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1.  Genome-Wide Significant Localization for Working and Spatial Memory: Identifying Genes for Psychosis Using Models of Cognition 
It is well established that risk for developing psychosis is largely mediated by the influence of genes, but identifying precisely which genes underlie that risk has been problematic. Focusing on endophenotypes, rather than illness risk, is one solution to this problem. Impaired cognition is a well-established endophenotype of psychosis. Here we aimed to characterize the genetic architecture of cognition using phenotypically detailed models as opposed to relying on general IQ or individual neuropsychological measures. In so doing we hoped to identify genes that mediate cognitive ability which might also contribute to psychosis risk. Hierarchical factor models of genetically clustered cognitive traits were subjected to linkage analysis followed by QTL region-specific association analyses in a sample of 1,269 Mexican American individuals from extended pedigrees. We identified four genome wide significant QTLs, two for working and two for spatial memory, and a number of plausible and interesting candidate genes. The creation of detailed models of cognition seemingly enhanced the power to detect genetic effects on cognition and provided a number of possible candidate genes for psychosis.
PMCID: PMC4106137  PMID: 24243780
schizophrenia; genetics; cognition; GWAS; linkage
2.  Replication of obesity and diabetes-related SNP associations in individuals from Yucatán, México 
Frontiers in Genetics  2014;5:380.
The prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) is rising rapidly and in Mexicans is ~19%. T2D is affected by both environmental and genetic factors. Although specific genes have been implicated in T2D risk few of these findings are confirmed in studies of Mexican subjects. Our aim was to replicate associations of 39 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from 10 genes with T2D-related phenotypes in a community-based Mexican cohort. Unrelated individuals (n = 259) living in southeastern Mexico were enrolled in the study based at the University of Yucatan School of Medicine in Merida. Phenotypes measured included anthropometric measurements, circulating levels of adipose tissue endocrine factors (leptin, adiponectin, pro-inflammatory cytokines), and insulin, glucose, and blood pressure. Association analyses were conducted by measured genotype analysis implemented in SOLAR, adapted for unrelated individuals. SNP Minor allele frequencies ranged from 2.2 to 48.6%. Nominal associations were found for CNR1, SLC30A8, GCK, and PCSK1 SNPs with systolic blood pressure, insulin and glucose, and for CNR1, SLC30A8, KCNJ11, and PCSK1 SNPs with adiponectin and leptin (p < 0.05). P-values greater than 0.0014 were considered significant. Association of SNPs rs10485170 of CNR1 and rs5215 of KCNJ11 with adiponectin and leptin, respectively, reached near significance (p = 0.002). Significant association (p = 0.001) was observed between plasma leptin and rs5219 of KCNJ11.
PMCID: PMC4235406  PMID: 25477898
Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP); association analysis; minor allele frequency; type 2 diabetes; obesity
3.  Identification of Pleiotropic Genetic Effects on Obesity and Brain Anatomy 
Human heredity  2013;75(0):136-143.
Obesity is a major contributor to the global burden of chronic disease and disability, though current knowledge of causal biologic underpinnings is lacking. Through the regulation of energy homeostasis and interactions with adiposity and gut signals, the brain is thought to play a significant role in the development of this disorder. While neuroanatomic variation has been associated with obesity, it is unclear if this relationship is influenced by common genetic mechanisms. In this study, we sought genetic components that influence both brain anatomy and body mass index (BMI) to provide further insight into the role of the brain in energy homeostasis and obesity.
MRI images of brain anatomy were acquired in 839 Mexican American individuals from large extended pedigrees. Bivariate linkage and quantitative analyses were performed in SOLAR.
Genetic factors associated with increased BMI were also associated with reduced cortical surface area and subcortical volume. We identified two genome-wide quantitative trait loci that influenced BMI and ventral diencephalon volume, and BMI and supramarginal gyrus surface area, respectively.
This study represents the first genetic analyses seeking evidence of pleiotropic effects acting on both brain anatomy and BMI. Results suggest that a region on chromosome 17 contributes to the development of obesity, potentially through leptin-induced signaling in the hypothalamus, and that a region on chromosome 3 appears to jointly influences food-related reward circuitry and the supramarginal gyrus.
PMCID: PMC3889074  PMID: 24081229
BMI; obesity; imaging; brain; pleiotropy
4.  Gene-by-age effects on BMI from Birth to Adulthood: The Fels Longitudinal Study 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2013;22(3):875-881.
Genome wide association studies have shown 32 loci to influence BMI in European-American adults but replication in other studies is inconsistent and may be attributed to gene-by-age effects. The aims of this study were to determine if the influence of the summed risk score of these 32 loci (GRS) on BMI differed across age from birth to 40 years, and to determine if additive genetic effects other than those in the GRS differed by age.
Design and Methods
Serial measures of BMI were calculated at 0, 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 18, and 28 months, and 4, 7, 11, 15, 19, 23, 30, and 40 years for 1176 (605 females, 571 males) European-American participants in the Fels Longitudinal Study. SOLAR was used for genetic analyses.
GRS was significant (p< 0.05) at ages: 6, 9 months, 4–15 years, and 23–40 years. Remaining additive genetic effects independently influenced BMI (p<5.3×10−5, 0.40
While well-known BMI variants do not appear to have significant differential effects, other additive genes differ over the lifespan.
PMCID: PMC3883986  PMID: 23794238
BMC Proceedings  2014;8(Suppl 1):S49.
We propose a novel variance component approach for the analysis of next-generation sequencing data. Our method is based on the detection of the proportion of the trait phenotypic variance that can be explained by the introduction of a new variance component that accounts for the local gene-specific departure of the empirical kinship relationship matrix, estimated from single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotypes, from their theoretical expectation based on the genealogical information in the pedigree. We tested our method with simulated phenotypes and imputed SNP genotypes from the Genetic Analysis Workshop 18 data set. We observed considerable variation in the differences between theoretical and gene-specific kinship estimates that proved to be informative for our test and allowed us to detect the MAP4 causal gene at a genome-wide significance level. The distribution of our test statistic show no inflation under the null hypothesis and results from a random set of genes suggest that the detection of MAP4 is both sensitive and specific. The use of 2 different strategies for the selection of the SNPs used to derive the gene-specific empirical kinship relationship matrices provides us with suggestive evidence that our method is performing as an empirical test of linkage.
PMCID: PMC4143638  PMID: 25519388
BMC Proceedings  2014;8(Suppl 1):S2.
Genetic Analysis Workshop 18 (GAW18) focused on identification of genes and functional variants that influence complex phenotypes in human sequence data. Data for the workshop were donated by the T2D-GENES Consortium and included whole genome sequences for odd-numbered autosomes in 464 key individuals selected from 20 Mexican American families, a dense set of single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 959 individuals in these families, and longitudinal data on systolic and diastolic blood pressure measured at 1-4 examinations over a period of 20 years. Simulated phenotypes were generated based on the real sequence data and pedigree structures. In the design of the simulation model, gene expression measures from the San Antonio Family Heart Study (not distributed as part of the GAW18 data) were used to identify genes whose mRNA levels were correlated with blood pressure. Observed variants within these genes were designated as functional in the GAW18 simulation if they were nonsynonymous and predicted to have deleterious effects on protein function or if they were noncoding and associated with mRNA levels. Two simulated longitudinal phenotypes were modeled to have the same trait distributions as the real systolic and diastolic blood pressure data, with effects of age, sex, and medication use, including a genotype-medication interaction. For each phenotype, more than 1000 sequence variants in more than 200 genes present on the odd-numbered autosomes individually explained less than 0.01-2.78% of phenotypic variance. Cumulatively, variants in the most influential gene explained 7.79% of trait variance. An additional simulated phenotype, Q1, was designed to be correlated among family members but to not be associated with any sequence variants. Two hundred replicates of the phenotypes were simulated, with each including data for 849 individuals.
PMCID: PMC4145406  PMID: 25519314
BMC Proceedings  2014;8(Suppl 1):S66.
The concept of breeding values, an individual's phenotypic deviation from the population mean as a result of the sum of the average effects of the genes they carry, is of great importance in livestock, aquaculture, and cash crop industries where emphasis is placed on an individual's potential to pass desirable phenotypes on to the next generation. As breeding or genetic values (as referred to here) cannot be measured directly, estimated genetic values (EGVs) are based on an individual's own phenotype, phenotype information from relatives, and, increasingly, genetic data. Because EGVs represent additive genetic variation, calculating EGVs in an extended human pedigree is expected to provide a more refined phenotype for genetic analyses. To test the utility of EGVs in genome-wide association, EGVs were calculated for 847 members of 20 extended Mexican American families based on 100 replicates of simulated systolic blood pressure. Calculations were performed in GAUSS to solve a variation on the standard Best Linear Unbiased Predictor (BLUP) mixed model equation with age, sex, and the first 3 principal components of sample-wide genetic variability as fixed effects and the EGV as a random effect distributed around the relationship matrix. Three methods of calculating kinship were considered: expected kinship from pedigree relationships, empirical kinship from common variants, and empirical kinship from both rare and common variants. Genome-wide association analysis was conducted on simulated phenotypes and EGVs using the additive measured genotype approach in the SOLAR software package. The EGV-based approach showed only minimal improvement in power to detect causative loci.
PMCID: PMC4143678  PMID: 25519398
Advances in genetics  2013;81:1-31.
Statistical genetic analysis of quantitative traits in large pedigrees is a formidable computational task due to the necessity of taking the non-independence among relatives into account. With the growing awareness that rare sequence variants may be important in human quantitative variation, heritability and association study designs involving large pedigrees will increase in frequency due to the greater chance of observing multiple copies of rare variants amongst related individuals. Therefore, it is important to have statistical genetic test procedures that utilize all available information for extracting evidence regarding genetic association. Optimal testing for marker/phenotype association involves the exact calculation of the likelihood ratio statistic which requires the repeated inversion of potentially large matrices. In a whole genome sequence association context, such computation may be prohibitive. Toward this end, we have developed a rapid and efficient eigensimplification of the likelihood that makes analysis of family data commensurate with the analysis of a comparable sample of unrelated individuals. Our theoretical results which are based on a spectral representation of the likelihood yield simple exact expressions for the expected likelihood ratio test statistic (ELRT) for pedigrees of arbitrary size and complexity. For heritability, the ELRT is: −∑ln[1+ĥ2(λgi−1)], where ĥ2 and λgi are respectively the heritability and eigenvalues of the pedigree-derived genetic relationship kernel (GRK). For association analysis of sequence variants, the ELRT is given by ELRT[hq2>0:unrelateds]−(ELRT[ht2>0:pedigrees]−ELRT[hr2>0:pedigrees]), where ht2,hq2, and hr2 are the total, quantitative trait nucleotide, and residual heritabilities, respectively. Using these results, fast and accurate analytical power analyses are possible, eliminating the need for computer simulation. Additional benefits of eigensimplification include a simple method for calculation of the exact distribution of the ELRT under the null hypothesis which turns out to differ from that expected under the usual asymptotic theory. Further, when combined with the use of empirical GRKs—estimated over a large number of genetic markers— our theory reveals potential problems associated with non positive semi-definite kernels. These procedures are being added to our general statistical genetic computer package, SOLAR.
PMCID: PMC4019427  PMID: 23419715
Circulation. Cardiovascular genetics  2013;6(2):10.1161/CIRCGENETICS.113.000079.
Intima-media thickness (IMT) of the common and internal carotid arteries is an established surrogate for atherosclerosis and predicts risk of stroke and myocardial infarction. Often IMT is measured as the average of these two arteries, yet they are believed to result from separate biological mechanisms. The aim of this study was to conduct a family-based genome-wide association study (GWAS) for IMT to identify polymorphisms influencing IMT and to determine if distinct carotid artery segments are influenced by different genetic components.
Methods and Results
IMT for the common and internal carotid arteries was determined through B-mode ultrasound in 772 Mexican Americans from the San Antonio Family Heart Study. A GWAS utilizing 931,219 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was undertaken with six internal and common carotid artery IMT phenotypes utilizing an additive measured genotype model. The most robust association detected was for two SNPs (rs16983261, rs6113474, p=1.60e−7) in complete linkage disequilibrium on chromosome 20p11 for the internal carotid artery near wall, next to the gene PAX1. We also replicated previously reported GWAS regions on chromosomes 19q13 and 7q22. We found no overlapping associations between internal and common carotid artery phenotypes at p<5.0e0−6. The genetic correlation between the two carotid IMT arterial segments was 0.51.
This study represents the first large scale GWAS of carotid IMT in a non-European population and identified several novel loci. We do not detect any shared GWAS signals between common and internal carotid arterial segments but the moderate genetic correlation implies both common and unique genetic components.
PMCID: PMC3865281  PMID: 23487405
intima-media thickness; carotid artery; GWAS; Hispanics
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(39):15618-15625.
Genetic and environmental influences on brain morphology were assessed in an extended-pedigree design by extracting depth-position profiles (DPP) of the central sulcus (CS). T1-weighted magnetic resonance images were used to measure CS length and depth in 467 human subjects from 35 extended families. Three primary forms of DPPs were observed. The most prevalent form, present in 70% of subjects, was bimodal, with peaks near hand and mouth regions. Trimodal and unimodal configurations accounted for 15 and 8%, respectively. Genetic control accounted for 56 and 66% of between-subject variance in average CS depth and length, respectively, and was not significantly influenced by environmental factors. Genetic control over CS depth ranged from 1 to 50% across the DPP. Areas of peak heritability occurred at locations corresponding to hand and mouth areas. Left and right analogous CS depth measurements were strongly pleiotropic. Shared genetic influence lessened as the distance between depth measurements was increased. We argue that DPPs are powerful phenotypes that should inform genetic influence of more complex brain regions and contribute to gene discovery efforts.
PMCID: PMC3782630  PMID: 24068828
Frontiers in Genetics  2013;4:279.
Increased serum uric acid (SUA) is a risk factor for gout and renal and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The purpose of this study was to identify genetic factors that affect the variation in SUA in 632 Mexican Americans participants of the San Antonio Family Heart Study (SAFHS). A genome-wide association (GWA) analysis was performed using the Illumina Human Hap 550K single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) microarray. We used a linear regression-based association test under an additive model of allelic effect, while accounting for non-independence among family members via a kinship variance component. All analyses were performed in the software package SOLAR. SNPs rs6832439, rs13131257, and rs737267 in solute carrier protein 2 family, member 9 (SLC2A9) were associated with SUA at genome-wide significance (p < 1.3 × 10−7). The minor alleles of these SNPs had frequencies of 36.2, 36.2, and 38.2%, respectively, and were associated with decreasing SUA levels. All of these SNPs were located in introns 3–7 of SLC2A9, the location of the previously reported associations in European populations. When analyzed for association with cardiovascular-renal disease risk factors, conditional on SLC2A9 SNPs strongly associated with SUA, significant associations were found for SLC2A9 SNPs with BMI, body weight, and waist circumference (p < 1.4 × 10−3) and suggestive associations with albumin-creatinine ratio and total antioxidant status (TAS). The SLC2A9 gene encodes an urate transporter that has considerable influence on variation in SUA. In addition to the primary association locus, suggestive evidence (p < 1.9 × 10−6) for joint linkage/association (JLA) was found at a previously-reported urate quantitative trait locus (Logarithm of odds score = 3.6) on 3p26.3. In summary, our GWAS extends and confirms the association of SLC2A9 with SUA for the first time in a Mexican American cohort and also shows for the first time its association with cardiovascular-renal disease risk factors.
PMCID: PMC3863993  PMID: 24379826
variance components decomposition approach; joint linkage/association analysis; kinship; hyperuricemia
Mechanisms of ageing and development  2012;133(9-10):581-590.
Individual differences in biological ageing (i.e., the rate of physiological response to the passage of time) may be due in part to genotype-specific variation in gene action. However, the sources of heritable variation in human age-related gene expression profiles are largely unknown. We have profiled genome-wide expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 1,240 individuals in large families and found 4,472 human autosomal transcripts, representing ~4,349 genes, significantly correlated with age. We identified 623 transcripts that show genotype by age interaction in addition to a main effect of age, defining a large set of novel candidates for characterization of the mechanisms of differential biological ageing. We applied a novel SNP genotype×age interaction test to one of these candidates, the ubiquilin-like gene UBQLNL, and found evidence of joint cis-association and genotype by age interaction as well as trans-genotype by age interaction for UBQLNL expression. Both UBQLNL expression levels at recruitment and cis genotype are associated with longitudinal cancer risk in our study cohort.
PMCID: PMC3541784  PMID: 22871458
Transcriptional ageing; genotype by age interaction; ubiquitins; UBQLNL; cancer risk gene
Advances in Nutrition  2012;3(4):596S-604S.
Whole-transcriptome expression profiling provides novel phenotypes for analysis of complex traits. Gene expression measurements reflect quantitative variation in transcript-specific messenger RNA levels and represent phenotypes lying close to the action of genes. Understanding the genetic basis of gene expression will provide insight into the processes that connect genotype to clinically significant traits representing a central tenet of system biology. Synchronous in vivo expression profiles of lymphocytes, muscle, and subcutaneous fat were obtained from healthy Mexican men. Most genes were expressed at detectable levels in multiple tissues, and RNA levels were correlated between tissue types. A subset of transcripts with high reliability of expression across tissues (estimated by intraclass correlation coefficients) was enriched for cis-regulated genes, suggesting that proximal sequence variants may influence expression similarly in different cellular environments. This integrative global gene expression profiling approach is proving extremely useful for identifying genes and pathways that contribute to complex clinical traits. Clearly, the coincidence of clinical trait quantitative trait loci and expression quantitative trait loci can help in the prioritization of positional candidate genes. Such data will be crucial for the formal integration of positional and transcriptomic information characterized as genetical genomics.
PMCID: PMC3649732  PMID: 22797999
Stein, Jason L | Medland, Sarah E | Vasquez, Alejandro Arias | Hibar, Derrek P | Senstad, Rudy E | Winkler, Anderson M | Toro, Roberto | Appel, Katja | Bartecek, Richard | Bergmann, Ørjan | Bernard, Manon | Brown, Andrew A | Cannon, Dara M | Chakravarty, M Mallar | Christoforou, Andrea | Domin, Martin | Grimm, Oliver | Hollinshead, Marisa | Holmes, Avram J | Homuth, Georg | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Langan, Camilla | Lopez, Lorna M | Hansell, Narelle K | Hwang, Kristy S | Kim, Sungeun | Laje, Gonzalo | Lee, Phil H | Liu, Xinmin | Loth, Eva | Lourdusamy, Anbarasu | Mattingsdal, Morten | Mohnke, Sebastian | Maniega, Susana Muñoz | Nho, Kwangsik | Nugent, Allison C | O’Brien, Carol | Papmeyer, Martina | Pütz, Benno | Ramasamy, Adaikalavan | Rasmussen, Jerod | Rijpkema, Mark | Risacher, Shannon L | Roddey, J Cooper | Rose, Emma J | Ryten, Mina | Shen, Li | Sprooten, Emma | Strengman, Eric | Teumer, Alexander | Trabzuni, Daniah | Turner, Jessica | van Eijk, Kristel | van Erp, Theo G M | van Tol, Marie-Jose | Wittfeld, Katharina | Wolf, Christiane | Woudstra, Saskia | Aleman, Andre | Alhusaini, Saud | Almasy, Laura | Binder, Elisabeth B | Brohawn, David G | Cantor, Rita M | Carless, Melanie A | Corvin, Aiden | Czisch, Michael | Curran, Joanne E | Davies, Gail | de Almeida, Marcio A A | Delanty, Norman | Depondt, Chantal | Duggirala, Ravi | Dyer, Thomas D | Erk, Susanne | Fagerness, Jesen | Fox, Peter T | Freimer, Nelson B | Gill, Michael | Göring, Harald H H | Hagler, Donald J | Hoehn, David | Holsboer, Florian | Hoogman, Martine | Hosten, Norbert | Jahanshad, Neda | Johnson, Matthew P | Kasperaviciute, Dalia | Kent, Jack W | Kochunov, Peter | Lancaster, Jack L | Lawrie, Stephen M | Liewald, David C | Mandl, René | Matarin, Mar | Mattheisen, Manuel | Meisenzahl, Eva | Melle, Ingrid | Moses, Eric K | Mühleisen, Thomas W | Nauck, Matthias | Nöthen, Markus M | Olvera, Rene L | Pandolfo, Massimo | Pike, G Bruce | Puls, Ralf | Reinvang, Ivar | Rentería, Miguel E | Rietschel, Marcella | Roffman, Joshua L | Royle, Natalie A | Rujescu, Dan | Savitz, Jonathan | Schnack, Hugo G | Schnell, Knut | Seiferth, Nina | Smith, Colin | Steen, Vidar M | Valdés Hernández, Maria C | Van den Heuvel, Martijn | van der Wee, Nic J | Van Haren, Neeltje E M | Veltman, Joris A | Völzke, Henry | Walker, Robert | Westlye, Lars T | Whelan, Christopher D | Agartz, Ingrid | Boomsma, Dorret I | Cavalleri, Gianpiero L | Dale, Anders M | Djurovic, Srdjan | Drevets, Wayne C | Hagoort, Peter | Hall, Jeremy | Heinz, Andreas | Jack, Clifford R | Foroud, Tatiana M | Le Hellard, Stephanie | Macciardi, Fabio | Montgomery, Grant W | Poline, Jean Baptiste | Porteous, David J | Sisodiya, Sanjay M | Starr, John M | Sussmann, Jessika | Toga, Arthur W | Veltman, Dick J | Walter, Henrik | Weiner, Michael W | Bis, Joshua C | Ikram, M Arfan | Smith, Albert V | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Tzourio, Christophe | Vernooij, Meike W | Launer, Lenore J | DeCarli, Charles | Seshadri, Sudha | Andreassen, Ole A | Apostolova, Liana G | Bastin, Mark E | Blangero, John | Brunner, Han G | Buckner, Randy L | Cichon, Sven | Coppola, Giovanni | de Zubicaray, Greig I | Deary, Ian J | Donohoe, Gary | de Geus, Eco J C | Espeseth, Thomas | Fernández, Guillén | Glahn, David C | Grabe, Hans J | Hardy, John | Hulshoff Pol, Hilleke E | Jenkinson, Mark | Kahn, René S | McDonald, Colm | McIntosh, Andrew M | McMahon, Francis J | McMahon, Katie L | Meyer-Lindenberg, Andreas | Morris, Derek W | Müller-Myhsok, Bertram | Nichols, Thomas E | Ophoff, Roel A | Paus, Tomas | Pausova, Zdenka | Penninx, Brenda W | Potkin, Steven G | Sämann, Philipp G | Saykin, Andrew J | Schumann, Gunter | Smoller, Jordan W | Wardlaw, Joanna M | Weale, Michael E | Martin, Nicholas G | Franke, Barbara | Wright, Margaret J | Thompson, Paul M
Nature genetics  2012;44(5):552-561.
Identifying genetic variants influencing human brain structures may reveal new biological mechanisms underlying cognition and neuropsychiatric illness. The volume of the hippocampus is a biomarker of incipient Alzheimer’s disease1,2 and is reduced in schizophrenia3, major depression4 and mesial temporal lobe epilepsy5. Whereas many brain imaging phenotypes are highly heritable6,7, identifying and replicating genetic influences has been difficult, as small effects and the high costs of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have led to underpowered studies. Here we report genome-wide association meta-analyses and replication for mean bilateral hippocampal, total brain and intracranial volumes from a large multinational consortium. The intergenic variant rs7294919 was associated with hippocampal volume (12q24.22; N = 21,151; P = 6.70 × 10−16) and the expression levels of the positional candidate gene TESC in brain tissue. Additionally, rs10784502, located within HMGA2, was associated with intracranial volume (12q14.3; N = 15,782; P = 1.12 × 10−12). We also identified a suggestive association with total brain volume at rs10494373 within DDR2 (1q23.3; N = 6,500; P = 5.81 × 10−7).
PMCID: PMC3635491  PMID: 22504417
BMC Medical Genomics  2013;6:14.
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is an aberration associated with increased risk for cancer and inflammation. Adiponectin, an adipocyte-produced abundant protein hormone, has countering effect on the diabetogenic and atherogenic components of MetS. Plasma levels of adiponectin are negatively correlated with onset of cancer and cancer patient mortality. We previously performed microsatellite linkage analyses using adiponectin as a surrogate marker and revealed two QTLs on chr5 (5p14) and chr14 (14q13).
Using individuals from 85 extended families that contributed to the linkage and who were measured for 42 clinical and biologic MetS phenotypes, we tested QTL-based SNP associations, peripheral white blood cell (PWBC) gene expression, and the effects of cis-acting SNPs on gene expression to discover genomic elements that could affect the pathophysiology and complications of MetS.
Adiponectin levels were found to be highly intercorrelated phenotypically with the majority of MetS traits. QTL-specific haplotype-tagging SNPs associated with MetS phenotypes were annotated to 14 genes whose function could influence MetS biology as well as oncogenesis or inflammation. These were mechanistically categorized into four groups: cell-cell adhesion and mobility, signal transduction, transcription and protein sorting. Four genes were highly prioritized: cadherin 18 (CDH18), myosin X (MYO10), anchor protein 6 of AMPK (AKAP6), and neuronal PAS domain protein 3 (NPAS3). PWBC expression was detectable only for the following genes with multi-organ or with multi-function properties: NPAS3, MARCH6, MYO10 and FBXL7. Strong evidence of cis-effects on the expression of MYO10 in PWBC was found with SNPs clustered near the gene’s transcription start site. MYO10 expression in PWBC was marginally correlated with body composition (p= 0.065) and adipokine levels in the periphery (p = 0.064). Variants of genes AKAP6, NPAS3, MARCH6 and FBXL7 have been previously reported to be associated with insulin resistance, inflammatory markers or adiposity studies using genome-wide approaches whereas associations of CDH18 and MYO10 with MetS traits have not been reported before.
Adiponectin QTLs-based SNP association and mRNA expression identified genes that could mediate the association between MetS and cancer or inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3643849  PMID: 23628382
Adiponectin; Metabolic syndrome; Cancer risk; Inflammation
Genetic epidemiology  2005;29(4):377-388.
We propose a method for efficient estimation of the additive genetic effect of the X chromosome with explicit modeling of eutherian-type dosage compensation. The theoretical derivation of the variance-components model for X-linked loci is reviewed in detail. We develop a model of dosage compensation that allows for both incomplete and heterogeneous lyonization, the existence of which is suggested by recent expression studies. Modeling this relationship, especially in the limit cases of complete or absent compensation, allows estimation of the X effect as a single parameter for ease of comparison to other sources of variance. We present simulation studies to estimate the power and computational efficiency of our proposed method.
PMCID: PMC3617965  PMID: 16294301
sex linkage; X-chromosome; dosage compensation; variance components; quantitative trait; statistical genetics
Fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs) play regulatory roles at the nexus of lipid metabolism and signaling. Dyslipidemia in clinical manifestation frequently co-occurs with obesity, insulin resistance and hypertension in the Metabolic Syndrome (MetS). Animal studies have suggested FABPs play regulatory roles in expressing MetS phenotypes. In our family cohort of Northern European descent, transcript levels in peripheral white blood cells (PWBCs) of a key FABPs, FABP3, is correlated with the MetS leading components. However, evidence supporting the functions of FABPs in humans using genetic approaches has been scarce, suggesting FABPs may be under epigenetic regulation. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that CpG methylation status of a key regulator of lipid homeostasis, FABP3, is a quantitative trait associated with status of MetS phenotypes in humans.
We used a mass-spec based quantitative method, EpiTYPER®, to profile a CpG island that extends from the promoter to the first exon of the FABP3 gene in our family-based cohort of Northern European descent (n=517). We then conducted statistical analysis of the quantitative relationship of CpG methylation and MetS measures following the variance-component association model. Heritability of each methylation and the effect of age and sex on CpG methylation were also assessed in our families.
We find that methylation levels of individual CpG units and the regional average are heritable and significantly influenced by age and sex. Regional methylation was strongly associated with plasma total cholesterol (p=0.00028) and suggestively associated with LDL-cholesterol (p=0.00495). Methylation at individual units was significantly associated with insulin sensitivity, lipid particle sizing and diastolic blood pressure (p<0.0028, corrected for multiple testing for each trait). Peripheral white blood cell (PWBC) expression of FABP3 in a separate group of subjects (n=128) negatively correlated with adverse profiles of metabolism (βWHR = −0.72; βLDL-c = −0.53) while positively correlated with plasma adiponectin (β=0.24). Further, we show that differential methylation of FABP3 affects binding activity with nuclear proteins from heart tissue. This region that we found under methylation regulation overlaps with a region actively modified by histone codes in the newly available ENCODE data.
Our findings suggest that DNA methylation of FABP3 strongly influences MetS, and this may have important implications for cardiovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC3608249  PMID: 23510163
Epigenetic regulation; Metabolic syndrome; Fatty acid binding proteins; Family studies; Association studies
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(1):e1003147.
Infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is highly prevalent worldwide, and it has been associated with infectious mononucleosis and severe diseases including Burkitt lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, nasopharyngeal lymphoma, and lymphoproliferative disorders. Although EBV has been the focus of extensive research, much still remains unknown concerning what makes some individuals more sensitive to infection and to adverse outcomes as a result of infection. Here we use an integrative genomics approach in order to localize genetic factors influencing levels of Epstein Barr virus (EBV) nuclear antigen-1 (EBNA-1) IgG antibodies, as a measure of history of infection with this pathogen, in large Mexican American families. Genome-wide evidence of both significant linkage and association was obtained on chromosome 6 in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region and replicated in an independent Mexican American sample of large families (minimum p-value in combined analysis of both datasets is 1.4×10−15 for SNPs rs477515 and rs2516049). Conditional association analyses indicate the presence of at least two separate loci within MHC class II, and along with lymphocyte expression data suggest genes HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1 as the best candidates. The association signals are specific to EBV and are not found with IgG antibodies to 12 other pathogens examined, and therefore do not simply reveal a general HLA effect. We investigated whether SNPs significantly associated with diseases in which EBV is known or suspected to play a role (namely nasopharyngeal lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, systemic lupus erythematosus, and multiple sclerosis) also show evidence of associated with EBNA-1 antibody levels, finding an overlap only for the HLA locus, but none elsewhere in the genome. The significance of this work is that a major locus related to EBV infection has been identified, which may ultimately reveal the underlying mechanisms by which the immune system regulates infection with this pathogen.
Author Summary
Many factors influence individual differences in susceptibility to infectious disease, including genetic factors of the host. Here we use several genome-wide investigative tools (linkage, association, joint linkage and association, and the analysis of gene expression data) to search for host genetic factors influencing Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection. EBV is a human herpes virus that infects up to 90% of adults worldwide, infection with which has been associated with severe complications including malignancies and autoimmune disorders. In a sample of >1,300 Mexican American family members, we found significant evidence of association of anti–EBV antibody levels with loci on chromosome 6 in the human leukocyte antigen region, which contains genes related to immune function. The top two independent loci in this region were HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1, both of which are involved in the presentation of foreign antigens to T cells. This finding was specific to EBV and not to 12 other pathogens we examined. We also report an overlap of genetic factors influencing both EBV antibody level and EBV–related cancers and autoimmune disorders. This work demonstrates the presence of EBV susceptibility loci and provides impetus for further investigation to better understand the underlying mechanisms related to differences in disease progression among individuals infected with this pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3542101  PMID: 23326239
Biological psychiatry  2011;71(1):6-14.
Despite overwhelming evidence that major depression is highly heritable, recent studies have localized only a single depression-related locus reaching genome-wide significance and have yet to identify a causal gene. Focusing on family-based studies of quantitative intermediate phenotypes or endophenotypes, in tandem with studies of unrelated individuals using categorical diagnoses, should improve the likelihood of identifying major depression genes. However, there is currently no empirically-derived statistically rigorous method for selecting optimal endophentypes for mental illnesses. Here we describe the Endophenotype Ranking Value (ERV), a new objective index of the genetic utility of endophenotypes for any heritable illness.
Applying ERV analysis to a high-dimensional set of over 11,000 traits drawn from behavioral/neurocognitive, neuroanatomic, and transcriptomic phenotypic domains, we identified a set of objective endophenotypes for recurrent major depression in a sample of Mexican American individiauls (n=1122) from large randomly-selected extended pedigrees.
Top-ranked endophenotypes included the Beck Depression Inventory, bilateral ventral diencephalon volume and expression levels of the RNF123 transcript. To illustrate the utility of endophentypes in this context, each of these traits were utlized along with disease status in bivariate linkage analysis. A genome-wide significant quantitative trait locus was localized on chromsome 4p15 (LOD=3.5) exhibiting pleiotropic effects on both the endophenotype (lymphocyte-derived expression levels of the RNF123 gene) and disease risk.
The wider use of quantitative endophentpyes, combined with unbiased methods for selecting among these measures, should spur new insights into the biological mechanisms that influence mental illnesses like major depression.
PMCID: PMC3230692  PMID: 21982424
major depression; recurrent major depression; endophenotype; endophenotype ranking; linkage; family studies
To explore the genetic components of susceptibility to early childhood diarrhea (ECD), we used a quantitative genetic approach to estimate the heritability of ECD among children from two Brazilian favelas. Shared environment was used to model common exposure to environmental factors. Genetic relatedness was determined from pedigree information collected by screening household participants (n = 3,267) from two geographically related favelas located in Fortaleza, Brazil. There were 277 children within these pedigrees for whom diarrheal episodes in the first two years of life were recorded. Data on environmental exposure and pedigree relationship were combined to quantitatively partition phenotypic variance in ECD into environmental and genetic components by using a variance components approach as implemented in Sequential Oligogenic Linkage Analysis Routines program. Heritability accounted for 54% of variance in ECD and proximity of residence effect accounted for 21% (P < 0.0001). These findings suggest a substantial genetic component to ECD susceptibility and the potential importance of future genetics studies.
PMCID: PMC3205636  PMID: 22049044
Archives of General Psychiatry  2010;67(2):168-177.
Although genetic influences on bipolar disorder are well established, localization of genes that predispose to the illness has proven difficult. Given that genes predisposing to bipolar disorder may be transmitted without expression of the categorical clinical phenotype, one strategy for identifying risk genes is the use of quantitative endophenotypes.
The goal of the current study is to adjudicate neurocognitive endophenotypes for bipolar disorder.
Design, Setting, and Participants
709 Latino individuals from the central valley of Costa Rica, Mexico City, Mexico, or San Antonio, Texas participated in the study. 660 of these persons were members of extended pedigrees with at least two siblings diagnosed with bipolar disorder (n=230). The remaining subjects were community controls drawn from each site and without personal or family history of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. All subjects received psychodiagnostic interviews and comprehensive neurocognitive evaluations. Neurocognitive measures found to be heritable were entered into analyses designed to determine which tests are impaired in affected individuals, sensitive to genetic liability for the illness and genetically correlated with affection status.
Main Outcome Measures
The main outcome measure was neurocognitive test performance.
Two of the 21 neurocognitive variables were not significantly heritable and were excluded from subsequent analyses. Patients with bipolar disorder were impaired on 6 of these cognitive measures compared to non-related healthy subjects. Non-bipolar first-degree relatives were impaired on five of these and three tests were genetically correlated with affection status: digit symbol coding, object delayed response, and immediate facial memory.
This large-scale extended pedigree study of cognitive functioning in bipolar disorder identified measures of processing speed, working memory and declarative (facial) memory as candidate endophenotypes for bipolar disorder.
PMCID: PMC3401550  PMID: 20124116
bipolar disorder; endophenotype; genetics; family studies; neurocognitive; neuropsychological
Host genetic factors exert significant influences on differential susceptibility to many infectious diseases. In addition, population structure of both host and parasite may influence disease distribution patterns. In this study, we assess the effects of population structure on infectious disease in two populations in which host genetic factors influencing susceptibility to parasitic disease have been extensively studied. The first population is the Jirel population of eastern Nepal that has been the subject of research on the determinants of differential susceptibility to soil-transmitted helminth infections. The second group is a Brazilian population residing in an area endemic for Trypanosoma cruzi infection that has been assessed for genetic influences on differential disease progression in Chagas disease. For measures of Ascaris worm burden, within-population host genetic effects are generally more important than host population structure factors in determining patterns of infectious disease. No significant influences of population structure on measures associated with progression of cardiac disease in individuals who were seropositive for T. cruzi infection were found.
PMCID: PMC3267115  PMID: 22312056
population structure; genetics of infectious disease susceptibility; intestinal worms; Chagas disease
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33666.
Elucidating the genetic architecture of preeclampsia is a major goal in obstetric medicine. We have performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for preeclampsia in unrelated Australian individuals of Caucasian ancestry using the Illumina OmniExpress-12 BeadChip to successfully genotype 648,175 SNPs in 538 preeclampsia cases and 540 normal pregnancy controls. Two SNP associations (rs7579169, p = 3.58×10−7, OR = 1.57; rs12711941, p = 4.26×10−7, OR = 1.56) satisfied our genome-wide significance threshold (modified Bonferroni p<5.11×10−7). These SNPs reside in an intergenic region less than 15 kb downstream from the 3′ terminus of the Inhibin, beta B (INHBB) gene on 2q14.2. They are in linkage disequilibrium (LD) with each other (r2 = 0.92), but not (r2<0.80) with any other genotyped SNP ±250 kb. DNA re-sequencing in and around the INHBB structural gene identified an additional 25 variants. Of the 21 variants that we successfully genotyped back in the case-control cohort the most significant association observed was for a third intergenic SNP (rs7576192, p = 1.48×10−7, OR = 1.59) in strong LD with the two significant GWAS SNPs (r2>0.92). We attempted to provide evidence of a putative regulatory role for these SNPs using bioinformatic analyses and found that they all reside within regions of low sequence conservation and/or low complexity, suggesting functional importance is low. We also explored the mRNA expression in decidua of genes ±500 kb of INHBB and found a nominally significant correlation between a transcript encoded by the EPB41L5 gene, ∼250 kb centromeric to INHBB, and preeclampsia (p = 0.03). We were unable to replicate the associations shown by the significant GWAS SNPs in case-control cohorts from Norway and Finland, leading us to conclude that it is more likely that these SNPs are in LD with as yet unidentified causal variant(s).
PMCID: PMC3303857  PMID: 22432041
Nature Genetics  2011;43(6):539-546.
A combined genome-wide association and linkage study was used to identify loci causing variation in CF lung disease severity. A significant association (P=3. 34 × 10-8) near EHF and APIP (chr11p13) was identified in F508del homozygotes (n=1,978). The association replicated in F508del homozygotes (P=0.006) from a separate family-based study (n=557), with P=1.49 × 10-9 for the three-study joint meta-analysis. Linkage analysis of 486 sibling pairs from the family-based study identified a significant QTL on chromosome 20q13.2 (LOD=5.03). Our findings provide insight into the causes of variation in lung disease severity in CF and suggest new therapeutic targets for this life-limiting disorder.
PMCID: PMC3296486  PMID: 21602797
Genetic Epidemiology  2011;35(Suppl 1):S80-S84.
The phenomenon of synthetic association raises the possibility that common variant genetic markers may be coupled with functional rare variants sufficiently often to allow the rare variants to be tagged by the common ones. Using human exome sequence data from the 1000 Genomes Project, two investigative teams in Group 12 of Genetic Analysis Workshop 17 found that stochastic coupling between rare and common variants does occur, although perhaps not sufficiently often that we can expect common variant signals to reflect synthetic association; other teams considered methods for detecting association using both rare and common variants. Common themes were that synthetic association is more apparent in population strata (ancestral or familial) and that careful selection of the unit of analysis (gene, gene network, or other genomic subset) is likely to be crucial to the discovery of rare variants that contribute to risk of disease.
PMCID: PMC3260649  PMID: 22128064
synthetic association; rare variants; association; identity by state

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