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1.  Risk of bilateral visual impairment in individuals with amblyopia: the Rotterdam study 
The British Journal of Ophthalmology  2007;91(11):1450-1451.
The excess risk of bilateral visual impairment (BVI; bilateral visual acuity <0.5) among individuals with amblyopia is an argument for screening for amblyopia, but data are scarce.
The risk was estimated by determining the incidence of BVI in the Rotterdam Study, a population‐based cohort of subjects aged 55 years or over (n  =  5220), including 192 individuals with amblyopia (3.7%). Using a multistate lifetable, the lifetime risk and excess period spent with BVI were determined.
The relative risk of BVI for amblyopes was 2.6 (95% confidence interval 1.4–4.5). For individuals with amblyopia, the lifetime risk of BVI was 18%, whereas they lived on average 7.2 years with BVI. For non‐amblyopic individuals, these figures were 10% and 6.7 years, respectively.
Amblyopia nearly doubles the lifetime risk of BVI and affected individuals spent an extra six months with BVI. This study provides data for future cost‐effectiveness analyses.
PMCID: PMC2095419  PMID: 17522151
amblyopia; lifetime risk; visual impairment
2.  Education influences the role of genetics in myopia 
Myopia is a complex inherited ocular trait resulting from an interplay of genes and environmental factors, most of which are currently unknown. In two independent population-based cohorts consisting of 5,256 and 3,938 individuals from European descent, we tested for biological interaction between genetic predisposition and level of education on the risk of myopia. A genetic risk score was calculated based on 26 myopia-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms recently discovered by the Consortium for Refractive Error and Myopia. Educational level was obtained by questionnaire and categorized into primary, intermediate, and higher education. Refractive error was measured during a standardized ophthalmological examination. Biological interaction was assessed by calculation of the synergy index. Individuals at high genetic risk in combination with university-level education had a remarkably high risk of myopia (OR 51.3; 95 % CI 18.5–142.6), while those at high genetic risk with only primary schooling were at a much lower increased risk of myopia (OR 7.2, 95 % CI 3.1–17.0). The combined effect of genetic predisposition and education on the risk of myopia was far higher than the sum of these two effects (synergy index 4.2, 95 % CI 1.9–9.5). This epidemiological study provides evidence of a gene-environment interaction in which an individual’s genetic risk of myopia is significantly affected by his or her educational level.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10654-013-9856-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3898347  PMID: 24142238
Myopia; Refractive error; GxE; Gene-environment; Environmental factors
3.  Identification of a Candidate Gene for Astigmatism 
Astigmatism is a common refractive error that reduces vision, where the curvature and refractive power of the cornea in one meridian are less than those of the perpendicular axis. It is a complex trait likely to be influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Twin studies of astigmatism have found approximately 60% of phenotypic variance is explained by genetic factors. This study aimed to identify susceptibility loci for astigmatism.
We performed a meta-analysis of seven genome-wide association studies that included 22,100 individuals of European descent, where astigmatism was defined as the number of diopters of cylinder prescription, using fixed effect inverse variance-weighted methods.
A susceptibility locus was identified with lead single nucleotide polymorphism rs3771395 on chromosome 2p13.3 (meta-analysis, P = 1.97 × 10−7) in the VAX2 gene. VAX2 plays an important role in the development of the dorsoventral axis of the eye. Animal studies have shown a gradient in astigmatism along the vertical plane, with corresponding changes in refraction, particularly in the ventral field.
This finding advances the understanding of refractive error, and provides new potential pathways to be evaluated with regard to the development of astigmatism.
We identified a new susceptibility locus in the VAX2 gene, which is involved in the development of the ventral eye. This finding may allow new insights into astigmatism and advance the understanding of refractive error.
PMCID: PMC3576051  PMID: 23322567
4.  Optimizing the Information Yield of 3-D OCT in Glaucoma 
To determine, first, which regions of 3-D optical coherence tomography (OCT) volumes can be segmented completely in the majority of subjects and, second, the relationship between analyzed area and thickness measurement test–retest variability.
Three-dimensional OCT volumes (6 × 6 mm) centered around the fovea and optic nerve head (ONH) of 925 Rotterdam Study participants were analyzed; 44 participants were scanned twice. Volumes were segmented into 10 layers, and we determined the area where all layers could be identified in at least 95% (macula) or 90% (ONH) of subjects. Macular volumes were divided in 2 × 2, 4 × 4, 6 × 6, 8 × 8, or 68 blocks. We placed two circles around the ONH; the ONH had to fit into the smaller circle, and the larger circle had to fit into the segmentable part of the volume. The area between the circles was divided in 3 to 12 segments. We determined the test–retest variability (coefficient of repeatability) of the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) and ganglion cell layer (RGCL) thickness measurements as a function of size of blocks/segments.
Eighty-two percent of the macular volume could be segmented in at least 95% of subjects; for the ONH, this was 65% in at least 90%. The radii of the circles were 1.03 and 1.84 mm. Depending on the analyzed area, median test–retest variability ranged from 8% to 15% for macular RNFL, 11% to 22% for macular RGCL, 5% to 11% for the two together, and 18% to 22% for ONH RNFL.
Test–retest variability hampers a detailed analysis of 3-D OCT data. Combined macular RNFL and RGCL thickness averaged over larger areas had the best test–retest variability.
Population-based OCT data were used to unravel the relationship between detail and test–retest variability of 3-D OCT volumes from the macula and optic nerve head.
PMCID: PMC3522440  PMID: 23154462
5.  Evidence of association of APOE with age-related macular degeneration - a pooled analysis of 15 studies 
Human mutation  2011;32(12):1407-1416.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of incurable visual impairment in high-income countries. Previous studies report inconsistent associations between AMD and apolipoprotein E (APOE), a lipid transport protein involved in low-density cholesterol modulation. Potential interaction between APOE and sex, and smoking status, has been reported. We present a pooled analysis (n=21,160) demonstrating associations between late AMD and APOε4 (OR=0.72 per haplotype; CI: 0.65–0.74; P=4.41×10−11) and APOε2 (OR=1.83 for homozygote carriers; CI: 1.04–3.23; P=0.04), following adjustment for age-group and sex within each study and smoking status. No evidence of interaction between APOE and sex or smoking was found. Ever smokers had significant increased risk relative to never smokers for both neovascular (OR=1.54; CI: 1.38–1.72; P=2.8×10−15) and atrophic (OR=1.38; CI: 1.18–1.61; P=3.37×10−5) AMD but not early AMD (OR=0.94; CI: 0.86–1.03; P=0.16), implicating smoking as a major contributing factor to disease progression from early signs to the visually disabling late forms. Extended haplotype analysis incorporating rs405509 did not identify additional risks beyondε2 and ε4 haplotypes. Our expanded analysis substantially improves our understanding of the association between the APOE locus and AMD. It further provides evidence supporting the role of cholesterol modulation, and low-density cholesterol specifically, in AMD disease etiology.
PMCID: PMC3217135  PMID: 21882290
age-related macular degeneration; AMD; apolipoprotein E; APOE; case-control association study
6.  Variations in Apolipoprotein E Frequency With Age in a Pooled Analysis of a Large Group of Older People 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2011;173(12):1357-1364.
Variation in the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE) has been reported to be associated with longevity in humans. The authors assessed the allelic distribution of APOE isoforms ε2, ε3, and ε4 among 10,623 participants from 15 case-control and cohort studies of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in populations of European ancestry (study dates ranged from 1990 to 2009). The authors included only the 10,623 control subjects from these studies who were classified as having no evidence of AMD, since variation within the APOE gene has previously been associated with AMD. In an analysis stratified by study center, gender, and smoking status, there was a decreasing frequency of the APOE ε4 isoform with increasing age (χ2 for trend = 14.9 (1 df); P = 0.0001), with a concomitant increase in the ε3 isoform (χ2 for trend = 11.3 (1 df); P = 0.001). The association with age was strongest in ε4 homozygotes; the frequency of ε4 homozygosity decreased from 2.7% for participants aged 60 years or less to 0.8% for those over age 85 years, while the proportion of participants with the ε3/ε4 genotype decreased from 26.8% to 17.5% across the same age range. Gender had no significant effect on the isoform frequencies. This study provides strong support for an association of the APOE gene with human longevity.
PMCID: PMC3145394  PMID: 21498624
aged; apolipoprotein E2; apolipoprotein E3; apolipoprotein E4; apolipoproteins E; longevity; meta-analysis; multicenter study
7.  Nutrient intake and risk of open-angle glaucoma: the Rotterdam Study 
European Journal of Epidemiology  2012;27(5):385-393.
Open-angle glaucoma (OAG) is the commonest cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Apart from an increased intraocular pressure (IOP), oxidative stress and an impaired ocular blood flow are supposed to contribute to OAG. The aim of this study was to determine whether the dietary intake of nutrients that either have anti-oxidative properties (carotenoids, vitamins, and flavonoids) or influence the blood flow (omega fatty acids and magnesium) is associated with incident OAG. We investigated this in a prospective population-based cohort, the Rotterdam Study. A total of 3502 participants aged 55 years and older for whom dietary data at baseline and ophthalmic data at baseline and follow-up were available and who did not have OAG at baseline were included. The ophthalmic examinations comprised measurements of the IOP and perimetry; dietary intake of nutrients was assessed by validated questionnaires and adjusted for energy intake. Cox proportional hazard regression analysis was applied to calculate hazard ratios of associations between the baseline intake of nutrients and incident OAG, adjusted for age, gender, IOP, IOP-lowering treatment, and body mass index. During an average follow-up of 9.7 years, 91 participants (2.6%) developed OAG. The hazard ratio for retinol equivalents (highest versus lowest tertile) was 0.45 (95% confidence interval 0.23–0.90), for vitamin B1 0.50 (0.25–0.98), and for magnesium 2.25 (1.16–4.38). The effects were stronger after the exclusion of participants taking supplements. Hence, a low intake of retinol equivalents and vitamin B1 (in line with hypothesis) and a high intake of magnesium (less unambiguous to interpret) appear to be associated with an increased risk of OAG.
PMCID: PMC3374099  PMID: 22461101
Glaucoma; Nutrition; Magnesium; Vitamin A; Vitamin B1; Population-based; Dietary intake
8.  Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs and Incident Open-Angle Glaucoma: A Population-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29724.
Open-angle glaucoma (OAG) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that may lead to blindness. An elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is its major risk factor. OAG treatment is currently exclusively directed towards the lowering of the IOP. IOP lowering does not prevent disease progression in all patients and thus other treatment modalities are needed. Earlier studies reported cholesterol-lowering drugs to have neuroprotective properties. The aim of this study was to determine the associations between the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs and incident OAG.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Participants in a prospective population-based cohort study underwent ophthalmic examinations, including IOP measurements and perimetry, at baseline and follow-up. The use of statins and non-statin cholesterol-lowering drugs was monitored continuously during the study. Associations between the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs and incident OAG were analyzed with Cox regression; associations between cholesterol-lowering drugs and IOP at follow-up were analyzed with multiple linear regression. During a mean follow-up of 9.8 years, 108 of 3939 eligible participants (2.7%) developed OAG. The hazard ratio for statin use was 0.54 (95% confidence interval 0.31–0.96; P = 0.034) and for non-statin cholesterol-lowering drugs 2.07 (0.81–5.33; P = 0.13). The effect of statins was more pronounced with prolonged use (hazard ratio 0.89 [0.41–1.94; P = 0.77] for use two years or less; 0.46 [0.23–0.94; P = 0.033] for use more than two years; P-value for trend 0.10). The analyzes were adjusted for age and gender, baseline IOP and IOP-lowering treatment, the family history of glaucoma, and myopia. There was no effect of statins on the IOP.
Long-term use of statins appears to be associated with a reduced risk of OAG. The observed effect was independent of the IOP. These findings are in line with the idea that statins have neuroprotective properties and may open a way to a new OAG treatment modality.
PMCID: PMC3251600  PMID: 22238644
9.  Automated 3-D method for the correction of axial artifacts in spectral-domain optical coherence tomography images 
Biomedical Optics Express  2011;2(8):2403-2416.
The 3-D spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) images of the retina often do not reflect the true shape of the retina and are distorted differently along the x and y axes. In this paper, we propose a novel technique that uses thin-plate splines in two stages to estimate and correct the distinct axial artifacts in SD-OCT images. The method was quantitatively validated using nine pairs of OCT scans obtained with orthogonal fast-scanning axes, where a segmented surface was compared after both datasets had been corrected. The mean unsigned difference computed between the locations of this artifact-corrected surface after the single-spline and dual-spline correction was 23.36 ± 4.04 μm and 5.94 ± 1.09 μm, respectively, and showed a significant difference (p < 0.001 from two-tailed paired t-test). The method was also validated using depth maps constructed from stereo fundus photographs of the optic nerve head, which were compared to the flattened top surface from the OCT datasets. Significant differences (p < 0.001) were noted between the artifact-corrected datasets and the original datasets, where the mean unsigned differences computed over 30 optic-nerve-head-centered scans (in normalized units) were 0.134 ± 0.035 and 0.302 ± 0.134, respectively.
PMCID: PMC3149538  PMID: 21833377
(100.0100) Image processing; (100.6890) Three-dimensional image processing; (110.4500) Optical coherence tomography
10.  Prediction of Incident Stroke Events Based on Retinal Vessel Caliber: A Systematic Review and Individual-Participant Meta-Analysis 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2009;170(11):1323-1332.
The caliber of the retinal vessels has been shown to be associated with stroke events. However, the consistency and magnitude of association, and the changes in predicted risk independent of traditional risk factors, are unclear. To determine the association between retinal vessel caliber and the risk of stroke events, the investigators combined individual data from 20,798 people, who were free of stroke at baseline, in 6 cohort studies identified from a search of the Medline (National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland) and EMBASE (Elsevier B.V., Amsterdam, the Netherlands) databases. During follow-up of 5–12 years, 945 (4.5%) incident stroke events were recorded. Wider retinal venular caliber predicted stroke (pooled hazard ratio = 1.15, 95% confidence interval: 1.05, 1.25 per 20-μm increase in caliber), but the caliber of retinal arterioles was not associated with stroke (pooled hazard ratio = 1.00, 95% confidence interval: 0.92, 1.08). There was weak evidence of heterogeneity in the hazard ratio for retinal venular caliber, which may be attributable to differences in follow-up strategies across studies. Inclusion of retinal venular caliber in prediction models containing traditional stroke risk factors reassigned 10.1% of people at intermediate risk into different, mostly lower, risk categories.
PMCID: PMC2800263  PMID: 19884126
cohort studies; meta-analysis; retinal vessels; risk; stroke
11.  Retinal Vessel Caliber and Risk for Coronary Heart Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
Annals of internal medicine  2009;151(6):404-413.
Retinal vessel caliber may be a novel risk marker of coronary heart disease (CHD) risk. However, the gender specific effect, magnitude of association and effect independent of traditional CHD disease risk factors remain unclear.
To determine the association between retinal vessel caliber and risk of CHD.
Data sources
Relevant studies were identified through MEDLINE (1950 to June 2009) and EMBASE (1950 to June 2009) databases.
Study Selection
Studies were included if derived from a general population, retinal vessel caliber was measured from retinal photographs and incident CHD events were documented.
Data Extraction
Six population-based prospective cohort studies were identified and provided data for individual participant meta-analysis.
Data Synthesis
Proportional hazards models were constructed for retinal vessel caliber and incident CHD in women and men, while adjusting for traditional CHD risk factors. 2,219 (10.0%) incident CHD events were recorded from 22,159 individuals (mean age 62 years) free of CHD followed for 5–14 years. Retinal vessel caliber changes (wider retinal venules and narrower arterioles) were each associated with an increased risk of CHD in women but not men, with pooled multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios of 1.16 (95% confidence interval, CI, 1.06 to 1.26) per 20μm increase in venular caliber, and 1.17 (95% CI, 1.07 to 1.28) per 20μm decrease in arteriolar caliber in women, and 1.02 (95% CI, 0.94 to 1.10) per 20μm increase in venular caliber and 1.02 (95% CI, 0.95, 1.10) per 20μm decrease in arteriolar caliber in men. Higher hazard ratios were found amongst women without hypertension or diabetes.
Error in the measurement of retinal vessel caliber and Framingham variables was not taken into account, and may over or underestimate the true association between retinal vessel caliber and CHD.
Retinal vessel caliber changes were independently associated with an increased risk of CHD events in women.
PMCID: PMC2887687  PMID: 19755365
12.  The Rotterdam Study: 2010 objectives and design update 
European Journal of Epidemiology  2009;24(9):553-572.
The Rotterdam Study is a prospective cohort study ongoing since 1990 in the city of Rotterdam in The Netherlands. The study targets cardiovascular, endocrine, hepatic, neurological, ophthalmic, psychiatric and respiratory diseases. As of 2008, 14,926 subjects aged 45 years or over comprise the Rotterdam Study cohort. The findings of the Rotterdam Study have been presented in close to a 1,000 research articles and reports (see This article gives the rationale of the study and its design. It also presents a summary of the major findings and an update of the objectives and methods.
PMCID: PMC2744826  PMID: 19728115
Biomarkers; Cardiovascular diseases; Cohort study; Endocrine diseases; Epidemiologic methods; Genetic epidemiology; Liver diseases; Neurological diseases; Ophthalmic diseases; Pharmacoepidemiology; Psychiatric diseases; Respiratory diseases
13.  The Rotterdam Study: objectives and design update 
European Journal of Epidemiology  2007;22(11):819-829.
The Rotterdam Study is a prospective cohort study ongoing since 1990 in the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The study targets cardiovascular, neurological, ophthalmological and endocrine diseases. As of 2008 about 15,000 subjects aged 45 years or over comprise the Rotterdam Study cohort. The findings of the Rotterdam Study have been presented in some 600 research articles and reports (see This article gives the reasons for the study and its design. It also presents a summary of the major findings and an update of the objectives and methods.
PMCID: PMC2071967  PMID: 17955331
Alzheimer disease; Cohort study; Dementia; Diabetes; Genome wide analysis; Glaucoma; Heart failure; Macular degeneration; Myocardial infarction; Osteoporosis; Parkinson disease; Pharmaco-epidemiology; Stroke
15.  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
16.  Heritability and Genome-wide Association Study To Assess Genetic Differences Between Advanced Age-Related Macular Degeneration Subtypes  
Ophthalmology  2012;119(9):1874-1885.
To investigate whether the two subtypes of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD), choroidal neovascularization (CNV) and geographic atrophy (GA), segregate separately in families and to identify which genetic variants are associated with these two subtypes.
Sibling correlation study and genome-wide association study (GWAS)
For the sibling correlation study, we included 209 sibling pairs with advanced AMD. For the GWAS, we included 2594 participants with advanced AMD subtypes and 4134 controls. Replication cohorts included 5383 advanced AMD participants and 15,240 controls.
Participants had AMD grade assigned based on fundus photography and/or examination. To determine heritability of advanced AMD subtypes, we performed a sibling correlation study. For the GWAS, we conducted genome-wide genotyping and imputed 6,036,699 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs). We then analyzed SNPs with a generalized linear model controlling for genotyping platform and genetic ancestry. The most significant associations were evaluated in independent cohorts.
Main Outcome Measures
Concordance of advanced AMD subtypes in sibling pairs and associations between SNPs with GA and CNV advanced AMD subtypes.
The difference between the observed and expected proportion of siblings concordant for the same subtype of advanced AMD was different to a statistically significant degree (P=4.2 x 10−5) meaning that siblings of probands with CNV or GA are more likely to develop CNV or GA, respectively. In the analysis comparing participants with CNV to those with GA, we observed a statistically significant association at the ARMS2/HTRA1 locus [rs10490924, odds ratio (OR)=1.47, P=4.3 ×10−9] which was confirmed in the replication samples (OR=1.38, P=7.4 x 10−14 for combined discovery and replication analysis).
Whether a patient with AMD develops CNV vs. GA is determined in part by genetic variation. In this large GWAS meta-analysis and replication analysis, the ARMS2/HTRA1 locus confers increased risk for both advanced AMD subtypes but imparts greater risk for CNV than for GA. This locus explains a small proportion of the excess sibling correlation for advanced AMD subtype. Other loci were detected with suggestive associations which differ for advanced AMD subtypes and deserve follow-up in additional studies.
PMCID: PMC3899891  PMID: 22705344
17.  Retinopathy and risk of dementia 
Neurology  2012;79(4):365-370.
To investigate the relation between retinopathy and the risk of dementia.
We investigated the associations between retinopathy and dementia and its subtypes Alzheimer disease (AD) and vascular dementia both cross-sectionally and prospectively in the Rotterdam Study, a large population-based cohort study. Digitized retinal images were available for 195 participants with prevalent dementia and 6,078 participants without dementia at baseline (1990–1993). Participants were reexamined in 1993–1994, 1997–1999, and 2002–2004 and were continuously monitored for development of dementia until January 1, 2007. Retinopathy was graded on fundus photographs and was defined as the presence of one or more dot/blot hemorrhages, microaneurysms, cotton wool spots, or evidence of laser treatment for retinopathy.
Retinopathy was associated with prevalent dementia (age and sex-adjusted odds ratio 2.04, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.34–3.09). Results were similar for AD and vascular dementia. During a mean follow-up of 11.4 years, 735 participants developed incident dementia, of whom 583 had AD and 80 had vascular dementia. There was no association of retinopathy at baseline with the risk of incident dementia during follow-up (age- and sex-adjusted hazard ratio 1.15, 95% CI 0.88–1.48) or the risk of incident AD or vascular dementia.
Retinopathy is more prevalent in persons with dementia but is not associated with an increased risk of dementia over time.
PMCID: PMC3400091  PMID: 22786586
18.  Insights into the Genetic Architecture of Early Stage Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A Genome-Wide Association Study Meta-Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53830.
Genetic factors explain a majority of risk variance for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). While genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for late AMD implicate genes in complement, inflammatory and lipid pathways, the genetic architecture of early AMD has been relatively under studied. We conducted a GWAS meta-analysis of early AMD, including 4,089 individuals with prevalent signs of early AMD (soft drusen and/or retinal pigment epithelial changes) and 20,453 individuals without these signs. For various published late AMD risk loci, we also compared effect sizes between early and late AMD using an additional 484 individuals with prevalent late AMD. GWAS meta-analysis confirmed previously reported association of variants at the complement factor H (CFH) (peak P = 1.5×10−31) and age-related maculopathy susceptibility 2 (ARMS2) (P = 4.3×10−24) loci, and suggested Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) polymorphisms (rs2075650; P = 1.1×10−6) associated with early AMD. Other possible loci that did not reach GWAS significance included variants in the zinc finger protein gene GLI3 (rs2049622; P = 8.9×10−6) and upstream of GLI2 (rs6721654; P = 6.5×10−6), encoding retinal Sonic hedgehog signalling regulators, and in the tyrosinase (TYR) gene (rs621313; P = 3.5×10−6), involved in melanin biosynthesis. For a range of published, late AMD risk loci, estimated effect sizes were significantly lower for early than late AMD. This study confirms the involvement of multiple established AMD risk variants in early AMD, but suggests weaker genetic effects on the risk of early AMD relative to late AMD. Several biological processes were suggested to be potentially specific for early AMD, including pathways regulating RPE cell melanin content and signalling pathways potentially involved in retinal regeneration, generating hypotheses for further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3543264  PMID: 23326517
19.  Multicenter cohort association study of SLC2A1 single nucleotide polymorphisms and age-related macular degeneration 
Molecular Vision  2012;18:657-674.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of blindness in older adults and has a genetically complex background. This study examines the potential association between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the glucose transporter 1 (SLC2A1) gene and AMD. SLC2A1 regulates the bioavailability of glucose in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which might influence oxidative stress–mediated AMD pathology.
Twenty-two SNPs spanning the SLC2A1 gene were genotyped in 375 cases and 199 controls from an initial discovery cohort (the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Netherlands study). Replication testing was performed in The Rotterdam Study (the Netherlands) and study populations from Würzburg (Germany), the Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS; United States), Columbia University (United States), and Iowa University (United States). Subsequently, a meta-analysis of SNP association was performed.
In the discovery cohort, significant genotypic association between three SNPs (rs3754219, rs4660687, and rs841853) and AMD was found. Replication in five large independent (Caucasian) cohorts (4,860 cases and 4,004 controls) did not yield consistent association results. The genotype frequencies for these SNPs were significantly different for the controls and/or cases among the six individual populations. Meta-analysis revealed significant heterogeneity of effect between the studies.
No overall association between SLC2A1 SNPs and AMD was demonstrated. Since the genotype frequencies for the three SLC2A1 SNPs were significantly different for the controls and/or cases between the six cohorts, this study corroborates previous evidence that population dependent genetic risk heterogeneity in AMD exists.
PMCID: PMC3324365  PMID: 22509097
20.  Common variants near FRK/COL10A1 and VEGFA are associated with advanced age-related macular degeneration 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(18):3699-3709.
Despite significant progress in the identification of genetic loci for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), not all of the heritability has been explained. To identify variants which contribute to the remaining genetic susceptibility, we performed the largest meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies to date for advanced AMD. We imputed 6 036 699 single-nucleotide polymorphisms with the 1000 Genomes Project reference genotypes on 2594 cases and 4134 controls with follow-up replication of top signals in 5640 cases and 52 174 controls. We identified two new common susceptibility alleles, rs1999930 on 6q21-q22.3 near FRK/COL10A1 [odds ratio (OR) 0.87; P = 1.1 × 10−8] and rs4711751 on 6p12 near VEGFA (OR 1.15; P = 8.7 × 10−9). In addition to the two novel loci, 10 previously reported loci in ARMS2/HTRA1 (rs10490924), CFH (rs1061170, and rs1410996), CFB (rs641153), C3 (rs2230199), C2 (rs9332739), CFI (rs10033900), LIPC (rs10468017), TIMP3 (rs9621532) and CETP (rs3764261) were confirmed with genome-wide significant signals in this large study. Loci in the recently reported genes ABCA1 and COL8A1 were also detected with suggestive evidence of association with advanced AMD. The novel variants identified in this study suggest that angiogenesis (VEGFA) and extracellular collagen matrix (FRK/COL10A1) pathways contribute to the development of advanced AMD.
PMCID: PMC3159552  PMID: 21665990
21.  The Complement Component 5 gene and Age-related Macular Degeneration 
Ophthalmology  2009;117(3):500-511.
To investigate the association between variants in the complement component 5 (C5) gene and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Separate and combined data from three large AMD case-control studies and a prospective population-based study (The Rotterdam Study).
A total of 2599 AMD cases and 3458 ethnically matched controls.
Fifteen single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) spanning the C5 gene were initially genotyped in 375 cases and 199 controls from the Netherlands (The AMRO-NL study population). Replication testing of selected SNPs was performed in the Rotterdam Study (NL) and study populations from Southampton, United Kingdom (UK) and New York, United States (US).
Main Outcome Measures
Early and late stages of prevalent and incident AMD, graded according to (a modification of) the international grading and classification system of AMD.
Significant allelic or genotypic associations between eight C5 SNPs and AMD were found in the AMRO-NL study and this risk appeared independently of CFH Y402H, LOC387715 A69S, age and gender. None of these findings could be confirmed consistently in three replication populations.
Although the complement pathway, including C5, plays a crucial role in AMD, and the C5 protein is present in drusen, no consistent significant associations between C5 SNPs and AMD were found in all studies. The implications for genetic screening of AMD are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2830367  PMID: 20022638
22.  The ERCC6 Gene and Age-Related Macular Degeneration 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e13786.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible visual loss in the developed countries and is caused by both environmental and genetic factors. A recent study (Tuo et al., PNAS) reported an association between AMD and a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) (rs3793784) in the ERCC6 (NM_000124) gene. The risk allele also increased ERCC6 expression. ERCC6 is involved in DNA repair and mutations in ERCC6 cause Cockayne syndrome (CS). Amongst others, photosensitivity and pigmentary retinopathy are hallmarks of CS.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Separate and combined data from three large AMD case-control studies and a prospective population-based study (The Rotterdam Study) were used to analyse the genetic association between ERCC6 and AMD (2682 AMD cases and 3152 controls). We also measured ERCC6 mRNA levels in retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells of healthy and early AMD affected human donor eyes. Rs3793784 conferred a small increase in risk for late AMD in the Dutch population (The Rotterdam and AMRO-NL study), but this was not replicated in two non-European studies (AREDS, Columbia University). In addition, the AMRO-NL study revealed no significant association for 9 other variants spanning ERCC6. Finally, we determined that ERCC6 expression in the human RPE did not depend on rs3793784 genotype, but, interestingly, on AMD status: Early AMD-affected donor eyes had a 50% lower ERCC6 expression than healthy donor eyes (P = 0.018).
Our meta-analysis of four Caucasian cohorts does not replicate the reported association between SNPs in ERCC6 and AMD. Nevertheless, our findings on ERCC6 expression in the RPE suggest that ERCC6 may be functionally involved in AMD. Combining our data with those of the literature, we hypothesize that the AMD-related reduced transcriptional activity of ERCC6 may be caused by diverse, small and heterogeneous genetic and/or environmental determinants.
PMCID: PMC2967476  PMID: 21072178
23.  A Genome-Wide Association Study of Optic Disc Parameters 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(6):e1000978.
The optic nerve head is involved in many ophthalmic disorders, including common diseases such as myopia and open-angle glaucoma. Two of the most important parameters are the size of the optic disc area and the vertical cup-disc ratio (VCDR). Both are highly heritable but genetically largely undetermined. We performed a meta-analysis of genome-wide association (GWA) data to identify genetic variants associated with optic disc area and VCDR. The gene discovery included 7,360 unrelated individuals from the population-based Rotterdam Study I and Rotterdam Study II cohorts. These cohorts revealed two genome-wide significant loci for optic disc area, rs1192415 on chromosome 1p22 (p = 6.72×10−19) within 117 kb of the CDC7 gene and rs1900004 on chromosome 10q21.3-q22.1 (p = 2.67×10−33) within 10 kb of the ATOH7 gene. They revealed two genome-wide significant loci for VCDR, rs1063192 on chromosome 9p21 (p = 6.15×10−11) in the CDKN2B gene and rs10483727 on chromosome 14q22.3-q23 (p = 2.93×10−10) within 40 kbp of the SIX1 gene. Findings were replicated in two independent Dutch cohorts (Rotterdam Study III and Erasmus Rucphen Family study; N = 3,612), and the TwinsUK cohort (N = 843). Meta-analysis with the replication cohorts confirmed the four loci and revealed a third locus at 16q12.1 associated with optic disc area, and four other loci at 11q13, 13q13, 17q23 (borderline significant), and 22q12.1 for VCDR. ATOH7 was also associated with VCDR independent of optic disc area. Three of the loci were marginally associated with open-angle glaucoma. The protein pathways in which the loci of optic disc area are involved overlap with those identified for VCDR, suggesting a common genetic origin.
Author Summary
Morphologic characteristics of the optic nerve head are involved in many ophthalmic diseases. Its size, called the optic disc area, is an important measure and has been associated with e.g. myopia and open-angle glaucoma (OAG). Another important and clinical parameter of the optic disc is the vertical cup-disc ratio (VCDR). Although studies have shown a high heritability of optic disc area and VCDR, its genetic determinants are still undetermined. We therefore conducted a genome-wide association (GWA) study on these quantitative traits, using data of over 11,000 Caucasian participants, and related the findings to myopia and OAG. We found evidence for association of three loci with optic disc area: CDC7/TGFBR3 region, ATOH7, and SALL1; and six with VCDR: CDKN2B, SIX1, SCYL1, CHEK2, ATOH7, and DCLK1; and additionally one borderline significant locus: BCAS3. None of the loci could be related to myopia. There was marginal evidence for association of ATOH7, CDKN2B, and SIX1 with OAG, which remains to be confirmed. The present study reveals new insights into the physiological development of the optic nerve and may shed light on the pathophysiological protein pathways leading to (neuro-) ophthalmologic diseases such as OAG.
PMCID: PMC2883590  PMID: 20548946
24.  Digital Quantification of Human Eye Color Highlights Genetic Association of Three New Loci 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(5):e1000934.
Previous studies have successfully identified genetic variants in several genes associated with human iris (eye) color; however, they all used simplified categorical trait information. Here, we quantified continuous eye color variation into hue and saturation values using high-resolution digital full-eye photographs and conducted a genome-wide association study on 5,951 Dutch Europeans from the Rotterdam Study. Three new regions, 1q42.3, 17q25.3, and 21q22.13, were highlighted meeting the criterion for genome-wide statistically significant association. The latter two loci were replicated in 2,261 individuals from the UK and in 1,282 from Australia. The LYST gene at 1q42.3 and the DSCR9 gene at 21q22.13 serve as promising functional candidates. A model for predicting quantitative eye colors explained over 50% of trait variance in the Rotterdam Study. Over all our data exemplify that fine phenotyping is a useful strategy for finding genes involved in human complex traits.
Author Summary
We measured human eye color to hue and saturation values from high-resolution, digital, full-eye photographs of several thousand Dutch Europeans. This quantitative approach, which is extremely cost-effective, portable, and time efficient, revealed that human eye color varies along more dimensions than the one represented by the blue-green-brown categories studied previously. Our work represents the first genome-wide study of quantitative human eye color. We clearly identified 3 new loci, LYST, 17q25.3, TTC3/DSCR9, in contributing to the natural and subtle eye color variation along multiple dimensions, providing new leads towards a more detailed understanding of the genetic basis of human eye color. Our quantitative prediction model explained over 50% of eye color variance, representing the highest accuracy achieved so far in genomic prediction of human complex and quantitative traits, with relevance for future forensic applications.
PMCID: PMC2865509  PMID: 20463881

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