Padgett, Billie L. (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Margaret J. Wright, Anne Jayne, and Duard L. Walker. Electron microscopic structure of myxoma virus and some reactivable derivatives. J. Bacteriol. 87:454–460. 1964.—The phosphotungstate negative staining technique was used to study the fine structure of myxoma virus particles and of reactivable derivatives in an electron microscope. Two general types of particles were observed in preparations of myxoma virus grown in rabbit kidney cells in tissue culture. The most common form is rounded or rectangular, with an average length and width of 296 by 254 mμ. The surface of this type of particle is convoluted, and is composed of tubular elements arranged in a complex fashion; the particle is frequently surrounded by a membrane. The second form, which was seen less frequently, is more rectangular and slightly larger. It has a closely fitting membrane, a finely granular surface, and the only internal structures discernible are present in a zone about 150 A wide, just beneath the membrane. Reactivable myxoma virus particles were prepared by treating myxoma virus with heat, urea, sodium dodecyl sulfate, and ethyl ether. The appearance of the particles after inactivation by heat, urea, and sodium dodecyl sulfate is described.
Over the past several years, evidence has accumulated showing that the cerebellum plays a significant role in cognitive function. Here we show, in a large genetically informative twin sample (n = 430; aged 16–30 years), that the cerebellum is strongly, and reliably (n = 30 rescans), activated during an n-back working memory task, particularly lobules I–IV, VIIa Crus I and II, IX and the vermis. Monozygotic twin correlations for cerebellar activation were generally much larger than dizygotic twin correlations, consistent with genetic influences. Structural equation models showed that up to 65% of the variance in cerebellar activation during working memory is genetic (averaging 34% across significant voxels), most prominently in the lobules VI, and VIIa Crus I, with the remaining variance explained by unique/unshared environmental factors. Heritability estimates for brain activation in the cerebellum agree with those found for working memory activation in the cerebral cortex, even though cerebellar cyto-architecture differs substantially. Phenotypic correlations between BOLD percent signal change in cerebrum and cerebellum were low, and bivariate modeling indicated that genetic influences on the cerebellum are at least partly specific to the cerebellum. Activation on the voxel-level correlated very weakly with cerebellar gray matter volume, suggesting specific genetic influences on the BOLD signal. Heritable signals identified here should facilitate discovery of genetic polymorphisms influencing cerebellar function through genome-wide association studies, to elucidate the genetic liability to brain disorders affecting the cerebellum.
Cerebellum; Heritability; Genetics; Functional MRI; Working memory; Twin study
Understanding how the brain matures in healthy individuals is critical for evaluating deviations from normal development in psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. The brain’s anatomical networks are profoundly re-modeled between childhood and adulthood, and diffusion tractography offers unprecedented power to reconstruct these networks and neural pathways in vivo. Here we tracked changes in structural connectivity and network efficiency in 439 right-handed individuals aged 12 to 30 (211 female/126 male adults, mean age=23.6, SD=2.19; 31 female/24 male 12 year olds, mean age=12.3, SD=0.18; and 25 female/22 male 16 year olds, mean age=16.2, SD=0.37). All participants were scanned with high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) at 4 Tesla. After we performed whole brain tractography, 70 cortical gyral-based regions of interest were extracted from each participant’s co-registered anatomical scans. The degree of fiber connections between all pairs of cortical regions, or nodes, were found to create symmetric fiber density matrices, reflecting the structural brain network. From those 70×70 matrices we computed graph theory metrics characterizing structural connectivity. Several key global and nodal metrics changed across development, showing increased network integration, with some connections pruned and others strengthened. The increases and decreases in fiber density, however, were not distributed proportionally across the brain. The frontal cortex had a disproportionate number of decreases in fiber density while the temporal cortex had a disproportionate number of increases in fiber density. This large-scale analysis of the developing structural connectome offers a foundation to develop statistical criteria for aberrant brain connectivity as the human brain matures.
HARDI; structural connectivity; graph theory; development
The development of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) is under strong genetic control and there is great interest in the genetic variants that confer increased risk. The Alzheimer’s disease risk gene, growth factor receptor bound protein 2-associated protein (GAB2), has been shown to provide a 1.27–1.51 increased odds of developing LOAD for rs7101429 major allele carriers, in case-control analysis. GAB2 is expressed across the brain throughout life, and its role in LOAD pathology is well understood. Recent studies have begun to examine the effect of genetic variation in the GAB2 gene on differences in the brain. However, the effect of GAB2 on the young-adult brain has yet to be considered. Here we found a significant association between the GAB2 gene and morphological brain differences in 755 young-adult twins (469 females) (M = 23.1, SD = 3.1 years), using a gene-based test with principal components regression (PCReg). Detectable differences in brain morphology are therefore associated with variation in the GAB2 gene, even in young adults, long before the typical age of onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
GAB2; imaging genetics; tensor-based morphometry; Alzheimer’s disease
Several common genetic variants have recently been discovered that appear to influence white matter microstructure, as measured by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Each genetic variant explains only a small proportion of the variance in brain microstructure, so we set out to explore their combined effect on the white matter integrity of the corpus callosum. We measured six common candidate single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the COMT, NTRK1, BDNF, ErbB4, CLU, and HFE genes, and investigated their individual and aggregate effects on white matter structure in 395 healthy adult twins and siblings (age: 20–30 years). All subjects were scanned with 4-tesla 94-direction high angular resolution diffusion imaging. When combined using mixed-effects linear regression, a joint model based on five of the candidate SNPs (COMT, NTRK1, ErbB4, CLU, and HFE) explained ∼6% of the variance in the average fractional anisotropy (FA) of the corpus callosum. This predictive model had detectable effects on FA at 82% of the corpus callosum voxels, including the genu, body, and splenium. Predicting the brain's fiber microstructure from genotypes may ultimately help in early risk assessment, and eventually, in personalized treatment for neuropsychiatric disorders in which brain integrity and connectivity are affected.
neuroimaging; brain structure; DTI; genetics; genetic profiles; prediction; imaging; clinical or preclinical; neuroanatomy; neurogenetics; pharmacogenetics / pharmacogenomics; neuroimaging; brain structure; DTI; genetics; genetic profiles
Twin pairs and their siblings rated the intensity of the odorants amyl acetate,
androstenone, eugenol, Galaxolide, mercaptans, and rose (N =
1573). Heritability was established for ratings of androstenone (h
2 = 0.30) and Galaxolide (h2 = 0.34) but not for the other odorants. Genome-wide association analysis
using 2.3 million single nucleotide polymorphisms indicated that the most significant
association was between androstenone and a region without known olfactory receptor genes
(rs10966900, P = 1.2 ×
10−7). A previously reported association between the olfactory receptor
OR7D4 and the androstenone was not detected until we specifically typed
this gene (P = 1.1 × 10−4). We also tested
these 2 associations in a second independent sample of subjects and replicated the results
either fully (OR7D4, P = 0.00002) or partially
(rs10966900, P = 0.010; N
= 266). These findings suggest that 1) the perceived intensity of some but not all
odorants is a heritable trait, 2) use of a current genome-wide marker panel did not detect
a known olfactory genotype–phenotype association, and 3) person-to-person
differences in androstenone perception are influenced by OR7D4 genotype
and perhaps by variants of other genes.
androstenone; Galaxolide; genetic twin modeling; genome-wide association study; heritability; twins
Traits that are attractive to the opposite sex are often positively correlated when scaled such that scores increase with attractiveness, and this correlation typically has a genetic component. Such traits can be genetically correlated due to genes that affect both traits (“pleiotropy”) and/or because assortative mating causes statistical correlations to develop between selected alleles across the traits (“gametic phase disequilibrium”). In this study, we modeled the covariation between monozygotic and dizygotic twins, their siblings, and their parents (total N = 7,905) to elucidate the nature of the correlation between two potentially sexually selected traits in humans: height and IQ. Unlike previous designs used to investigate the nature of the height–IQ correlation, the present design accounts for the effects of assortative mating and provides much less biased estimates of additive genetic, non-additive genetic, and shared environmental influences. Both traits were highly heritable, although there was greater evidence for non-additive genetic effects in males. After accounting for assortative mating, the correlation between height and IQ was found to be almost entirely genetic in nature. Model fits indicate that both pleiotropy and assortative mating contribute significantly and about equally to this genetic correlation.
Traits that are attractive to the opposite sex are often positively correlated when scaled such that scores increase with attractiveness, and this correlation typically has a genetic component. Such traits can be genetically correlated due to genes that affect both traits and/or because assortative mating (people choosing mates who are similar to themselves) causes statistical correlations to develop between selected alleles across the traits. In this study, we used a large (total N = 7,905), genetically informative dataset to understand why two potentially sexually selected traits in humans—height and IQ—are correlated. We found that both shared genes and assortative mating were about equally important in causing the relationship between these two traits. To our knowledge, this is the first study that has been able to disambiguate the two principal reasons—shared genes versus assortative mating—for why traits can be genetically correlated.
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.
We consider the problem of processing high angular resolution diffusion images described by orientation distribution functions (ODFs). Prior work showed that several processing operations, e.g., averaging, interpolation and filtering, can be reduced to averaging in the space of ODFs. However, this approach leads to anatomically erroneous results when the ODFs to be processed have very different orientations. To address this issue, we propose a group action induced distance for averaging ODFs, which leads to a novel processing framework on the spaces of orientation (the space of 3D rotations) and shape (the space of ODFs with the same orientation). Experiments demonstrate that our framework produces anatomically meaningful results.
biomedical image processing; information geometry; Riemannian manifolds; diffusion magnetic resonance imaging
Large multi-site image-analysis studies have successfully discovered genetic variants that affect brain structure in tens of thousands of subjects scanned worldwide. Candidate genes have also associated with brain integrity, measured using fractional anisotropy in diffusion tensor images (DTI). To evaluate the heritability and robustness of DTI measures as a target for genetic analysis, we compared 417 twins and siblings scanned on the same day on the same high field scanner (4-Tesla) with two protocols: (1) 94-directions; 2mm-thick slices, (2) 27-directions; 5mm-thickness. Using mean FA in white matter ROIs and FA ‘skeletons’ derived using FSL, we (1) examined differences in voxelwise means, variances, and correlations among the measures; and (2) assessed heritability with structural equation models, using the classical twin design. FA measures from the genu of the corpus callosum were highly heritable, regardless of protocol. Genome-wide analysis of the genu mean FA revealed differences across protocols in the top associations.
imaging genetics; DTI protocol stability; corpus callosum; genome-wide association study; multi-site analysis
Graph theory can be applied to matrices that represent the brain’s anatomical connections, to better understand global properties of anatomical networks, such as their clustering, efficiency and “small-world” topology. Network analysis is popular in adult studies of connectivity, but only one study – in just 30 subjects – has examined how network measures change as the brain develops over this period. Here we assessed the developmental trajectory of graph theory metrics of structural brain connectivity in a cross-sectional study of 467 subjects, aged 12 to 30. We computed network measures from 70×70 connectivity matrices of fiber density generated using whole-brain tractography in 4-Tesla 105-gradient high angular resolution diffusion images (HARDI). We assessed global efficiency and modularity, and both age and age2 effects were identified. HARDI-based connectivity maps are sensitive to the remodeling and refinement of structural brain connections as the human brain develops.
graph theory; high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI); tractography; network analyses; development; structural connectivity
Human brain connectivity is disrupted in a wide range of disorders – from Alzheimer’s disease to autism – but little is known about which specific genes affect it. Here we conducted a genome-wide association for connectivity matrices that capture information on the density of fiber connections between 70 brain regions. We scanned a large twin cohort (N=366) with 4-Tesla high angular resolution diffusion imaging (105-gradient HARDI). Using whole brain HARDI tractography, we extracted a relatively sparse 70×70 matrix representing fiber density between all pairs of cortical regions automatically labeled in co-registered anatomical scans. Additive genetic factors accounted for 1–58% of the variance in connectivity between 90 (of 122) tested nodes. We discovered genome-wide significant associations between variants and connectivity. GWAS permutations at various levels of heritability, and split-sample replication, validated our genetic findings. The resulting genes may offer new leads for mechanisms influencing aberrant connectivity and neurodegeneration.
genetics; high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI); cortical surfaces; twin modeling; human connectome
A major challenge in neuroscience is finding which genes affect brain integrity, connectivity, and intellectual function. Discovering influential genes holds vast promise for neuroscience, but typical genome-wide searches assess around one million genetic variants one-by-one, leading to intractable false positive rates, even with vast samples of subjects. Even more intractable is the question of which genes interact and how they work together to affect brain connectivity. Here we report a novel approach that discovers which genes contribute to brain wiring and fiber integrity at all pairs of points in a brain scan. We studied genetic correlations between thousands of points in human brain images from 472 twins and their non-twin siblings (mean age: 23.7±2.1 SD years; 193 M/279 F). We combined clustering with genome-wide scanning to find brain systems with common genetic determination. We then filtered the image in a new way to boost power to find causal genes. Using network analysis, we found a network of genes that affect brain wiring in healthy young adults. Our new strategy makes it more computationally tractable to discover genes that affect brain integrity. The gene network showed small-world and scale-free topologies, suggesting efficiency in genetic interactions, and resilience to network disruption. Genetic variants at hubs of the network influence intellectual performance by modulating associations between performance intelligence quotient (IQ) and the integrity of major white matter tracts, such as the callosal genu and splenium, cingulum, optic radiations, and the superior longitudinal fasciculus.
imaging genetics; twins; white matter; diffusion imaging; intelligence quotient; scale-free network; small-world network
Recently, carriers of a common variant in the autism risk gene, CNTNAP2, were found to have altered functional brain connectivity using functional MRI. Here, we scanned 328 young adults with high-field (4-Tesla) diffusion imaging, to test the hypothesis that carriers of this gene variant would have altered structural brain connectivity. All participants (209 women, 119 men, age: 23.4±2.17 SD years) were scanned with 105-gradient high-angular-resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) at 4 Tesla. After performing a whole-brain fiber tractography using the full angular resolution of the diffusion scans, 70 cortical surface-based regions of interest were created from each individual's co-registered anatomical data to compute graph metrics for all pairs of cortical regions. In graph theory analyses, subjects homozygous for the risk allele (CC) had lower characteristic path length, greater small-worldness and global efficiency in whole-brain analyses, and lower eccentricity (maximum path length) in 60 of the 70 nodes in regional analyses. These results were not reducible to differences in more commonly studied traits such as fiber density or fractional anisotropy. This is the first study that links graph theory metrics of brain structural connectivity to a common genetic variant linked with autism and will help us understand the neurobiology of the circuits implicated in the risk for autism.
autism; CNTNAP2; graph theory; HARDI; structural connectivity; twins
The NTRK1 gene (also known as TRKA) encodes a high affinity receptor for NGF, a neurotrophin involved in nervous system development and myelination. NTRK1 has been implicated in neurological function via links between the T allele at rs6336 (NTRK1-T) and schizophrenia risk. A variant in the neurotrophin gene, BDNF, was previously associated with white matter integrity in young adults, highlighting the importance of neurotrophins to white matter development. We hypothesized that NTRK1-T would relate to lower FA in healthy adults.
We scanned 391 healthy adult human twins and their siblings (mean age: 23.6 ± 2.2 years; 31 NTRK1-T carriers, 360 non-carriers) using 105-gradient diffusion tensor imaging at 4 Tesla. We evaluated in brain white matter how NTRK1-T and NTRK1 rs4661063 allele A (rs4661063-A, which is in moderate linkage disequilibrium with rs6336) related to voxelwise fractional anisotropy – a common diffusion tensor imaging measure of white matter microstructure. We used mixed-model regression to control for family relatedness, age, and sex. The sample was split in half to test results reproducibility. The false discovery rate method corrected for voxelwise multiple comparisons.
NTRK1-T and rs4661063-A correlated with lower white matter fractional anisotropy, independent of age and sex (multiple comparisons corrected: false discovery rate critical p = 0.038 for NTRK1-T and 0.013 for rs4661063-A). In each half-sample, the NTRK1-T effect was replicated in the cingulum, corpus callosum, superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculi, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, superior corona radiata, and uncinate fasciculus. Our results suggest that NTRK1-T is important for developing white matter microstructure.
Growth factors and their receptors are important for cellular migration as well as axonal guidance and myelination in the brain. They also play a key role in programmed cell death, and are implicated in a number of mental illnesses. Recently, we reported that healthy young adults who carry the T allele variant in the growth factor gene, NTRK1 (at location rs6336), had lower white matter integrity than non-carriers on diffusion images of the brain. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) revealed how this single nucleotide polymorphism affects white matter microstructure in human populations; DTI is also used to identify characteristic features of brain connectivity in typically developing children and in patients. Newly discovered links between neuroimaging measures and growth factors whose molecular neuroscience is well known offer an important step in understanding mechanisms that contribute to brain connectivity. Altered fiber connectivity may mediate the relationship between some genetic risk factors and a variety of mental illnesses.
neurotrophin; growth factor; tropomyosin-related kinase receptor A; neurotrophic tyrosine kinase receptor 1; myelin; development; fractional anisotropy; radial diffusivity; diffusion tensor imaging; schizophrenia
Recently, carriers of a common variant in the autism risk gene, CNTNAP2, were found to have altered functional brain connectivity using functional MRI. Here we scanned 328 young adults with high-field (4-Tesla) diffusion imaging, to test the hypothesis that carriers of this gene variant would have altered structural brain connectivity. All participants (209 females, 119 males, age: 23.4 +/−2.17 SD years) were scanned with 105-gradient high angular diffusion imaging (HARDI) at 4 Tesla. After performing a whole-brain fiber tractography using the full angular resolution of the diffusion scans, 70 cortical surface-based regions of interest were created from each individual’s co-registered anatomical data to compute graph metrics for all pairs of cortical regions. In graph theory analyses, subjects homozygous for the risk allele (CC) had lower characteristic path length, greater small-worldness and global efficiency in whole brain analyses, as well as greater eccentricity (maximum path length) in 60 of 70 nodes in regional analyses. These results were not reducible to differences in more commonly studied traits such as fiber density or fractional anisotropy. This is the first study to link graph theory metrics of brain structural connectivity to a common genetic variant linked with autism and will help us understand the neurobiology of circuits implicated in risk for autism.
structural connectivity; HARDI; autism; CNTNAP2; graph theory; twins
Processing speed is an important cognitive function that is compromised in psychiatric illness (e.g., schizophrenia, depression) and old age; it shares genetic background with complex cognition (e.g., working memory, reasoning). To find genes influencing speed we performed a genome-wide association scan in up to three cohorts: Brisbane (mean age 16 years; N = 1659); LBC1936 (mean age 70 years, N = 992); LBC1921 (mean age 82 years, N = 307), and; HBCS (mean age 64 years, N = 1080). Meta-analysis of the common measures highlighted various suggestively significant (p < 1.21 × 10−5) SNPs and plausible candidate genes (e.g., TRIB3). A biological pathways analysis of the speed factor identified two common pathways from the KEGG database (cell junction, focal adhesion) in two cohorts, while a pathway analysis linked to the GO database revealed common pathways across pairs of speed measures (e.g., receptor binding, cellular metabolic process). These highlighted genes and pathways will be able to inform future research, including results for psychiatric disease.
Information processing speed; Cognitive ability; Genes; Biological pathways
Genome-wide association studies followed by replication provide a powerful approach to map genetic risk factors for asthma. We sought to search for new variants associated with asthma and attempt to replicate the association with four loci reported previously (ORMDL3, PDE4D, DENND1B and IL1RL1). Genome-wide association analyses of individual single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), rare copy number variants (CNVs) and overall CNV burden were carried out in 986 asthma cases and 1846 asthma-free controls from Australia. The most-associated locus in the SNP analysis was ORMDL3 (rs6503525, P=4.8 × 10−7). Five other loci were associated with P<10−5, most notably the chemokine CXC motif ligand 14 (CXCL14) gene (rs31263, P=7.8 × 10−6). We found no evidence for association with the specific risk variants reported recently for PDE4D, DENND1B and ILR1L1. However, a variant in IL1RL1 that is in low linkage disequilibrium with that reported previously was associated with asthma risk after accounting for all variants tested (rs10197862, gene wide P=0.01). This association replicated convincingly in an independent cohort (P=2.4 × 10−4). A 300-kb deletion on chromosome 17q21 was associated with asthma risk, but this did not reach experiment-wide significance. Asthma cases and controls had comparable CNV rates, length and number of genes affected by deletions or duplications. In conclusion, we confirm the association between asthma risk and variants in ORMDL3 and identify a novel risk variant in IL1RL1. Follow-up of the 17q21 deletion in larger cohorts is warranted.
whole-genome; gene; atopy; heterogeneity; structural; IKZF3
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a key role in learning and memory, but its effects on the fiber architecture of the living brain are unknown. We genotyped 455 healthy adult twins and their non-twin siblings (188 males/267 females; age: 23.7±2.1 years, mean±SD) and scanned them with high angular resolution diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), to assess how the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism affects white matter microstructure. By applying genetic association analysis to every 3D point in the brain images, we found that the Val-BDNF genetic variant was associated with lower white matter integrity in the splenium of the corpus callosum, left optic radiation, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, and superior corona radiata. Normal BDNF variation influenced the association between subjects’ performance intellectual ability (as measured by Object Assembly subtest) and fiber integrity (as measured by fractional anisotropy; FA) in the callosal splenium, and pons. The BDNF gene may affect intellectual performance by modulating white matter development. This combination of genetic association analysis and large-scale diffusion imaging directly relates a specific gene to the fiber microstructure of the living brain and to human intelligence.
BDNF; twins; diffusion imaging; cognition; imaging genomics; white matter
The caudate is a subcortical brain structure implicated in many common neurological and psychiatric disorders. To identify specific genes associated with variations in caudate volume, structural MRI and genome-wide genotypes were acquired from two large cohorts, the Alzheimer’s Disease NeuroImaging Initiative (ADNI; N=734) and the Brisbane Adolescent/Young Adult Longitudinal Twin Study (BLTS; N=464). In a preliminary analysis of heritability, around 90% of the variation in caudate volume was due to genetic factors. We then conducted genome-wide association to find common variants that contribute to this relatively high heritability. Replicated genetic association was found for the right caudate volume at SNP rs163030 in the ADNI discovery sample (P=2.36×10−6) and in the BLTS replication sample (P=0.012). This genetic variation accounted for 2.79% and 1.61% of the trait variance, respectively. The peak of association was found in and around two genes, WDR41 and PDE8B, involved in dopamine signaling and development. In addition, a previously identified mutation in PDE8B causes a rare autosomal-dominant type of striatal degeneration. Searching across both samples offers a rigorous way to screen for genes consistently influencing brain structure at different stages of life. Variants identified here may be relevant to common disorders affecting the caudate.
genome-wide association; dopamine; caudate; heritability; WDR41; PDE8B (3-6 needed)
We analyzed brain MRI data from 372 young adult twins to identify cortical regions in which gray matter thickness and volume are influenced by genetics. This was achieved using a A/C/E structural equation model that divides the variance of these traits, at each point on the cortex, into additive genetic (A), shared (C) and unique environmental (E) components. A strong genetic influence was found in frontal and parietal regions. Additionally, we correlated cortical thickness with full-scale IQ for comparison with the A/C/E maps, and several regions where cortical structure was correlated with IQ are under genetic control. These cortical measures may be useful phenotypes to narrow the search for quantitative trait loci influencing brain structure.
brain; image analysis; magnetic resonance imaging; cortex; genetics
To examine the genetic and environmental influences on variances in weight, height, and BMI, from birth through 19 years of age, in boys and girls from three continents.
Design and Settings
Cross-sectional twin study. Data obtained from a total of 23 twin birth-cohorts from four countries: Canada, Sweden, Denmark, and Australia. Participants were Monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) (same- and opposite-sex) twin pairs with data available for both height and weight at a given age, from birth through 19 years of age. Approximately 24,036 children were included in the analyses.
Heritability for body weight, height, and BMI was low at birth (between 6.4 and 8.7% for boys, and between 4.8 and 7.9% for girls) but increased over time, accounting for close to half or more of the variance in body weight and BMI after 5 months of age in both sexes. Common environmental influences on all body measures were high at birth (between 74.1–85.9% in all measures for boys, and between 74.2 and 87.3% in all measures for girls) and markedly reduced over time. For body height, the effect of the common environment remained significant for a longer period during early childhood (up through 12 years of age). Sex-limitation of genetic and shared environmental effects was observed.
Genetics appear to play an increasingly important role in explaining the variation in weight, height, and BMI from early childhood to late adolescence, particularly in boys. Common environmental factors exert their strongest and most independent influence specifically in pre-adolescent years and more significantly in girls. These findings emphasize the need to target family and social environmental interventions in early childhood years, especially for females. As gene-environment correlation and interaction is likely, it is also necessary to identify the genetic variants that may predispose individuals to obesity.
White matter microstructure is under strong genetic control, yet it is largely unknown how genetic influences change from childhood into adulthood. In one of the largest brain mapping studies ever performed, we determined whether the genetic control over white matter architecture depends on age, sex, socioeconomic status (SES), and intelligence quotient (IQ). We assessed white matter integrity voxelwise using diffusion tensor imaging at high magnetic field (4-Tesla), in 705 twins and their siblings (age range 12–29; 290 M/415 F). White matter integrity was quantified using a widely accepted measure, fractional anisotropy (FA). We fitted gene-environment interaction models pointwise, to visualize brain regions where age, sex, SES and IQ modulate heritability of fiber integrity. We hypothesized that environmental factors would start to outweigh genetic factors during late childhood and adolescence. Genetic influences were greater in adolescence versus adulthood, and greater in males than in females. Socioeconomic status significantly interacted with genes that affect fiber integrity: heritability was higher in those with higher SES. In people with above-average IQ, genetic factors explained over 800% of the observed FA variability in the thalamus, genu, posterior internal capsule, and superior corona radiata. In those with below-average IQ, however, only around 40% FA variability in the same regions was attributable to genetic factors. Genes affect fiber integrity, but their effects vary with age, sex, SES and IQ. Gene-environment interactions are vital to consider in the search for specific genetic polymorphisms that affect brain integrity and connectivity.
genetics; cognition; twins; white matter; diffusion imaging; gene-environment interaction