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1.  Pleiotropic genes for metabolic syndrome and inflammation 
Molecular genetics and metabolism  2014;112(4):317-338.
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) has become a health and financial burden worldwide. The MetS definition captures clustering of risk factors that predict higher risk for diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. Our study hypothesis is that additional to genes influencing individual MetS risk factors, genetic variants exist that influence MetS and inflammatory markers forming a predisposing MetS genetic network. To test this hypothesis a staged approach was undertaken. (a) We analyzed 17 metabolic and inflammatory traits in more than 85,500 participants from 14 large epidemiological studies within the Cross Consortia Pleiotropy Group. Individuals classified with MetS (NCEP definition), versus those without, showed on average significantly different levels for most inflammatory markers studied. (b) Paired average correlations between 8 metabolic traits and 9 inflammatory markers from the same studies as above, estimated with two methods, and factor analyses on large simulated data, helped in identifying 8 combinations of traits for follow-up in meta-analyses, out of 130,305 possible combinations between metabolic traits and inflammatory markers studied. (c) We performed correlated meta-analyses for 8 metabolic traits and 6 inflammatory markers by using existing GWAS published genetic summary results, with about 2.5 million SNPs from twelve predominantly largest GWAS consortia. These analyses yielded 130 unique SNPs/genes with pleiotropic associations (a SNP/gene associating at least one metabolic trait and one inflammatory marker). Of them twenty-five variants (seven loci newly reported) are proposed as MetS candidates. They map to genes MACF1, KIAA0754, GCKR, GRB14, COBLL1, LOC646736-IRS1, SLC39A8, NELFE, SKIV2L, STK19, TFAP2B, BAZ1B, BCL7B, TBL2, MLXIPL, LPL, TRIB1, ATXN2, HECTD4, PTPN11, ZNF664, PDXDC1, FTO, MC4R and TOMM40. Based on large data evidence, we conclude that inflammation is a feature of MetS and several gene variants show pleiotropic genetic associations across phenotypes and might explain a part of MetS correlated genetic architecture. These findings warrant further functional investigation.
PMCID: PMC4122618  PMID: 24981077
2.  SLC2A9 Genotype Is Associated with SLC2A9 Gene Expression and Urinary Uric Acid Concentration 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0128593.
SLC2A9 gene variants have been associated with urinary uric acid (UA) concentration, but little is known about the functional mechanism linking these gene variants with UA. SLC2A9 encodes a UA transporter present in the proximal tubule of the kidney, and gene expression levels of SLC2A9 and other genes in the uricosuric pathway (ABCG2, SLC17A1, SLC17A3, and SLC22A12) could potentially mediate the relationship between SLC2A9 gene variants and urinary UA excretion.
The association between urinary UA concentrations and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the SLC2A9 gene region, expression levels of genes in the uricosuric pathway, and dietary protein intake were analyzed for a sample of non-Hispanic white participants from the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy (GENOA) cohort. The SLC2A9 SNP most significantly associated with urinary UA concentration was then tested for associations with gene expression levels from uric acid absorption/secretion associated genes. Models including interactions between dietary protein (total, animal, and vegetable) and genetic factors were also assessed.
The most significant SLC2A9 SNP associated with urinary UA (rs12509955, corrected p = 0.001) was also associated with SLC2A9 gene expression levels (corrected p = 0.0084); however, SLC2A9 gene expression levels were not significantly associated with urinary UA concentrations (p = 0.509). The interactions between rs12509955 and total dietary protein, and SLC2A9 gene-level gene expression and dietary vegetable protein on the outcome of urinary UA were marginally significant (p = 0.11 and p = 0.07, respectively). Gene expression level of one SLC2A9 transcript had a significant interaction with dietary animal protein (SLC2A9-001 ENST00000506583, p = 0.01) and a marginally significant interaction with total dietary protein (p = 0.07) on urinary UA.
Our results illustrate that SNPs in the SLC2A9 gene influence SLC2A9 gene expression as well as urinary UA excretion. Evidence is also suggestive that gene-by-diet interactions may disproportionately increase urinary UA in genetically susceptible individuals that consume higher amounts of protein.
PMCID: PMC4500555  PMID: 26167684
3.  Current Applications of Genetic Risk Scores to Cardiovascular Outcomes and Subclinical Phenotypes 
Current Epidemiology Reports  2015;2(3):180-190.
Genetic risk scores are a useful tool for examining the cumulative predictive ability of genetic variation on cardiovascular disease. Important considerations for creating genetic risk scores include the choice of genetic variants, weighting, and comparability across ethnicities. Genetic risk scores that use information from genome-wide meta-analyses can successfully predict cardiovascular outcomes and subclinical phenotypes, yet there is limited clinical utility of these scores beyond traditional cardiovascular risk factors in many populations. Novel uses of genetic risk scores include evaluating the genetic contribution of specific intermediate traits or risk factors to cardiovascular disease, risk prediction in high-risk populations, gene-by-environment interaction studies, and Mendelian randomization studies. Though questions remain about the ultimate clinical utility of the genetic risk score, further investigation in high-risk populations and new ways to combine genetic risk scores with traditional risk factors may prove to be fruitful.
PMCID: PMC4527979  PMID: 26269782
Genetic risk score; Cardiovascular disease; Coronary heart disease; Ischemic stroke; Hypertension; Blood pressure
4.  Meta-analysis of loci associated with age at natural menopause in African-American women 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(12):3327-3342.
Age at menopause marks the end of a woman's reproductive life and its timing associates with risks for cancer, cardiovascular and bone disorders. GWAS and candidate gene studies conducted in women of European ancestry have identified 27 loci associated with age at menopause. The relevance of these loci to women of African ancestry has not been previously studied. We therefore sought to uncover additional menopause loci and investigate the relevance of European menopause loci by performing a GWAS meta-analysis in 6510 women with African ancestry derived from 11 studies across the USA. We did not identify any additional loci significantly associated with age at menopause in African Americans. We replicated the associations between six loci and age at menopause (P-value < 0.05): AMHR2, RHBLD2, PRIM1, HK3/UMC1, BRSK1/TMEM150B and MCM8. In addition, associations of 14 loci are directionally consistent with previous reports. We provide evidence that genetic variants influencing reproductive traits identified in European populations are also important in women of African ancestry residing in USA.
PMCID: PMC4030781  PMID: 24493794
5.  Association between Stress Response Genes and Features of Diurnal Cortisol Curves in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis: A New Multi-Phenotype Approach for Gene-Based Association Tests 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0126637.
The hormone cortisol is likely to be a key mediator of the stress response that influences multiple physiologic systems that are involved in common chronic disease, including the cardiovascular system, the immune system, and metabolism. In this paper, a candidate gene approach was used to investigate genetic contributions to variability in multiple correlated features of the daily cortisol profile in a sample of European Americans, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). We proposed and applied a new gene-level multiple-phenotype analysis and carried out a meta-analysis to combine the ethnicity specific results. This new analysis, instead of a more routine single marker-single phenotype approach identified a significant association between one gene (ADRB2) and cortisol features (meta-analysis p-value=0.0025), which was not identified by three other commonly used existing analytic strategies: 1. Single marker association tests involving each single cortisol feature separately; 2. Single marker association tests jointly testing for multiple cortisol features; 3. Gene-level association tests separately carried out for each single cortisol feature. The analytic strategies presented consider different hypotheses regarding genotype-phenotype association and imply different costs of multiple testing. The proposed gene-level analysis integrating multiple cortisol features across multiple ethnic groups provides new insights into the gene-cortisol association.
PMCID: PMC4439141  PMID: 25993632
6.  The cis and trans effects of the risk variants of coronary artery disease in the Chr9p21 region 
BMC Medical Genomics  2015;8:21.
Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have shown that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the Chr9p21 region are associated with coronary artery disease (CAD). Most of the SNPs identified in this region are non-coding SNPs, suggesting that they may influence gene expression by cis or trans mechanisms to affect disease susceptibility. Since all cells from an individual have the same DNA sequence variations, levels of gene expression in immortalized cell lines can reflect the functional effects of DNA sequence variations that influence or regulate gene expression. The objective of this study is to evaluate the functional consequences of the risk variants in the Chr9p21 region on gene expression.
We examined the association between the variants in the Chr9p21 region and the transcript-level mRNA expression of the adjacent genes (cis) as well as all other genes across the whole genome (trans) from transformed beta-lymphocytes in 801 non-Hispanic white participants from The Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy (GENOA) study.
We found that the CAD risk variants in the Chr9p21 region were significantly associated with the mRNA expression of the ANRIL transcript ENST00000428597 (p = 8.58e-06). Importantly, a few distant transcripts were also found to be associated with the variants in this region, including the well-known CAD risk gene ABCA1 (p = 1.01e-05). Gene enrichment testing suggests that retinol metabolism, N-Glycan biosynthesis, and TGF signaling pathways may be involved.
These results suggest that the effect of risk variants in the Chr9p21 region on susceptibility to CAD is likely to be mediated through both cis and trans mechanisms.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12920-015-0094-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4432789  PMID: 25958224
GENOA; Gene expression; SNP; CAD; Chr9p21
7.  An empirical comparison of meta-analysis and mega-analysis of individual participant data for identifying gene-environment interactions 
Genetic epidemiology  2014;38(4):369-378.
For analysis of the main effects of SNPs, meta-analysis of summary results from individual studies has been shown to provide comparable results as “mega-analysis” that jointly analyzes the pooled participant data from the available studies. This fact revolutionized the genetic analysis of complex traits through large GWAS consortia. Investigations of gene-environment (G×E) interactions are on the rise since they can potentially explain a part of the missing heritability and identify individuals at high risk for disease. However, for analysis of gene-environment interactions, it is not known whether these methods yield comparable results. In this empirical study, we report that the results from both methods were largely consistent for all four tests; the standard 1 degree of freedom (df) test of main effect only, the 1 df test of the main effect (in the presence of interaction effect), the 1 df test of the interaction effect, and the joint 2 df test of main and interaction effects. They provided similar effect size and standard error estimates, leading to comparable p-values. The genomic inflation factors and the number of SNPs with various thresholds were also comparable between the two approaches. Mega-analysis is not always feasible especially in very large and diverse consortia since pooling of raw data may be limited by the terms of the informed consent. Our study illustrates that meta-analysis can be an effective approach also for identifying interactions. To our knowledge, this is the first report investigating meta- versus mega-analyses for interactions.
PMCID: PMC4332385  PMID: 24719363
gene-environment interactions (GEI); meta-analysis; mega-analysis
8.  Hypertrophy-Associated Polymorphisms Ascertained in a Founder Cohort Applied to Heart Failure Risk and Mortality 
A three-stage approach was undertaken using genome-wide, case-control, and case-only association studies to identify genetic variants associated with heart failure mortality. In an Amish founder population (n = 851), cardiac hypertrophy, a trait integral to the adaptive response to failure, was found to be heritable (h2 = 0.28, p = 0.0002) and GWAS revealed 21 candidate hypertrophy SNPs. In a case (n = 1,610)-control (n = 463) study in unrelated Caucasians, one of the SNPs associated with hypertrophy (rs2207418, p = 8 × 10−6), was associated with heart failure, RR = 1.85(1.25–2.73, p = 0.0019). In heart failure cases rs2207418 was associated with increased mortality, HR = 1.51(1.20–1.97, p = 0.0004). There was consistency between studies, with the GG allele being associated with increased ventricular mass (~13 g/m2) in the Amish, heart failure risk, and heart failure mortality. This SNP is in a gene desert of chromosome 20p12. Five genes are within 2.0 mbp of rs2207418 but with low LD between their SNPs and rs2207418. A region near this SNP is highly conserved in multiple vertebrates (lod score = 1,208). This conservation and the internal consistency across studies suggests that this region has biologic importance in heart failure, potentially acting as an enhancer or repressor element. rs2207418 may be useful for predicting a more progressive form of heart failure that may require aggressive therapy.
PMCID: PMC4373555  PMID: 21348951
genetics; heart failure; hypertrophy; mortality; signal transduction
9.  Public Trust in Health Information Sharing: Implications for Biobanking and Electronic Health Record Systems 
Biobanks are made all the more valuable when the biological samples they hold can be linked to health information collected in research, electronic health records, or public health practice. Public trust in such systems that share health information for research and health care practice is understudied. Our research examines characteristics of the general public that predict trust in a health system that includes researchers, health care providers, insurance companies and public health departments. We created a 119-item survey of predictors and attributes of system trust and fielded it using Amazon’s MTurk system (n = 447). We found that seeing one’s primary care provider, having a favorable view of data sharing and believing that data sharing will improve the quality of health care, as well as psychosocial factors (altruism and generalized trust) were positively and significantly associated with system trust. As expected, privacy concern, but counterintuitively, knowledge about health information sharing were negatively associated with system trust. We conclude that, in order to assure the public’s trust, policy makers charged with setting best practices for governance of biobanks and access to electronic health records should leverage critical access points to engage a diverse public in joint decision making.
PMCID: PMC4384055  PMID: 25654300
trust; biobanks; health systems
10.  Associations between self-referral and health behavior responses to genetic risk information 
Genome Medicine  2015;7(1):10.
Studies examining whether genetic risk information about common, complex diseases can motivate individuals to improve health behaviors and advance planning have shown mixed results. Examining the influence of different study recruitment strategies may help reconcile inconsistencies.
Secondary analyses were conducted on data from the REVEAL study, a series of randomized clinical trials examining the impact of genetic susceptibility testing for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We tested whether self-referred participants (SRPs) were more likely than actively recruited participants (ARPs) to report health behavior and advance planning changes after AD risk and APOE genotype disclosure.
Of 795 participants with known recruitment status, 546 (69%) were self-referred and 249 (31%) had been actively recruited. SRPs were younger, less likely to identify as African American, had higher household incomes, and were more attentive to AD than ARPs (all P < 0.01). They also dropped out of the study before genetic risk disclosure less frequently (26% versus 41%, P < 0.001). Cohorts did not differ in their likelihood of reporting a change to at least one health behavior 6 weeks and 12 months after genetic risk disclosure, nor in intentions to change at least one behavior in the future. However, interaction effects were observed where ε4-positive SRPs were more likely than ε4-negative SRPs to report changes specifically to mental activities (38% vs 19%, p < 0.001) and diets (21% vs 12%, p = 0.016) six weeks post-disclosure, whereas differences between ε4-positive and ε4-negative ARPs were not evident for mental activities (15% vs 21%, p = 0.413) or diets (8% versus 16%, P = 0.190). Similarly, ε4-positive participants were more likely than ε4-negative participants to report intentions to change long-term care insurance among SRPs (20% vs 5%, p < 0.001), but not ARPs (5% versus 9%, P = 0.365).
Individuals who proactively seek AD genetic risk assessment are more likely to undergo testing and use results to inform behavior changes than those who respond to genetic testing offers. These results demonstrate how the behavioral impact of genetic risk information may vary according to the models by which services are provided, and suggest that how participants are recruited into translational genomics research can influence findings.
Trial registration NCT00089882 and NCT00462917
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13073-014-0124-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4311425  PMID: 25642295
11.  Genetic diversity is a predictor of mortality in humans 
BMC Genetics  2014;15:159.
It has been well-established, both by population genetics theory and direct observation in many organisms, that increased genetic diversity provides a survival advantage. However, given the limitations of both sample size and genome-wide metrics, this hypothesis has not been comprehensively tested in human populations. Moreover, the presence of numerous segregating small effect alleles that influence traits that directly impact health directly raises the question as to whether global measures of genomic variation are themselves associated with human health and disease.
We performed a meta-analysis of 17 cohorts followed prospectively, with a combined sample size of 46,716 individuals, including a total of 15,234 deaths. We find a significant association between increased heterozygosity and survival (P = 0.03). We estimate that within a single population, every standard deviation of heterozygosity an individual has over the mean decreases that person’s risk of death by 1.57%.
This effect was consistent between European and African ancestry cohorts, men and women, and major causes of death (cancer and cardiovascular disease), demonstrating the broad positive impact of genomic diversity on human survival.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12863-014-0159-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4301661  PMID: 25543667
Heterozygosity; Human; Survival; GWAS
12.  Testing Departure from Additivity in Tukey’s Model using Shrinkage: Application to a Longitudinal Setting 
Statistics in medicine  2014;33(29):5177-5191.
While there has been extensive research developing gene-environment interaction (GEI) methods in case-control studies, little attention has been given to sparse and efficient modeling of GEI in longitudinal studies. In a two-way table for GEI with rows and columns as categorical variables, a conventional saturated interaction model involves estimation of a specific parameter for each cell, with constraints ensuring identifiability. The estimates are unbiased but are potentially inefficient because the number of parameters to be estimated can grow quickly with increasing categories of row/column factors. On the other hand, Tukey’s one degree of freedom (df) model for non-additivity treats the interaction term as a scaled product of row and column main effects. Due to the parsimonious form of interaction, the interaction estimate leads to enhanced efficiency and the corresponding test could lead to increased power. Unfortunately, Tukey’s model gives biased estimates and low power if the model is misspecified. When screening multiple GEIs where each genetic and environmental marker may exhibit a distinct interaction pattern, a robust estimator for interaction is important for GEI detection. We propose a shrinkage estimator for interaction effects that combines estimates from both Tukey’s and saturated interaction models and use the corresponding Wald test for testing interaction in a longitudinal setting. The proposed estimator is robust to misspecification of interaction structure. We illustrate the proposed methods using two longitudinal studies — the Normative Aging Study and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC4227925  PMID: 25112650
adaptive shrinkage estimation; gene-environment interaction; longitudinal data; Tukey’s one df test for non-additivity
13.  Hypertension in pregnancy is associated with elevated C-reactive protein levels later in life 
Journal of hypertension  2013;31(11):2213-2219.
We assessed if hypertension in pregnancy is associated with elevated CRP levels in later life, possibly reflecting an increased risk of CVD.
Elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) levels have been associated with hypertension in pregnancy and with cardiovascular disease (CVD).
We studied 2463 women from the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy (GENOA) study. Subjects were categorized as nulliparous women (n=219), women with a history of normotensive pregnancies (n=1839), or women with a history of a hypertensive pregnancy (n=405). Using multiple linear regression models we compared mean CRP levels among the groups after adjusting for age, race, education, smoking, hypertension, personal history of CHD or stroke, diabetes, dyslipidemia, statins, hormone replacement therapy, and family history of CHD or stroke. As CRP levels may be influenced by body mass index (BMI), the model was fit both with and without adjusting for BMI.
There was no significant difference in CRP levels between nulliparous women and those with a history of normotensive pregnancies, either with (p=0.82) or without (p=0.46) adjusting for BMI. In contrast, women with hypertensive pregnancies, compared to those with normotensive pregnancies, had higher CRP levels, both with (p=0.009) and without (p<0.001) adjusting for BMI.
A history of hypertension in pregnancy is associated with elevated CRP levels later in life, independent of traditional CVD risk factors and BMI. An elevated CRP may reflect an inflammatory state in women with a history of hypertensive pregnancy disorders who are at increased risk for CVD.
PMCID: PMC3925682  PMID: 24029867
hypertension; pregnancy; CRP; cardiovascular disease
14.  Hypertension in pregnancy is associated with elevated homocysteine levels later in life 
American journal of obstetrics and gynecology  2013;209(5):10.1016/j.ajog.2013.06.030.
Hyperhomocysteinemia is associated with an elevated cardiovascular disease risk. We examined whether women with a history of hypertension in pregnancy are more likely to have a high level of serum homocysteine decades after pregnancy.
Serum homocysteine was measured at a mean age of 60 years in nulliparous women (n = 216), and women with a history of normotensive (n = 1825) or hypertensive (n = 401) pregnancies who participated in the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy (GENOA) study. Relationships between homocysteine and pregnancy history were examined by linear and logistic regression, controlling for multiple covariates including personal and family history of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, tobacco use, and demographics.
A history of hypertension in pregnancy, when compared with normotensive pregnancy, was associated with a 4.5% higher serum homocysteine level (P = .015) and 1.60-fold increased odds of having an elevated homocysteine (95% confidence interval, 1.15–2.21; P = .005) after adjusting for potentially confounding covariates. In contrast, a history of normotensive pregnancy, as compared with nulliparity, was associated with a 6.1% lower serum homocysteine level (P = .005) and a 0.49-fold reduced odds of elevated homocysteine levels (95% confidence interval, 0.32–0.74; P < .001).
Homocysteine levels decades after pregnancy are higher in women with a history of pregnancy hypertension, even after controlling for potential confounders. Thus, pregnancy history may prompt homocysteine assessment and risk modification in an attempt at primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC3825794  PMID: 23791689
biomarker; cardiovascular disease; homocysteine; hypertension in pregnancy; preeclampsia
15.  Identified single-nucleotide polymorphisms and haplotypes at 16q22.1 increase diabetic nephropathy risk in Han Chinese population 
BMC Genetics  2014;15:113.
Diabetic nephropathy (DN) has become one of the most common causes of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in many countries, such as 44.5% in Taiwan. Previous studies have shown that there is a genetic component to ESRD. Studies attempting to determine which genetic variants are related to DN in Han Chinese are limited. A case–control study was conducted to identify DN susceptibility variants in Han Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes.
We included 574 unrelated type 2 diabetes patients (217 DN cases and 357 controls), who were genotyped using Illumina HumanHap550-Duo BeadChip. In single-SNP association tests, the SNPs rs11647932, rs11645214, and rs6499323 located at 16q22.1 under the additive-effect disease model were significantly associated with an approximately 2-fold increased risk of DN. In haplotype association tests, identified haplotypes located in the chromosome 16q22.1 region (containing ST3GAL2, COG4, SF3B3, and IL34 genes) raised DN risk. The strongest association was found with haplotype rs2288491-rs4985534-rs11645214 (C-C-G) (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 1.93, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.83-2.03, p = 6.25 × 10−7), followed by haplotype rs8052125-rs2288491-rs4985534-rs11645214 (G-C-C-G) (AOR 1.92, 95% CI 1.82-2.02, p = 6.56 × 10−7), and haplotype rs2303792-rs8052125-rs2288491-rs4985534-rs11645214 (A-G-C-C-G) (AOR 1.91, 95% CI 1.81-2.01, p = 1.15 × 10−6).
Our results demonstrate that the novel SNPs and haplotypes located at the 16q22.1 region may involve in the biological pathways of DN in Han Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes. This study can provide new insights into the etiology of DN.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12863-014-0113-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4222374  PMID: 25359423
Diabetic nephropathy; Single-nucleotide polymorphism; Haplotype; Han Chinese
16.  ‘Cool! and creepy’: engaging with college student stakeholders in Michigan’s biobank 
Journal of Community Genetics  2014;5(4):349-362.
Large population biobanks, important resources for genomic research, also present ethical challenges. The Michigan BioTrust for Health makes dried bloodspots (DBS) leftover from newborn screening, including ~4.5 million collected before 2010 without written consent, available for health research. Absent prospectively gathered consent and/or current engagement with 18- to 29-year olds, little is known about opinions and beliefs from this age group about use of the bloodspots for research. We engaged 2,101 students—BioTrust participants and their peers—at information booths at 20 college campuses across the state to educate youth about the BioTrust and gather information about consent preferences and about hopes and concerns about this public health program. We surveyed student stakeholder DBS research consent preferences and fielded a “postengagement” survey to gauge the attitudes of participants and to evaluate the campus engagement. The most prevalent themes in open-ended comments were support for biobank research and concern that Michiganders are not aware of their participation. While 78 % of students said they would, if asked, opt in to the BioTrust, half of these preferred to be contacted each time a researcher sought to use their DBS. Students reported great interest in the topic and strong likelihood to share what they had learned. BioTrust participants are interested in learning about their role in an initiative whose goals they widely support. Public engagement is particularly important to biobank participants who, absent traditional consent practices, are unaware of their participation. Health-fair style engagements were effective for targeting college-aged stakeholders, communicating complex messages, and likely increasing knowledge. Retrospective biobanks and biobanks that collect proxy consent need policies to respect those who would opt out and will need resources to educate participants and conduct community outreach that is a safeguard to public trust.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12687-014-0190-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4159476  PMID: 24916145
Biobank; Public health; Informed consent; Newborn screening; Public attitudes; Community engagement; Public health education
17.  The relationship between diastolic blood pressure and coronary artery calcification is dependent on single nucleotide polymorphisms on chromosome 9p21.3 
BMC Medical Genetics  2014;15:89.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the 9p21.3 genomic region have been consistently associated with coronary heart disease (CHD), myocardial infarction, and quantity of coronary artery calcification (CAC), a marker of subclinical atherosclerosis. Prior studies have established an association between blood pressure measures and CAC. To examine mechanisms by which the 9p21.3 genomic region may influence CHD risk, we investigated whether SNPs in 9p21.3 modified associations between blood pressure and CAC quantity.
As part of the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy (GENOA) Study, 974 participants underwent non-invasive computed tomography (CT) to measure CAC quantity. Linear mixed effects models were used to investigate whether seven SNPs in the 9p21.3 region modified the association between blood pressure levels and CAC quantity. Four SNPs of at least marginal significance in GENOA for a SNP-by-diastolic blood pressure (DBP) interaction were then tested for replication in the Framingham Heart Study’s Offspring Cohort (N = 1,140).
We found replicated evidence that one SNP, rs2069416, in CDKN2B-AS1, significantly modified the association between DBP and CAC quantity (combined P = 0.0065; Bonferroni-corrected combined P = 0.0455).
Our results represent a novel finding that the relationship between DBP and CAC is dependent on genetic variation in the 9p21.3 region. Thus, variation in 9p21.3 may not only be an independent genetic risk factor for CHD, but also may modify the association between DBP levels and the extent of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC4168694  PMID: 25185447
Epidemiology; Genetics of cardiovascular disease; Atherosclerosis risk factors; Other arteriosclerosis
18.  Epigenomic Association Analysis Identifies Smoking-related DNA Methylation Sites in African Americans 
Human genetics  2013;132(9):1027-1037.
Cigarette smoking is an environmental risk factor for many chronic diseases, and disease risk can often be managed by smoking control. Smoking can induce cellular and molecular changes, including epigenetic modification, but the short-term and long-term epigenetic modifications caused by cigarette smoking at the gene level have not been well understood. Recent studies have identified smoking-related DNA methylation (DNAm) sites in Caucasians. To determine whether the same DNAm sites associate with smoking in African Americans, and to identify novel smoking-related DNAm sites, we conducted a methylome-wide association study of cigarette smoking using a discovery sample of 972 African Americans, and a replication sample of 239 African Americans with two array-based methods. Among fifteen DNAm sites significantly associated with smoking after correction for multiple testing in our discovery sample, five DNAm sites are replicated in an independent cohort, and fourteen sites in the replication sample have effects in the same direction as in the discovery sample. The top two smoking-related DNAm sites in F2RL3 (factor II receptor-like 3) and GPR15 (G-protein-coupled receptor 15) observed in African Americans are consistent with previous findings in Caucasians. The associations between the replicated DNAm sites and smoking remain significant after adjusting for genetic background. Despite the distinct genetic background between African Americans and Caucasians, the DNAm from the two ethnic groups shares common associations with cigarette smoking, which suggests a common molecular mechanism of epigenetic modification influenced by environmental exposure.
PMCID: PMC3744600  PMID: 23657504
Methylome; epigenetic epidemiology; leukocyte; replication; cigarette smoking
19.  Hypertension in Pregnancy is a Risk Factor for Microalbuminuria Later in Life 
We aimed to compare renal function, by estimated GFR, and albuminuria, in three groups of women: nulliparous women, women with a history of normotensive pregnancies, and women with a history of at least one hypertensive pregnancy. Women who participated in the second Family Blood Pressure Program Study visit (2000–2004) and had serum creatinine and urine albumin measurements (n=3015) were categorized as having had no pregnancy lasting greater than 6 months (n=341), having had only normotensive pregnancies (n=2199), or having at least 1 pregnancy with hypertension (n=475) based on a standardized questionnaire. Women who reported having had at least one pregnancy with hypertension were significantly more likely to be hypertensive (75.6% vs. 59.4%, p <0.001), diabetic (34.2% vs. 27.3%, p= < 0.001) and have higher body mass index (32.8 vs. 30.5, p < 0.001) than those who reported normotensive pregnancies. There was a significantly greater risk of microalbuminuria (urine albumin-creatinine ratio greater than 25 mg/g) in those who reported at least one pregnancy with hypertension (OR 1.37, CI 1.02–1.85, p=0.04) than in those with normotensive pregnancies, after adjusting for risk factors for chronic kidney and cardiovascular disease. Hypertension in pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of future microalbuminuria.
PMCID: PMC3775278  PMID: 24034653
20.  Characterization of European-ancestry NAFLD-Associated Variants in Individuals of African and Hispanic Descent 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2013;58(3):966-975.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is an obesity-related condition affecting over 50% of individuals in some populations and is expected to become the number one cause of liver disease worldwide by 2020. Common, robustly associated genetic variants in/near five genes were identified for hepatic steatosis, a quantifiable component of NAFLD, in European-ancestry individuals. Here we tested whether these variants were associated with hepatic steatosis in African and/or Hispanic Americans and fine-mapped the observed association signals. We measured hepatic steatosis using computed tomography in five African-American (n=3124) and one Hispanic-American (n=849) cohorts. All analyses controlled for variation in age, age2, gender, alcoholic drinks, and population substructure. Heritability of hepatic steatosis was estimated in three cohorts. Variants in/near PNPLA3, NCAN, LYPLAL1, GCKR, and PPP1R3B were tested for association with hepatic steatosis using a regression framework in each cohort and meta-analyzed. Fine-mapping across African-American cohorts was conducted using meta-analysis. African- and Hispanic-American cohorts were 33.9/37.5% male, with average age of 58.6/42.6 years and body mass index of 31.8/28.9kg/m2, respectively. Hepatic steatosis was 0.20–0.34 heritable in African-and Hispanic-American families (p<0.02 in each cohort). Variants in or near PNPLA3, NCAN, GCKR, PPP1R3B in African Americans and PNPLA3 and PPP1R3B in Hispanic Americans were significantly associated with hepatic steatosis; however, allele frequency and effect size varied across ancestries. Fine-mapping in African Americans highlighted missense variants at PNPLA3 and GCKR and redefined the association region at LYPLAL1.
We show for the first time that multiple genetic variants are associated with hepatic steatosis across ancestries and explain a substantial proportion of the genetic predisposition in African and Hispanic Americans. Missense variants in PNPLA3 and GCKR are likely functional across multiple ancestries.
PMCID: PMC3782998  PMID: 23564467
liver steatosis; single nucleotide polymorphisms; obesity; meta-analysis; genetic variance
21.  Hypertension in Pregnancy is a Risk Factor for Peripheral Arterial Disease Decades after Pregnancy 
Atherosclerosis  2013;229(1):212-216.
An ankle-brachial index (ABI) (the ratio of ankle to brachial artery systolic blood pressure) value ≤0.9 identifies patients with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and elevated cardiovascular event risk. This study examined whether women with a history of hypertension in pregnancy are more likely to have an ABI ≤0.9 decades after pregnancy.
Methods and Results
ABI was measured in nulliparous women (n=144), and women with a history of normotensive (n=1,272) or hypertensive (n=281) pregnancies who participated in the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy (GENOA) study [non-Hispanic white (39%) and black (61%) women, 60 (mean) ± 10 (SD) years of age]. Relationships between PAD and pregnancy history were examined by logistic regression. Compared to women with a history of normotensive pregnancy, women with a history of hypertensive pregnancy had greater odds of PAD (1.61 (odds ratio); 1.04–2.49 (95% confidence interval), p=0.03, adjusted for age, race, height and heart rate). Additional adjustment for ever smoking, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, a family history of hypertension or coronary heart disease, body mass index and education did not attenuate this relationship (1.63; 1.02–2.62, p=0.04). PAD risk did not differ between women with a history of normotensive pregnancy and nulliparous women (1.06; 0.52–2.14, p=0.87).
Hypertension in pregnancy is an independent risk factor for PAD decades after pregnancy after adjusting for race, age, height, heart rate, ever smoking, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, a family history of hypertension or coronary heart disease, body mass index and education.
PMCID: PMC3694211  PMID: 23659871
hypertension in pregnancy; peripheral vascular disease; ankle-brachial index
22.  Public Preferences Regarding Informed Consent Models for Participation in Population-based Genomic Research 
Some large population biobanks that house biospecimens and health information for research seek broad consent from participants, while others re-consent for specific new studies. Understanding research participants’ attitudes and preferences about broad and narrow consent may improve recruitment, retention, and public support.
An online survey was conducted among a representative sample of 4,659 US adults to examine relationships between consent preferences and demographic factors, beliefs about privacy, the value of research, and the perceived trustworthiness of researchers.
Participants preferred broad consent (52%) over study-by-study consent models (48%). Higher preferences for study-by-study consent observed among Black non-Hispanic respondents, and respondents with lower income and education were explained by differences in the prevalence of one or more beliefs about the study. Respondents with fears about research and those that would feel respected if asked for permission for each research use preferred study-by-study consent. Preference for broad consent was related to the desire not to be bothered with multiple requests and the belief that the study could lead to improved treatments, cures, and lives saved.
These data suggest that support for broad consent is contingent on sufficient information about data use. Work with research participants and community leaders to understand, respond to, and influence opinions about a given, ongoing study may improve uptake of broad consent.
PMCID: PMC3904287  PMID: 23660530
Informed consent; large population studies; biobank; broad consent; public engagement
23.  A Genome-Wide Association Study of Depressive Symptoms 
Hek, Karin | Demirkan, Ayse | Lahti, Jari | Terracciano, Antonio | Teumer, Alexander | Cornelis, Marilyn C. | Amin, Najaf | Bakshis, Erin | Baumert, Jens | Ding, Jingzhong | Liu, Yongmei | Marciante, Kristin | Meirelles, Osorio | Nalls, Michael A. | Sun, Yan V. | Vogelzangs, Nicole | Yu, Lei | Bandinelli, Stefania | Benjamin, Emelia J. | Bennett, David A. | Boomsma, Dorret | Cannas, Alessandra | Coker, Laura H. | de Geus, Eco | De Jager, Philip L. | Diez-Roux, Ana V. | Purcell, Shaun | Hu, Frank B. | Rimma, Eric B. | Hunter, David J. | Jensen, Majken K. | Curhan, Gary | Rice, Kenneth | Penman, Alan D. | Rotter, Jerome I. | Sotoodehnia, Nona | Emeny, Rebecca | Eriksson, Johan G. | Evans, Denis A. | Ferrucci, Luigi | Fornage, Myriam | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Hofman, Albert | Illig, Thomas | Kardia, Sharon | Kelly-Hayes, Margaret | Koenen, Karestan | Kraft, Peter | Kuningas, Maris | Massaro, Joseph M. | Melzer, David | Mulas, Antonella | Mulder, Cornelis L. | Murray, Anna | Oostra, Ben A. | Palotie, Aarno | Penninx, Brenda | Petersmann, Astrid | Pilling, Luke C. | Psaty, Bruce | Rawal, Rajesh | Reiman, Eric M. | Schulz, Andrea | Shulman, Joshua M. | Singleton, Andrew B. | Smith, Albert V. | Sutin, Angelina R. | Uitterlinden, André G. | Völzke, Henry | Widen, Elisabeth | Yaffe, Kristine | Zonderman, Alan B. | Cucca, Francesco | Harris, Tamara | Ladwig, Karl-Heinz | Llewellyn, David J. | Räikkönen, Katri | Tanaka, Toshiko | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Grabe, Hans J. | Launer, Lenore J. | Lunetta, Kathryn L. | Mosley, Thomas H. | Newman, Anne B. | Tiemeier, Henning | Murabito, Joanne
Biological psychiatry  2013;73(7):10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.09.033.
Depression is a heritable trait that exists on a continuum of varying severity and duration. Yet, the search for genetic variants associated with depression has had few successes. We exploit the entire continuum of depression to find common variants for depressive symptoms.
In this genome-wide association study, we combined the results of 17 population-based studies assessing depressive symptoms with the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Replication of the independent top hits (p < 1 × 10−5) was performed in five studies assessing depressive symptoms with other instruments. In addition, we performed a combined meta-analysis of all 22 discovery and replication studies.
The discovery sample comprised 34,549 individuals (mean age of 66.5) and no loci reached genome-wide significance (lowest p = 1.05 × 10−7). Seven independent single nucleotide polymorphisms were considered for replication. In the replication set (n = 16,709), we found suggestive association of one single nucleotide polymorphism with depressive symptoms (rs161645, 5q21, p = 9.19 × 10−3). This 5q21 region reached genome-wide significance (p = 4.78 × 10−8) in the overall meta-analysis combining discovery and replication studies (n = 51,258).
The results suggest that only a large sample comprising more than 50,000 subjects may be sufficiently powered to detect genes for depressive symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3845085  PMID: 23290196
Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale; CHARGE consortium; depression; depressive symptoms; genetics; genome-wide association study; meta-analysis
24.  Community perspectives on public health biobanking: an analysis of community meetings on the Michigan BioTrust for Health 
Journal of Community Genetics  2013;5(2):125-138.
Biobanks raise challenges for developing ethically sound and practicable consent policies. Biobanks comprised of dried bloodspots (DBS) left over from newborn screening, maintained for long-term storage, and potential secondary research applications are no exception. Michigan has been a leader in transforming its DBS collection, marketing its biobank of de-identified samples for health research use. The Michigan BioTrust for Health includes approximately 4 million unconsented retrospective samples collected as early as 1984 and prospective samples added since the fall of 2010 with blanket parental consent. We engaged Michigan citizens to ascertain public attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs about the BioTrust and informed consent. A convenience sampling of 393 participants from communities around the state of Michigan (oversampling for minority populations) participated in meetings addressing newborn screening, the BioTrust and informed consent, yielding quantitative and qualitative survey and discussion data. Participants affirmed the principle of voluntary informed participation in research and advocated for greater public awareness of the existence of the BioTrust. Most expressed support for the use of DBS for research and a desire for greater involvement in granting permission for research use. Opinions varied as to which specific research uses were acceptable. Participants indicated a desire for greater engagement, public awareness, and more active decision making on the part of biobank participants and parents. Diversity of opinion over which research areas were deemed acceptable problematizes the blanket consent model that currently applies to the BioTrust’s prospective DBS collection and that could become the new norm for research using de-identified data under proposed changes to the Common Rule.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12687-013-0162-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3955459  PMID: 23893769
Biobank; Public health; Informed consent; Newborn screening; Community engagement
25.  SNP Set Association Analysis for Familial Data 
Genetic epidemiology  2012;36(8):797-810.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are a popular approach for identifying common genetic variants and epistatic effects associated with a disease phenotype. The traditional statistical analysis of such GWAS attempts to assess the association between each individual Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) and the observed phenotype. Recently, kernel machine-based tests for association between a SNP set (e.g., SNPs in a gene) and the disease phenotype have been proposed as a useful alternative to the traditional individual SNP approach, and allow for flexible modeling of the potentially complicated joint SNP effects in a SNP set while adjusting for covariates. We extend the kernel machine framework to accommodate related subjects from multiple independent families, and provide a score-based variance component test for assessing the association of a given SNP set with a continuous phenotype, while adjusting for additional covariates and accounting for within-family correlation. We illustrate the proposed method using simulation studies and an application to genetic data from the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy (GENOA) study.
PMCID: PMC3683469  PMID: 22968922
Family association studies; Kernel machine; Linear mixed model; Multi-locus test; Score statistics; Variance component test; Within family correlation

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