find regions on the genome that influence the vulnerability for MDD. Our sample consists of 110 Australian and 23 Dutch pedigrees with two or more siblings affected with MDD (total N = 278). Linkage analysis was carried out in MERLIN. Three regions showed suggestive linkage signals. The highest LOD-score of 2.1 was found on chromosome 17 at 52.6 cM along with LOD scores of 1.9 and 1.7 on chromosome 8 at 2.7 cM and chromosome 2 at 90.6 cM, respectively. The result on chromosome 8 seems most promising as two previous studies also found linkage in this region, once suggestive and once significant. The linkage peak on chromosome 17 harbors the serotonin transporter gene. In the Australian and Dutch sample, the serotonin transporter length polymorphism did not show evidence for association, thus other genes in this region or other polymorphisms in the serotonin transporter gene might be associated with MDD. Further replication is needed to establish the relevance of our linkage finding on chromosome 2.
genome-wide linkage; depression; genetics; family study; serotonin transporter gene
The Sternberg Memory Scanning (SMS) task provides a measure of processing speed (PS) and working memory retrieval speed (WMS). In this task, participants are presented with sets of stimuli that vary in size. After a delay, one item is presented, and participants indicate whether or not the item was part of the set. Performance is assessed by speed and accuracy for both the positive (item is part of the set) and the negative trials (items is not part of the set). To examine the causes of variation in PS and WMS, 623 adult twins and their siblings completed the SMS task. A non-linear growth curve (nLGC) model best described the increase in reaction time with increasing set size. Genetic analyses showed that WMS (modeled as the Slope in the nLGC model) has a relatively small variance which is not due to genetic variation while PS (modeled as the Intercept in the nLGC model) showed large individual differences, part of which could be attributed to additive genetic factors. Heritability was 38% for positive and 32% for negative trials. Additional multivariate analyses showed that the genetic effects on PS for positive and negative trials were completely shared. We conclude that genetic influences on working memory performance are more likely to act upon basic processing speed and (pre)motoric processes than on the speed with which an item is retrieved from short term memory.
Short term memory; Heritability; Twin study; Processing speed; Working memory speed
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a common complex trait with enormous public health significance. As part of the Genetic Association Information Network (GAIN) initiative of the US Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, we conducted a genomewide association study of 435,291 SNPs genotyped in 1,738 MDD cases and 1,802 controls selected to be at low liability for MDD. Eleven of the top 200 signals localized to a 167 kb region overlapping the gene piccolo (PCLO, whose protein product localizes to the cytomatrix of the presynaptic active zone and plays an important role in monoaminergic neurotransmission in the brain) with p-values of 7.7×10−7 for rs2715148 and 1.2×10−6 for rs2522833. We undertook replication of SNPs in this region in 5 independent samples (6,079 MDD independent cases and 5,893 controls) but no SNP exceeded the replication significance threshold when all replication samples were analyzed together. However, there was heterogeneity in the replication samples, and secondary analysis of the original sample with the sample of greatest similarity yielded p=6.4×10−8 for the non-synonymous SNP rs2522833 that gives rise to a serine to alanine substitution near a C2 calcium-binding-domain of the PCLO protein. With the integrated replication effort, we present a specific hypothesis for further studies.
major depressive disorder; genome-wide association; Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety; Netherlands Twin Registry
Northwestern Europeans are among the tallest of human populations. The increase in body height in these people appears to have reached a plateau, suggesting the ubiquitous presence of an optimal environment in which genetic factors may have exerted a particularly strong influence on human growth. Therefore, we performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of body height using 2.2 million markers in 10 074 individuals from three Dutch and one German population-based cohorts. Upon genotyping, the 12 most significantly height-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from this GWAS in 6912 additional individuals of Dutch and Swedish origin, a genetic variant (rs6717918) on chromosome 2q37.1 was found to be associated with height at a genome-wide significance level (Pcombined = 3.4 × 10−9). Notably, a second SNP (rs6718438) located ∼450 bp away and in strong LD (r2 = 0.77) with rs6717918 was previously found to be suggestive of a height association in 29 820 individuals of mainly northwestern European ancestry, and the over-expression of a nearby natriuretic peptide precursor type C (NPPC) gene, has been associated with overgrowth and skeletal anomalies. We also found a SNP (rs10472828) located on 5p14 near the natriuretic peptide receptor 3 (NPR3) gene, encoding a receptor of the NPPC ligand, to be associated with body height (Pcombined = 2.1 × 10−7). Taken together, these results suggest that variation in the C-type natriuretic peptide signaling pathway, involving the NPPC and NPR3 genes, plays an important role in determining human body height.
Gene-environment interaction was studied in a sample of young (mean age 26 years, N = 385) and older (mean age 49 years, N = 370) adult males and females. Full scale IQ scores (FSIQ) were analyzed using biometric models in which additive genetic (A), common environmental (C), and unique environmental (E) effects were allowed to depend on environmental measures. Moderators under study were parental and partner educational level, as well as urbanization level and mean real estate price of the participants’ residential area. Mean effects were observed for parental education, partner education and urbanization level. On average, FSIQ scores were roughly 5 points higher in participants with highly educated parents, compared to participants whose parents were less well educated. In older participants, IQ scores were about 2 points higher when their partners were highly educated. In younger males, higher urbanization levels were associated with slightly higher FSIQ scores. Our analyses also showed increased common environmental variation in older males whose parents were more highly educated, and increased unique environmental effects in older males living in more affluent areas. Contrary to studies in children, however, the variance attributable to additive genetic effects was stable across all levels of the moderators under study. Most results were replicated for VIQ and PIQ.
G × E interaction; IQ; SES; Parental education; Partner education; Urbanization; Mean real estate price
Two well-known response interference tasks are the Eriksen flanker task and the
spatial conflict task. The tasks are logically equivalent, and comparable
effects of current and previous stimulus type (congruent or incongruent) have
been shown with regard to reaction time (RT). Here, we investigated whether
interference and sequential trial effects also had comparable effects on
accuracy. We specifically tested whether these effects interacted with the speed
of responding using conditional accuracy functions (CAFs). The CAFs revealed
that in both tasks congruency and sequential trial effects on accuracy are found
only in trials with fast responses (< 600 ms). Sequential trial effects
on accuracy were weaker for the flanker task than for the spatial conflict task.
In very fast trials (< 400 ms) response activation by distracting
flankers led to below-chance performance in the flanker task, but response
activation by incongruent spatial location did not lead to below-chance
performance in the spatial conflict task. The pattern of results hints at subtle
differences in processing architecture between the tasks.
response interference; sequential analysis; accuracy; Simon task; flanker
Over the past 25 years, the Adult Netherlands Twin Register (ANTR) has collected a wealth of information on physical and mental health, lifestyle, and personality in adolescents and adults. This article provides an overview of the sources of information available, the main research findings, and an outlook for the future. Between 1991 and 2012, longitudinal surveys were completed by twins, their parents, siblings, spouses, and offspring. Data are available for 33,957 participants, with most individuals having completed two or more surveys. Smaller projects provided in-depth phenotyping, including measurements of the autonomic nervous system, neurocognitive function, and brain imaging. For 46% of the ANTR participants, DNA samples are available and whole genome scans have been obtained in more than 11,000 individuals. These data have resulted in numerous studies on heritability, gene × environment interactions, and causality, as well as gene finding studies. In the future, these studies will continue with collection of additional phenotypes, such as metabolomic and telomere length data, and detailed genetic information provided by DNA and RNA sequencing. Record linkage to national registers will allow the study of morbidity and mortality, thus providing insight into the development of health, lifestyle, and behavior across the lifespan.
twin family studies; gene finding; longitudinal surveys; biobank; DNA
Economic variables such as income, education, and occupation are known to affect mortality and morbidity, such as cardiovascular disease, and have also been shown to be partly heritable. However, very little is known about which genes influence economic variables, although these genes may have both a direct and an indirect effect on health. We report results from the first large-scale collaboration that studies the molecular genetic architecture of an economic variable–entrepreneurship–that was operationalized using self-employment, a widely-available proxy. Our results suggest that common SNPs when considered jointly explain about half of the narrow-sense heritability of self-employment estimated in twin data (σg2/σP2 = 25%, h2 = 55%). However, a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies across sixteen studies comprising 50,627 participants did not identify genome-wide significant SNPs. 58 SNPs with p<10−5 were tested in a replication sample (n = 3,271), but none replicated. Furthermore, a gene-based test shows that none of the genes that were previously suggested in the literature to influence entrepreneurship reveal significant associations. Finally, SNP-based genetic scores that use results from the meta-analysis capture less than 0.2% of the variance in self-employment in an independent sample (p≥0.039). Our results are consistent with a highly polygenic molecular genetic architecture of self-employment, with many genetic variants of small effect. Although self-employment is a multi-faceted, heavily environmentally influenced, and biologically distal trait, our results are similar to those for other genetically complex and biologically more proximate outcomes, such as height, intelligence, personality, and several diseases.
We examined sex differences in familial resemblance for a broad range of behavioral, psychiatric and health related phenotypes (122 complex traits) in children and adults. There is a renewed interest in the importance of genotype by sex interaction in, for example, genome-wide association (GWA) studies of complex phenotypes. If different genes play a role across sex, GWA studies should consider the effect of genetic variants separately in men and women, which affects statistical power. Twin and family studies offer an opportunity to compare resemblance between opposite-sex family members to the resemblance between same-sex relatives, thereby presenting a test of quantitative and qualitative sex differences in the genetic architecture of complex traits. We analyzed data on lifestyle, personality, psychiatric disorder, health, growth, development and metabolic traits in dizygotic (DZ) same-sex and opposite-sex twins, as these siblings are perfectly matched for age and prenatal exposures. Sample size varied from slightly over 300 subjects for measures of brain function such as EEG power to over 30,000 subjects for childhood psychopathology and birth weight. For most phenotypes, sample sizes were large, with an average sample size of 9027 individuals. By testing whether the resemblance in DZ opposite-sex pairs is the same as in DZ same-sex pairs, we obtain evidence for genetic qualitative sex-differences in the genetic architecture of complex traits for 4% of phenotypes. We conclude that for most traits that were examined, the current evidence is that same the genes are operating in men and women.
To identify previously unknown genetic loci associated with fasting glucose concentrations, we examined the leading association signals in ten genome-wide association scans involving a total of 36,610 individuals of European descent. Variants in the gene encoding melatonin receptor 1B (MTNR1B) were consistently associated with fasting glucose across all ten studies. The strongest signal was observed at rs10830963, where each G allele (frequency 0.30 in HapMap CEU) was associated with an increase of 0.07 (95% CI = 0.06-0.08) mmol/l in fasting glucose levels (P = 3.2 = × 10−50) and reduced beta-cell function as measured by homeostasis model assessment (HOMA-B, P = 1.1 × 10−15). The same allele was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (odds ratio = 1.09 (1.05-1.12), per G allele P = 3.3 × 10−7) in a meta-analysis of 13 case-control studies totaling 18,236 cases and 64,453 controls. Our analyses also confirm previous associations of fasting glucose with variants at the G6PC2 (rs560887, P = 1.1 × 10−57) and GCK (rs4607517, P = 1.0 × 10−25) loci.
We aimed to identify novel genetic variants affecting asthma risk, since these might provide novel insights into molecular mechanisms underlying asthma.
We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 2,669 physician-diagnosed asthmatics and 4,528 controls from Australia. Seven loci were prioritised for replication after combining our results with those from the GABRIEL consortium (n=26,475), and these were tested in an additional 25,358 independent samples from four in-silico cohorts. Quantitative multi-SNP scores of genetic load were constructed on the basis of results from the GABRIEL study and tested for association with asthma in our Australian GWAS dataset.
Two loci were confirmed to associate with asthma risk in the replication cohorts and reached genome-wide significance in the combined analysis of all available studies (n=57,800): rs4129267 (OR=1.09, combined P=2.4×10−8) in the interleukin-6 receptor gene (IL6R) and rs7130588 (OR=1.09, P=1.8×10−8) on chromosome 11q13.5 near the leucine-rich repeat containing 32 gene (LRRC32, also known as GARP). The 11q13.5 locus was significantly associated with atopic status among asthmatics (OR = 1.33, P = 7×10−4), suggesting that it is a risk factor for allergic but not non-allergic asthma. Multi-SNP association results are consistent with a highly polygenic contribution to asthma risk, including loci with weak effects that may be shared with other immune-related diseases, such as NDFIP1, HLA-B, LPP and BACH2.
The IL6R association further supports the hypothesis that cytokine signalling dysregulation affects asthma risk, and raises the possibility that an IL6R antagonist (tocilizumab) may be effective to treat the disease, perhaps in a genotype-dependent manner. Results for the 11q13.5 locus suggest that it directly increases the risk of allergic sensitisation which, in turn, increases the risk of subsequent development of asthma. Larger or more functionally focused studies are needed to characterise the many loci with modest effects that remain to be identified for asthma.
A full list of funding sources appears at the end of the paper.