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1.  A meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies for adiponectin levels in East Asians identifies a novel locus near WDR11-FGFR2 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(4):1108-1119.
Blood levels of adiponectin, an adipocyte-secreted protein correlated with metabolic and cardiovascular risks, are highly heritable. Genome-wide association (GWA) studies for adiponectin levels have identified 14 loci harboring variants associated with blood levels of adiponectin. To identify novel adiponectin-associated loci, particularly those of importance in East Asians, we conducted a meta-analysis of GWA studies for adiponectin in 7827 individuals, followed by two stages of replications in 4298 and 5954 additional individuals. We identified a novel adiponectin-associated locus on chromosome 10 near WDR11-FGFR2 (P = 3.0 × 10−14) and provided suggestive evidence for a locus on chromosome 12 near OR8S1-LALBA (P = 1.2 × 10−7). Of the adiponectin-associated loci previously described, we confirmed the association at CDH13 (P = 6.8 × 10−165), ADIPOQ (P = 1.8 × 10−22), PEPD (P = 3.6 × 10−12), CMIP (P = 2.1 × 10−10), ZNF664 (P = 2.3 × 10−7) and GPR109A (P = 7.4 × 10−6). Conditional analysis at ADIPOQ revealed a second signal with suggestive evidence of association only after conditioning on the lead SNP (Pinitial = 0.020; Pconditional = 7.0 × 10−7). We further confirmed the independence of two pairs of closely located loci (<2 Mb) on chromosome 16 at CMIP and CDH13, and on chromosome 12 at GPR109A and ZNF664. In addition, the newly identified signal near WDR11-FGFR2 exhibited evidence of association with triglycerides (P = 3.3 × 10−4), high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C, P = 4.9 × 10−4) and body mass index (BMI)-adjusted waist–hip ratio (P = 9.8 × 10−3). These findings improve our knowledge of the genetic basis of adiponectin variation, demonstrate the shared allelic architecture for adiponectin with lipids and central obesity and motivate further studies of underlying mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3900106  PMID: 24105470
2.  Impact of Measurement Error on Testing Genetic Association with Quantitative Traits 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87044.
Measurement error of a phenotypic trait reduces the power to detect genetic associations. We examined the impact of sample size, allele frequency and effect size in presence of measurement error for quantitative traits. The statistical power to detect genetic association with phenotype mean and variability was investigated analytically. The non-centrality parameter for a non-central F distribution was derived and verified using computer simulations. We obtained equivalent formulas for the cost of phenotype measurement error. Effects of differences in measurements were examined in a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of two grading scales for cataract and a replication study of genetic variants influencing blood pressure. The mean absolute difference between the analytic power and simulation power for comparison of phenotypic means and variances was less than 0.005, and the absolute difference did not exceed 0.02. To maintain the same power, a one standard deviation (SD) in measurement error of a standard normal distributed trait required a one-fold increase in sample size for comparison of means, and a three-fold increase in sample size for comparison of variances. GWAS results revealed almost no overlap in the significant SNPs (p<10−5) for the two cataract grading scales while replication results in genetic variants of blood pressure displayed no significant differences between averaged blood pressure measurements and single blood pressure measurements. We have developed a framework for researchers to quantify power in the presence of measurement error, which will be applicable to studies of phenotypes in which the measurement is highly variable.
PMCID: PMC3901720  PMID: 24475218
3.  A Study Assessing the Association of Glycated Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) Associated Variants with HbA1C, Chronic Kidney Disease and Diabetic Retinopathy in Populations of Asian Ancestry 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79767.
Glycated hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) level is used as a diagnostic marker for diabetes mellitus and a predictor of diabetes associated complications. Genome-wide association studies have identified genetic variants associated with HbA1C level. Most of these studies have been conducted in populations of European ancestry. Here we report the findings from a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies of HbA1C levels in 6,682 non-diabetic subjects of Chinese, Malay and South Asian ancestries. We also sought to examine the associations between HbA1C associated SNPs and microvascular complications associated with diabetes mellitus, namely chronic kidney disease and retinopathy. A cluster of 6 SNPs on chromosome 17 showed an association with HbA1C which achieved genome-wide significance in the Malays but not in Chinese and Asian Indians. No other variants achieved genome-wide significance in the individual studies or in the meta-analysis. When we investigated the reproducibility of the findings that emerged from the European studies, six loci out of fifteen were found to be associated with HbA1C with effect sizes similar to those reported in the populations of European ancestry and P-value ≤ 0.05. No convincing associations with chronic kidney disease and retinopathy were identified in this study.
PMCID: PMC3820602  PMID: 24244560
4.  Cardio-metabolic risk factors and prehypertension in persons without diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:730.
Prehypertension has been shown to be an early risk factor of cardiovascular disease (CVD). We investigated the prevalence and pattern of cardiometabolic risk factors in prehypertension in three ethnic Asian populations in Singapore.
We examined data from Chinese (n = 1177), Malay (n = 774), and Indian (n = 985) adults aged 40–80 years who participated in three independent population based studies conducted from 2004–2011 in Singapore who were free of diabetes, hypertension and previous CVD. Prehypertension was defined as systolic blood pressure (BP) 120–139 mm Hg or diastolic BP 80–89 mm Hg. Random blood glucose, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c), body mass index (BMI), triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol were examined as indicators of adverse cardiometabolic profile. The association between metabolic variables and prehypertension was examined using logistic regression models adjusting for potential confounders.
The prevalence of prehypertension was 59.8% (Chinese), 68.9% (Malays) and 57.7% Indians. Higher levels of blood glucose, HbA1c and BMI were significantly associated with prehypertension in all three ethnic groups, odds ratio (95% confidence interval) of prehypertension in Chinese, Malays and Indians were: 1.42 (1.10, 1.83), 1.53 (1.05, 2.24), 1.49 (1.13, 1.98) for high-glucose; 3.50 (1.01, 12.18), 3.72 (1.29, 10.75), 2.79 (1.31, 5.94) for high-HbA1c; 1.86 (1.34, 2.56), 2.96 (2.10, 4.18), 1.68 (1.28, 2.20) for high-BMI. In addition, higher levels of LDL cholesterol in Chinese and higher levels of triglycerides were significantly associated with prehypertension. These associations persisted when metabolic variables were analysed as continuous variables.
Higher levels of blood glucose, HbA1c and BMI were associated with prehypertension in all three ethnic groups in Singapore. Screening for prehypertension and lifestyle modifications could potentially reduce the burden of CVD in otherwise healthy Asian adults living in Singapore.
PMCID: PMC3751051  PMID: 23919264
Prehypertension; Metabolic syndrome; Indian; Cardiometabolic
5.  Are C-Reactive Protein Associated Genetic Variants Associated with Serum Levels and Retinal Markers of Microvascular Pathology in Asian Populations from Singapore? 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e67650.
C-reactive protein (CRP) levels are associated with cardiovascular disease and systemic inflammation. We assessed whether CRP-associated loci were associated with serum CRP and retinal markers of microvascular disease, in Asian populations.
Genome-wide association analysis (GWAS) for serum CRP was performed in East-Asian Chinese (N = 2,434) and Malays (N = 2,542) and South-Asian Indians (N = 2,538) from Singapore. Leveraging on GWAS data, we assessed, in silico, association levels among the Singaporean datasets for 22 recently identified CRP-associated loci. At loci where directional inconsistencies were observed, quantification of inter-ethnic linkage disequilibrium (LD) difference was determined. Next, we assessed association for a variant at CRP and retinal vessel traits [central retinal artery equivalent (CRAE) and central retinal vein equivalent (CRVE)] in a total of 24,132 subjects of East-Asian, South-Asian and European ancestry.
Serum CRP was associated with SNPs in/near APOE, CRP, HNF1A and LEPR (p-values ≤4.7×10−8) after meta-analysis of Singaporean populations. Using a candidate-SNP approach, we further replicated SNPs at 4 additional loci that had been recently identified to be associated with serum CRP (IL6R, GCKR, IL6 and IL1F10) (p-values ≤0.009), in the Singaporean datasets. SNPs from these 8 loci explained 4.05% of variance in serum CRP. Two SNPs (rs2847281 and rs6901250) were detected to be significant (p-value ≤0.036) but with opposite effect directions in the Singaporean populations as compared to original European studies. At these loci we did not detect significant inter-population LD differences. We further did not observe a significant association between CRP variant and CRVE or CRAE levels after meta-analysis of all Singaporean and European datasets (p-value >0.058).
Common variants associated with serum CRP, first detected in primarily European studies, are also associated with CRP levels in East-Asian and South-Asian populations. We did not find a causal link between CRP and retinal measures of microvascular disease.
PMCID: PMC3699653  PMID: 23844046
6.  Television screen time, but not computer use and reading time, is associated with cardio-metabolic biomarkers in a multiethnic Asian population: a cross-sectional study 
Recent evidence shows that sedentary behaviour may be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and all-cause mortality. However, results are not consistent and different types of sedentary behaviour might have different effects on health. Thus the aim of this study was to evaluate the association between television screen time, computer/reading time and cardio-metabolic biomarkers in a multiethnic urban Asian population. We also sought to understand the potential mediators of this association.
The Singapore Prospective Study Program (2004–2007), was a cross-sectional population-based study in a multiethnic population in Singapore. We studied 3305 Singaporean adults of Chinese, Malay and Indian ethnicity who did not have pre-existing diseases and conditions that could affect their physical activity. Multiple linear regression analysis was used to assess the association of television screen time and computer/reading time with cardio-metabolic biomarkers [blood pressure, lipids, glucose, adiponectin, C reactive protein and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR)]. Path analysis was used to examine the role of mediators of the observed association.
Longer television screen time was significantly associated with higher systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, C reactive protein, HOMA-IR, and lower adiponectin after adjustment for potential socio-demographic and lifestyle confounders. Dietary factors and body mass index, but not physical activity, were potential mediators that explained most of these associations between television screen time and cardio-metabolic biomarkers. The associations of television screen time with triglycerides and HOMA-IR were only partly explained by dietary factors and body mass index. No association was observed between computer/ reading time and worse levels of cardio-metabolic biomarkers.
In this urban Asian population, television screen time was associated with worse levels of various cardio-metabolic risk factors. This may reflect detrimental effects of television screen time on dietary habits rather than replacement of physical activity.
PMCID: PMC3680020  PMID: 23718927
Physical activity; Sedentary behaviour; Television screen time; Cardio-metabolic biomarkers
7.  Ethnic differences in the association between blood pressure components and chronic kidney disease in middle aged and older Asian adults 
BMC Nephrology  2013;14:86.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is an emerging public health problem worldwide. Previous studies have shown an association between blood pressure (BP) and CKD. However, it is not clear if there are ethnic differences in this association. We examined the association between BP and CKD in a multi-ethnic Asian population in Singapore.
We analysed data from three large population-based studies conducted between 2004–2011, (n=3,167 Chinese, 3,082 Malays and 3,228 Indians) aged 40–80 years. CKD was defined as an estimated glomerular filtration rate <60 mL/min/1.73m2 from serum creatinine. Hypertension was defined as a self-reported current use of antihypertensive medication or systolic BP ≥140 mm Hg or diastolic BP ≥90 mm Hg. We also analysed the association of CKD with individual BP components.
The prevalence of both hypertension and CKD was higher among Malays (68.6, 21%) compared to Chinese (57.9, 5.9%) and Indians (56.0, 7.4%), but treatment for hypertension was lower among Malays (53.4%) compared to Chinese (89.8%) and Indians (83.1%). Hypertension was associated with CKD in all three ethnic groups (OR [95% CI] = 2.71 [1.59-4.63], 2.08 [1.62-2.68], 2.43 [1.66-3.57] in Chinese, Malays and Indians). Among the BP components, both systolic and diastolic BP were associated with CKD in Malays whereas, systolic BP was not significantly associated with CKD, and diastolic BP showed an inverse association which was explained by anti-hypertensive medication use in Chinese and Indians.
Hypertension was associated with CKD in Chinese, Malays and Indians. However, the BP components were associated with CKD only in Malays.
PMCID: PMC3637167  PMID: 23590421
Asians; Blood pressure; Chronic kidney disease; Glomerular filtration rate; Singapore
8.  Genome-wide association analyses identify three new susceptibility loci for primary angle closure glaucoma 
Vithana, Eranga N | Khor, Chiea-Chuen | Qiao, Chunyan | Nongpiur, Monisha E | George, Ronnie | Chen, Li-Jia | Do, Tan | Abu-Amero, Khaled | Huang, Chor Kai | Low, Sancy | Tajudin, Liza-Sharmini A | Perera, Shamira A | Cheng, Ching-Yu | Xu, Liang | Jia, Hongyan | Ho, Ching-Lin | Sim, Kar Seng | Wu, Ren-Yi | Tham, Clement C Y | Chew, Paul T K | Su, Daniel H | Oen, Francis T | Sarangapani, Sripriya | Soumittra, Nagaswamy | Osman, Essam A | Wong, Hon-Tym | Tang, Guangxian | Fan, Sujie | Meng, Hailin | Huong, Dao T L | Wang, Hua | Feng, Bo | Baskaran, Mani | Shantha, Balekudaru | Ramprasad, Vedam L | Kumaramanickavel, Govindasamy | Iyengar, Sudha K | How, Alicia C | Lee, Kelvin Y | Sivakumaran, Theru A | Yong, Victor H K | Ting, Serena M L | Li, Yang | Wang, Ya-Xing | Tay, Wan-Ting | Sim, Xueling | Lavanya, Raghavan | Cornes, Belinda K | Zheng, Ying-Feng | Wong, Tina T | Loon, Seng-Chee | Yong, Vernon K Y | Waseem, Naushin | Yaakub, Azhany | Chia, Kee-Seng | Allingham, R Rand | Hauser, Michael A | Lam, Dennis S C | Hibberd, Martin L | Bhattacharya, Shomi S | Zhang, Mingzhi | Teo, Yik Ying | Tan, Donald T | Jonas, Jost B | Tai, E-Shyong | Saw, Seang-Mei | Hon, Do Nhu | Al-Obeidan, Saleh A | Liu, Jianjun | Chau, Tran Nguyen Bich | Simmons, Cameron P | Bei, Jin-Xin | Zeng, Yi-Xin | Foster, Paul J | Vijaya, Lingam | Wong, Tien-Yin | Pang, Chi-Pui | Wang, Ningli | Aung, Tin
Nature genetics  2012;44(10):1142-1146.
Primary angle closure glaucoma (PACG) is a major cause of blindness worldwide. We conducted a genome-wide association study including 1,854 PACG cases and 9,608 controls across 5 sample collections in Asia. Replication experiments were conducted in 1,917 PACG cases and 8,943 controls collected from a further 6 sample collections. We report significant associations at three new loci: rs11024102 in PLEKHA7 (per-allele odds ratio (OR) = 1.22; P = 5.33 × 10−12), rs3753841 in COL11A1 (per-allele OR = 1.20; P = 9.22 × 10−10) and rs1015213 located between PCMTD1 and ST18 on chromosome 8q (per-allele OR = 1.50; P = 3.29 × 10−9). Our findings, accumulated across these independent worldwide collections, suggest possible mechanisms explaining the pathogenesis of PACG.
PMCID: PMC4333205  PMID: 22922875
9.  Retinal Microvascular Abnormalities and Risk of Renal Failure in Asian Populations 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0118076.
Retinal microvascular signs may provide insights into the structure and function of small vessels that are associated with renal disease. We examined the relationship of retinal microvascular signs with both prevalent and incident end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in a multi-ethnic Asian population.
A total of 5763 subjects (aged ≥40 years) from two prospective population-based studies (the Singapore Malay Eye Study and the Singapore Prospective Study) were included for the current analysis. Retinopathy was graded using the modified Airlie House classification system. Retinal vascular parameters were measured using computer-assisted programs to quantify the retinal vessel widths (arteriolar and venular caliber) and retinal vascular network (fractal dimension). Data on ESRD was obtained by record linkage with the ESRD cases registered by National Registry of Diseases Office, Singapore. Multi-variable adjusted regression analyses were performed to assess the associations of baseline retinal vascular parameters and prevalent and incident ESRD.
At baseline, 21(0.36%) persons had prevalent ESRD. During a median follow-up of 4.3 years, 33 (0.57%) subjects developed ESRD. In our analyses, retinopathy was associated with prevalent ESRD (multi-variable adjusted odds ratio [OR], 3.21, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.28–8.05) and incident ESRD (multi-variable adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 2.51, 95%CI: 1.14–5.54). This association was largely seen in person with diabetes (HR, 2.60, 95%CI: 1.01–6.66) and not present in persons without diabetes (HR, 1.65, 95%CI: 0.14–18.98). Retinal arteriolar caliber, retinal venular caliber and retinal vascular fractal dimension were not associated with ESRD.
Retinopathy signs in persons with diabetes are related to an increased risk of ESRD; however, other microvascular changes in the retina are not associated with ESRD.
PMCID: PMC4320082  PMID: 25658337
10.  Education influences the association between genetic variants and refractive error: a meta-analysis of five Singapore studies 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):546-554.
Refractive error is a complex ocular trait governed by both genetic and environmental factors and possibly their interplay. Thus far, data on the interaction between genetic variants and environmental risk factors for refractive errors are largely lacking. By using findings from recent genome-wide association studies, we investigated whether the main environmental factor, education, modifies the effect of 40 single nucleotide polymorphisms on refractive error among 8461 adults from five studies including ethnic Chinese, Malay and Indian residents of Singapore. Three genetic loci SHISA6-DNAH9, GJD2 and ZMAT4-SFRP1 exhibited a strong association with myopic refractive error in individuals with higher secondary or university education (SHISA6-DNAH9: rs2969180 A allele, β = −0.33 D, P = 3.6 × 10–6; GJD2: rs524952 A allele, β = −0.31 D, P = 1.68 × 10−5; ZMAT4-SFRP1: rs2137277 A allele, β = −0.47 D, P = 1.68 × 10−4), whereas the association at these loci was non-significant or of borderline significance in those with lower secondary education or below (P for interaction: 3.82 × 10−3–4.78 × 10−4). The evidence for interaction was strengthened when combining the genetic effects of these three loci (P for interaction = 4.40 × 10−8), and significant interactions with education were also observed for axial length and myopia. Our study shows that low level of education may attenuate the effect of risk alleles on myopia. These findings further underline the role of gene–environment interactions in the pathophysiology of myopia.
PMCID: PMC3869359  PMID: 24014484
11.  Genetic variation in the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator 1 (PGC1) gene families and type 2 diabetes 
Annals of human genetics  2014;78(1):23-32.
We used a two-stage study design to evaluate whether variations in the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPAR) and the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator 1 (PGC1) gene families (PPARA, PPARG, PPARD, PPARGC1A, and PPARGC1B) are associated with T2D risk. Stage I used data from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) from Shanghai, China (1,019 T2D cases and 1,709 controls) and from a meta-analysis of data from the Asian Genetic Epidemiology Network for T2D (AGEN-T2D). Criteria for selection of SNPs for stage II were: 1) P<0.05 in single marker analysis in Shanghai GWAS and P<0.05 in the meta-analysis or 2) P<10−3 in the meta-analysis alone and 3) minor allele frequency ≥0.10. Nine SNPs from the PGC1 family were assessed in stage II (an independent set of middle-aged men and women from Shanghai with 1,700 T2D cases and 1,647 controls). One SNP in PPARGC1B, rs251464, was replicated in stage II (OR=0.87; 95% CI: 0.77–0.99). Gene-body mass index (BMI) and gene-exercise interactions and T2D risk were evaluated in a combined dataset (Shanghai GWAS and stage II data: 2,719 cases and 3,356 controls). One SNP in PPARGC1A, rs12640088, had a significant interaction with BMI. No interactions between the PPARGC1B gene and BMI or exercise were observed.
PMCID: PMC3936468  PMID: 24359475
type 2 diabetes; PPAR; PGC1
12.  FTO Variants Are Associated With Obesity in the Chinese and Malay Populations in Singapore 
Diabetes  2008;57(10):2851-2857.
OBJECTIVE— Association between genetic variants at the FTO locus and obesity has been consistently observed in populations of European ancestry and inconsistently in non-Europeans. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of FTO variants on obesity and type 2 diabetes in Southeast Asian populations.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS— We examined associations between nine previously reported FTO single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and related traits in 4,298 participants (2,919 Chinese, 785 Malays, and 594 Asian Indians) from the 1998 Singapore National Health Survey (NHS98) and 2,996 Malays from the Singapore Malay Eye Study (SiMES).
RESULTS— All nine SNPs exhibited strong linkage disequilibrium (r2 = 0.6–0.99), and minor alleles were associated with obesity in the same direction as previous studies with effect sizes ranging from 0.42 to 0.68 kg/m2 (P < 0.0001) in NHS98 Chinese, 0.65 to 0.91 kg/m2 (P < 0.02) in NHS98 Malays, and 0.52 to 0.64 kg/m2 (P < 0.0001) in SiMES Malays after adjustment for age, sex, smoking, alcohol consumption, and exercise. The variants were also associated with type 2 diabetes, though not after adjustment for BMI (with the exception of the SiMES Malays: odds ratio 1.17–1.22; P ≤ 0.026).
CONCLUSIONS— FTO variants common among European populations are associated with obesity in ethnic Chinese and Malays in Singapore. Our data do not support the hypothesis that differences in allele frequency or genetic architecture underlie the lack of association observed in some populations of Asian ancestry. Examination of gene-environment interactions involving variants at this locus may provide further insights into the role of FTO in the pathogenesis of human obesity and diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2551698  PMID: 18599522
13.  Establishing the Thematic Framework for a Diabetes-Specific Health-Related Quality of Life Item Bank for Use in an English-Speaking Asian Population 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115654.
To establish a thematic framework for a Diabetes Mellitus (DM)-specific health-related quality of life (HRQoL) item bank by identifying important HRQoL themes and content gaps in existing DM-specific HRQoL measures and determining whether Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) item banks are useful as a starting point.
English-speaking Type 2 DM patients were recruited from an outpatient specialist clinic in Singapore. Thematic analysis was performed through open coding and axial coding. Items from four existing DM-specific measures and PROMIS Version 1.0 and 2.0 item banks were compared with identified themes and sub-themes.
42 patients participated (25 men and 17 women; 28 Chinese, 4 Malay, 8 Indians, 2 other ethnicities). Median age was 53.70 years (IQR45.82–56.97) and the median disease duration was 11.13 (SD9.77) years. 10 subthemes (neutral emotions, coping emotions, empowered to help others, support from family, spend more time with family, relationships, financial burden on family, improved relationship, social support and religion/spirituality) were not covered by existing DM-specific measures. PROMIS covered 5 of 6 themes, 15 of 30 subthemes and 19 of 35 codes identified. Emotional distress (frustration, fear and anxiety) was most frequently mentioned (200 times).
We had developed a thematic framework for assessing DM-specific HRQoL in a multi-ethnic Asian population, identified new items that needed to be written and confirmed that PROMIS was a useful starting point. We hope that better understanding and measurement of HRQoL of Asian DM patients will translate to better quality of care for them.
PMCID: PMC4274102  PMID: 25531429
14.  A Novel Splice-Site Mutation in ALS2 Establishes the Diagnosis of Juvenile Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in a Family with Early Onset Anarthria and Generalized Dystonias 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e113258.
The diagnosis of childhood neurological disorders remains challenging given the overlapping clinical presentation across subgroups and heterogeneous presentation within subgroups. To determine the underlying genetic cause of a severe neurological disorder in a large consanguineous Pakistani family presenting with severe scoliosis, anarthria and progressive neuromuscular degeneration, we performed genome-wide homozygosity mapping accompanied by whole-exome sequencing in two affected first cousins and their unaffected parents to find the causative mutation. We identified a novel homozygous splice-site mutation (c.3512+1G>A) in the ALS2 gene (NM_020919.3) encoding alsin that segregated with the disease in this family. Homozygous loss-of-function mutations in ALS2 are known to cause juvenile-onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), one of the many neurological conditions having overlapping symptoms with many neurological phenotypes. RT-PCR validation revealed that the mutation resulted in exon-skipping as well as the use of an alternative donor splice, both of which are predicted to cause loss-of-function of the resulting proteins. By examining 216 known neurological disease genes in our exome sequencing data, we also identified 9 other rare nonsynonymous mutations in these genes, some of which lie in highly conserved regions. Sequencing of a single proband might have led to mis-identification of some of these as the causative variant. Our findings established a firm diagnosis of juvenile ALS in this family, thus demonstrating the use of whole exome sequencing combined with linkage analysis in families as a powerful tool for establishing a quick and precise genetic diagnosis of complex neurological phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC4256290  PMID: 25474699
15.  Genetic Variation in CDH13 Is Associated With Lower Plasma Adiponectin Levels but Greater Adiponectin Sensitivity in East Asian Populations 
Diabetes  2013;62(12):4277-4283.
Variants in the CDH13 gene have been identified as determinants of blood levels of adiponectin, an insulin-sensitizing adipokine. However, their association with other metabolic risk factors remains unclear. We examined variants at CDH13 in relation to total and high-molecular-weight (HMW) adiponectin using data from a genome-wide association study performed in 2,434 Singaporean Chinese with replication in up to 3,290 Japanese and 1,610 Koreans. The top signal rs4783244 in CDH13 showed strong associations with total adiponectin (standardized β [β] = −0.34, 95% CI −0.38 to −0.30, P = 2.0 × 10−70), HMW adiponectin (β = −0.40, 95% CI −0.43 to −0.36, P = 1.1 × 10−117), and the HMW-to-total adiponectin ratio (β = −0.44, 95% CI −0.49 to −0.40, P = 3.2 × 10−83). In the replication study, this single nucleotide polymorphism explained 4.1% of total and 6.5% of HMW adiponectin levels. No association was observed between rs4783244 and metabolic traits associated with insulin resistance before adjustment for HMW adiponectin levels. After adjustment for HMW adiponectin levels, the minor allele was associated with lower BMI (β = −0.15, 95% CI −0.19 to −0.11, P = 3.5 × 10−14), homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance index (β = −0.16, 95% CI −0.20 to −0.12, P = 9.2 × 10−16), and triglycerides (β = −0.16, 95% CI −0.19 to −0.12, P = 1.3 × 10−16) and with higher HDL (β = 0.16, 95% CI 0.12 to 0.19, P = 2.1 × 10−17). CDH13 variants strongly influence plasma total and HMW adiponectin levels in East Asian populations but appear to alter adiponectin sensitivity, resulting in better metabolic health than expected based on circulating adiponectin levels.
PMCID: PMC3837060  PMID: 24009259
16.  Associations between Disease Awareness and Health-Related Quality of Life in a Multi-Ethnic Asian Population 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e113802.
Health related quality of life (HRQoL) is an important dimension of individuals' well-being, and especially in chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. The objective of this study was to evaluate the contributions of disease process, comorbidities, medication or awareness of the disease to HRQoL in diabetes mellitus, hypertension and dyslipidemia.
This was a cross-sectional study of 3514 respondents from the general community in Singapore, assessed for HRQoL, disease and comorbid conditions through self-report, clinical and laboratory investigations. HRQoL was assessed using SF-36 health survey version 2. For each condition, participants were categorized as having 1) no disease, 2) undiagnosed, 3) diagnosed, not taking medication, and 4) diagnosed, taking medication. Analysis used one-way ANOVA and multiple linear regression.
Diagnosed disease was associated with lower physical health component summary (PCS) scores across all three conditions. After adjustment for comorbidities, this association remained significant only for those not on medication in diabetes (−2.7±1.2 points, p = 0.03) and dyslipidemia (−1.3±0.4 points, p = 0.003). Diagnosed hypertension (no medication −2.6±0.9 points, p = 0.002; medication −1.4±0.5 points, p = 0.004) and dyslipidemia (no medication −0.9±0.4 points, p = 0.03; medication −1.9±0.5 points, p<0.001) were associated with lower mental health component summary (MCS) scores. Undiagnosed disease was associated with higher MCS in diabetes (2.4±1.0 points, p = 0.01) and dyslipidemia (0.8±0.4 points, p = 0.045), and PCS in hypertension (1.2±0.4 points, p = 0.004).
Disease awareness was associated with lower HRQoL across the diseases studied, with PCS associations partially mediated by comorbidities. Equally importantly, undiagnosed disease was not associated with HRQoL deficits, which may partly explain why these individuals do not seek medical care.
PMCID: PMC4245227  PMID: 25426951
17.  Allele Frequencies of Variants in Ultra Conserved Elements Identify Selective Pressure on Transcription Factor Binding 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e110692.
Ultra-conserved genes or elements (UCGs/UCEs) in the human genome are extreme examples of conservation. We characterized natural variations in 2884 UCEs and UCGs in two distinct populations; Singaporean Chinese (n = 280) and Italian (n = 501) by using a pooled sample, targeted capture, sequencing approach. We identify, with high confidence, in these regions the abundance of rare SNVs (MAF<0.5%) of which 75% is not present in dbSNP137. UCEs association studies for complex human traits can use this information to model expected background variation and thus necessary power for association studies. By combining our data with 1000 Genome Project data, we show in three independent datasets that prevalent UCE variants (MAF>5%) are more often found in relatively less-conserved nucleotides within UCEs, compared to rare variants. Moreover, prevalent variants are less likely to overlap transcription factor binding site. Using SNPfold we found no significant influence of RNA secondary structure on UCE conservation. All together, these results suggest UCEs are not under selective pressure as a stretch of DNA but are under differential evolutionary pressure on the single nucleotide level.
PMCID: PMC4219694  PMID: 25369454
Hypertension  2013;62(5):853-859.
We conducted a genome-wide association study meta-analysis of mean arterial pressure and pulse pressure among 26,600 East Asian participants (stage-1) followed by replication study of up to 28,783 participants (stage-2). For novel loci, statistical significance was determined by a P<5.0×10−8 in joint analysis of stage-1 and stage-2 data. For loci reported by the previous mean arterial and pulse pressure genome-wide association study meta-analysis in Europeans, evidence of trans-ethnic replication was determined by consistency in effect direction and a Bonferroni-corrected P<1.4×10−3. No novel loci were identified by the current study. Five independent mean arterial pressure variants demonstrated robust evidence for trans-ethnic replication including rs17249754 at ATP2B1 (P=7.5×10−15), rs2681492 at ATP2B1 (P=3.4×10−7), rs11191593 at NT5C2 (1.1×10−6), rs3824755 at CYP17A1 (P=1.2×10−6), and rs13149993 at FGF5 (P=2.4×10−4). Two additional variants showed suggestive evidence of trans-ethnic replication (consistency in effect direction and P<0.05), including rs319690 at MAP4 (P=0.014) and rs1173771 at NPR3 (P=0.018). For pulse pressure, robust evidence of replication was identified for 2 independent variants, including rs17249754 at ATP2B1 (P=1.2×10−5) and rs11191593 at NT5C2 (P=1.1×10−3), with suggestive evidence of replication among an additional 2 variants including rs3824755 at CYP17A1 (P=6.1×10−3) and rs2681492 at ATP2B1 (P=9.0×10−3). Replicated variants demonstrated consistency in effect sizes between East Asian and European samples, with effect size differences ranging from 0.03 to 0.24 mmHg for mean arterial pressure and from 0.03 to 0.21 mmHg for pulse pressure. In conclusion, we present the first evidence of trans-ethnic replication of several mean arterial and pulse pressure loci in an East Asian population.
PMCID: PMC3972802  PMID: 24001895
genetics; polymorphism; single nucleotide; blood pressure; hypertension; genome-wide association study; meta-analysis
19.  Forecasting the burden of type 2 diabetes in Singapore using a demographic epidemiological model of Singapore 
Singapore is a microcosm of Asia as a whole, and its rapidly ageing, increasingly sedentary population heralds the chronic health problems other Asian countries are starting to face and will likely face in the decades ahead. Forecasting the changing burden of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes in Singapore is vital to plan the resources needed and motivate preventive efforts.
This paper describes an individual-level simulation model that uses evidence synthesis from multiple data streams—national statistics, national health surveys, and four cohort studies, and known risk factors—aging, obesity, ethnicity, and genetics—to forecast the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in Singapore. This comprises submodels for mortality, fertility, migration, body mass index trajectories, genetics, and workforce participation, parameterized using Markov chain Monte Carlo methods, and permits forecasts by ethnicity and employment status.
We forecast that the obesity prevalence will quadruple from 4.3% in 1990 to 15.9% in 2050, while the prevalence of type 2 diabetes (diagnosed and undiagnosed) among Singapore adults aged 18–69 will double from 7.3% in 1990 to 15% in 2050, that ethnic Indians and Malays will bear a disproportionate burden compared with the Chinese majority, and that the number of patients with diabetes in the workforce will grow markedly.
If the recent rise in obesity prevalence continues, the lifetime risk of type 2 diabetes in Singapore will be one in two by 2050 with concomitant implications for greater healthcare expenditure, productivity losses, and the targeting of health promotion programmes.
PMCID: PMC4212579  PMID: 25452860
Adult Diabetes; Statistical Methods; Demographics; Simulation
20.  Loss-of-function mutations in SLC30A8 protect against type 2 diabetes 
Flannick, Jason | Thorleifsson, Gudmar | Beer, Nicola L. | Jacobs, Suzanne B. R. | Grarup, Niels | Burtt, Noël P. | Mahajan, Anubha | Fuchsberger, Christian | Atzmon, Gil | Benediktsson, Rafn | Blangero, John | Bowden, Don W. | Brandslund, Ivan | Brosnan, Julia | Burslem, Frank | Chambers, John | Cho, Yoon Shin | Christensen, Cramer | Douglas, Desirée A. | Duggirala, Ravindranath | Dymek, Zachary | Farjoun, Yossi | Fennell, Timothy | Fontanillas, Pierre | Forsén, Tom | Gabriel, Stacey | Glaser, Benjamin | Gudbjartsson, Daniel F. | Hanis, Craig | Hansen, Torben | Hreidarsson, Astradur B. | Hveem, Kristian | Ingelsson, Erik | Isomaa, Bo | Johansson, Stefan | Jørgensen, Torben | Jørgensen, Marit Eika | Kathiresan, Sekar | Kong, Augustine | Kooner, Jaspal | Kravic, Jasmina | Laakso, Markku | Lee, Jong-Young | Lind, Lars | Lindgren, Cecilia M | Linneberg, Allan | Masson, Gisli | Meitinger, Thomas | Mohlke, Karen L | Molven, Anders | Morris, Andrew P. | Potluri, Shobha | Rauramaa, Rainer | Ribel-Madsen, Rasmus | Richard, Ann-Marie | Rolph, Tim | Salomaa, Veikko | Segrè, Ayellet V. | Skärstrand, Hanna | Steinthorsdottir, Valgerdur | Stringham, Heather M. | Sulem, Patrick | Tai, E Shyong | Teo, Yik Ying | Teslovich, Tanya | Thorsteinsdottir, Unnur | Trimmer, Jeff K. | Tuomi, Tiinamaija | Tuomilehto, Jaakko | Vaziri-Sani, Fariba | Voight, Benjamin F. | Wilson, James G. | Boehnke, Michael | McCarthy, Mark I. | Njølstad, Pål R. | Pedersen, Oluf | Groop, Leif | Cox, David R. | Stefansson, Kari | Altshuler, David
Nature genetics  2014;46(4):357-363.
Loss-of-function mutations protective against human disease provide in vivo validation of therapeutic targets1,2,3, yet none are described for type 2 diabetes (T2D). Through sequencing or genotyping ~150,000 individuals across five ethnicities, we identified 12 rare protein-truncating variants in SLC30A8, which encodes an islet zinc transporter (ZnT8)4 and harbors a common variant (p.Trp325Arg) associated with T2D risk, glucose, and proinsulin levels5–7. Collectively, protein-truncating variant carriers had 65% reduced T2D risk (p=1.7×10−6), and non-diabetic Icelandic carriers of a frameshift variant (p.Lys34SerfsX50) demonstrated reduced glucose levels (−0.17 s.d., p=4.6×10−4). The two most common protein-truncating variants (p.Arg138X and p.Lys34SerfsX50) individually associate with T2D protection and encode unstable ZnT8 proteins. Previous functional study of SLC30A8 suggested reduced zinc transport increases T2D risk8,9, yet phenotypic heterogeneity was observed in rodent Slc30a8 knockouts10–15. Contrastingly, loss-of-function mutations in humans provide strong evidence that SLC30A8 haploinsufficiency protects against T2D, proposing ZnT8 inhibition as a therapeutic strategy in T2D prevention.
PMCID: PMC4051628  PMID: 24584071
21.  Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies a Novel Locus Contributing to Type 2 Diabetes Susceptibility in Sikhs of Punjabi Origin From India 
Diabetes  2013;62(5):1746-1755.
We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) and a multistage meta-analysis of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in Punjabi Sikhs from India. Our discovery GWAS in 1,616 individuals (842 case subjects) was followed by in silico replication of the top 513 independent single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (P < 10−3) in Punjabi Sikhs (n = 2,819; 801 case subjects). We further replicated 66 SNPs (P < 10−4) through genotyping in a Punjabi Sikh sample (n = 2,894; 1,711 case subjects). On combined meta-analysis in Sikh populations (n = 7,329; 3,354 case subjects), we identified a novel locus in association with T2D at 13q12 represented by a directly genotyped intronic SNP (rs9552911, P = 1.82 × 10−8) in the SGCG gene. Next, we undertook in silico replication (stage 2b) of the top 513 signals (P < 10−3) in 29,157 non-Sikh South Asians (10,971 case subjects) and de novo genotyping of up to 31 top signals (P < 10−4) in 10,817 South Asians (5,157 case subjects) (stage 3b). In combined South Asian meta-analysis, we observed six suggestive associations (P < 10−5 to < 10−7), including SNPs at HMG1L1/CTCFL, PLXNA4, SCAP, and chr5p11. Further evaluation of 31 top SNPs in 33,707 East Asians (16,746 case subjects) (stage 3c) and 47,117 Europeans (8,130 case subjects) (stage 3d), and joint meta-analysis of 128,127 individuals (44,358 case subjects) from 27 multiethnic studies, did not reveal any additional loci nor was there any evidence of replication for the new variant. Our findings provide new evidence on the presence of a population-specific signal in relation to T2D, which may provide additional insights into T2D pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3636649  PMID: 23300278
22.  Evaluation of Dietary Effects on Hepatic Lipids in High Fat and Placebo Diet Fed Rats by In Vivo MRS and LC-MS Techniques 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91436.
Background & Aims
Dietary saturated fatty acids contribute to the development of fatty liver and have pathogenic link to systemic inflammation. We investigated the effects of dietary fat towards the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by longitudinal in vivo magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and in vitro liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (LC-MS).
All measurements were performed on rats fed with high fat diet (HFD) and chow diet for twenty four weeks. Longitudinal MRS measurements were performed at the 12th, 18th and 24th weeks. Liver tissues were analyzed by LC-MS, histology and gene transcription studies after terminal in vivo experiments.
Liver fat content of HFD rats for all ages was significantly (P<0.05) higher compared to their respective chow diet fed rats. Unsaturation indices estimated from MRS and LC-MS data of chow diet fed rats were significantly higher (P<0.05) than HFD fed rats. The concentration of triglycerides 48∶1, 48∶2, 50∶1, 50∶2, 50∶3, 52∶1, 52∶2, 52∶3, 54∶3 and 54∶2 was significantly higher (P<0.05) in HFD rats. The concentration for some polyunsaturated triglycerides 54∶7, 56∶8, 56∶7, 58∶11, 58∶10, 58∶9, 58∶8 and 60∶10 was significantly higher (P<0.05) in chow diet fed rats compared to HFD rats. Lysophospholipid concentrations including LPC and LPE were higher in HFD rats at 24 weeks indicating the increased risk of diabetes. The expression of CD36, PPARα, SCD1, SREBF1 and UCP2 were significantly upregulated in HFD rats.
We demonstrated the early changes in saturated and unsaturated lipid composition in fatty liver by in vivo MRS and ex vivo LC-MS. The higher LPC concentration in HFD rats indicated a higher risk of developing diabetes. Early metabolic perturbations causing changes in lipid composition can be evaluated by the unsaturation index and correlated to the non alcoholic fatty liver disease.
PMCID: PMC3956606  PMID: 24638096
23.  ABCC5, a Gene That Influences the Anterior Chamber Depth, Is Associated with Primary Angle Closure Glaucoma 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(3):e1004089.
Anterior chamber depth (ACD) is a key anatomical risk factor for primary angle closure glaucoma (PACG). We conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on ACD to discover novel genes for PACG on a total of 5,308 population-based individuals of Asian descent. Genome-wide significant association was observed at a sequence variant within ABCC5 (rs1401999; per-allele effect size = −0.045 mm, P = 8.17×10−9). This locus was associated with an increase in risk of PACG in a separate case-control study of 4,276 PACG cases and 18,801 controls (per-allele OR = 1.13 [95% CI: 1.06–1.22], P = 0.00046). The association was strengthened when a sub-group of controls with open angles were included in the analysis (per-allele OR = 1.30, P = 7.45×10−9; 3,458 cases vs. 3,831 controls). Our findings suggest that the increase in PACG risk could in part be mediated by genetic sequence variants influencing anterior chamber dimensions.
Author Summary
The anterior chamber is the space within the eye which is bound by the cornea, and the anterior surfaces of the iris and lens. Anterior chamber depth (ACD) is the distance measured along the eye's optical axis, from the cornea to the lens surface. ACD is an important risk factor for primary angle closure glaucoma (PACG), a major cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, and in particular, individuals of Asian ethnicity. In order to identify the genes that underlie PACG susceptibility, we conducted a two-staged study. We first conducted a large scale genetic study on a total of 5,308 population-based individuals of Asian descent to identify the genetic variants that influence ACD. This was followed by testing for associations between the identified genetic variant and PACG in another independent collection of 4,276 PACG cases and 18,801 controls. We found that a genetic variant within ABCC5 was associated with an increased risk of having PACG. Our findings suggest that the increase in PACG risk could in part be mediated by genetic sequence variants that influence the anterior chamber dimensions of the eye.
PMCID: PMC3945113  PMID: 24603532
24.  A genome-wide association study of intra-ocular pressure suggests a novel association in the gene FAM125B in the TwinsUK cohort 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(12):3343-3348.
Glaucoma is a major cause of blindness in the world. To date, common genetic variants associated with glaucoma only explain a small proportion of its heritability. We performed a genome-wide association study of intra-ocular pressure (IOP), an underlying endophenotype for glaucoma. The discovery phase of the study was carried out in the TwinsUK cohort (N = 2774) analyzing association between IOP and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) imputed to HapMap2. The results were validated in 12 independent replication cohorts of European ancestry (combined N = 22 789) that were a part of the International Glaucoma Genetics Consortium. Expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) analyses of the significantly associated SNPs were performed using data from the Multiple Tissue Human Expression Resource (MuTHER) Study. In the TwinsUK cohort, IOP was significantly associated with a number of SNPs at 9q33.3 (P = 3.48 × 10−8 for rs2286885, the most significantly associated SNP at this locus), within the genomic sequence of the FAM125B gene. Independent replication in a composite panel of 12 cohorts revealed consistent direction of effect and significant association (P = 0.003, for fixed-effect meta-analysis). Suggestive evidence for an eQTL effect of rs2286885 was observed for one of the probes targeting the coding region of the FAM125B gene. This gene codes for a component of a membrane complex involved in vesicular trafficking process, a function similar to that of the Caveolin genes (CAV1 and CAV2) which have previously been associated with primary open-angle glaucoma. This study suggests a novel association between SNPs in FAM125B and IOP in the TwinsUK cohort, though further studies to elucidate the functional role of this gene in glaucoma are necessary.
PMCID: PMC4030784  PMID: 24518671
25.  Joint Effects of Known Type 2 Diabetes Susceptibility Loci in Genome-Wide Association Study of Singapore Chinese: The Singapore Chinese Health Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87762.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified genetic factors in type 2 diabetes (T2D), mostly among individuals of European ancestry. We tested whether previously identified T2D-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) replicate and whether SNPs in regions near known T2D SNPs were associated with T2D within the Singapore Chinese Health Study.
2338 cases and 2339 T2D controls from the Singapore Chinese Health Study were genotyped for 507,509 SNPs. Imputation extended the genotyped SNPs to 7,514,461 with high estimated certainty (r2>0.8). Replication of known index SNP associations in T2D was attempted. Risk scores were computed as the sum of index risk alleles. SNPs in regions ±100 kb around each index were tested for associations with T2D in conditional fine-mapping analysis.
Of 69 index SNPs, 20 were genotyped directly and genotypes at 35 others were well imputed. Among the 55 SNPs with data, disease associations were replicated (at p<0.05) for 15 SNPs, while 32 more were directionally consistent with previous reports. Risk score was a significant predictor with a 2.03 fold higher risk CI (1.69–2.44) of T2D comparing the highest to lowest quintile of risk allele burden (p = 5.72×10−14). Two improved SNPs around index rs10923931 and 5 new candidate SNPs around indices rs10965250 and rs1111875 passed simple Bonferroni corrections for significance in conditional analysis. Nonetheless, only a small fraction (2.3% on the disease liability scale) of T2D burden in Singapore is explained by these SNPs.
While diabetes risk in Singapore Chinese involves genetic variants, most disease risk remains unexplained. Further genetic work is ongoing in the Singapore Chinese population to identify unique common variants not already seen in earlier studies. However rapid increases in T2D risk have occurred in recent decades in this population, indicating that dynamic environmental influences and possibly gene by environment interactions complicate the genetic architecture of this disease.
PMCID: PMC3919750  PMID: 24520337

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