Fasting glucose and insulin are intermediate traits for type 2 diabetes. Here we explore the role of coding variation on these traits by analysis of variants on the HumanExome BeadChip in 60,564 non-diabetic individuals and in 16,491 T2D cases and 81,877 controls. We identify a novel association of a low-frequency nonsynonymous SNV in GLP1R (A316T; rs10305492; MAF=1.4%) with lower FG (β=-0.09±0.01 mmol L−1, p=3.4×10−12), T2D risk (OR[95%CI]=0.86[0.76-0.96], p=0.010), early insulin secretion (β=-0.07±0.035 pmolinsulin mmolglucose−1, p=0.048), but higher 2-h glucose (β=0.16±0.05 mmol L−1, p=4.3×10−4). We identify a gene-based association with FG at G6PC2 (pSKAT=6.8×10−6) driven by four rare protein-coding SNVs (H177Y, Y207S, R283X and S324P). We identify rs651007 (MAF=20%) in the first intron of ABO at the putative promoter of an antisense lncRNA, associating with higher FG (β=0.02±0.004 mmol L−1, p=1.3×10−8). Our approach identifies novel coding variant associations and extends the allelic spectrum of variation underlying diabetes-related quantitative traits and T2D susceptibility.
The incidence of hematologic cancers increases with age. These cancers are associated with recurrent somatic mutations in specific genes. We hypothesized that such mutations would be detectable in the blood of some persons who are not known to have hematologic disorders.
We analyzed whole-exome sequencing data from DNA in the peripheral-blood cells of 17,182 persons who were unselected for hematologic phenotypes. We looked for somatic mutations by identifying previously characterized single-nucleotide variants and small insertions or deletions in 160 genes that are recurrently mutated in hematologic cancers. The presence of mutations was analyzed for an association with hematologic phenotypes, survival, and cardiovascular events.
Detectable somatic mutations were rare in persons younger than 40 years of age but rose appreciably in frequency with age. Among persons 70 to 79 years of age, 80 to 89 years of age, and 90 to 108 years of age, these clonal mutations were observed in 9.5% (219 of 2300 persons), 11.7% (37 of 317), and 18.4% (19 of 103), respectively. The majority of the variants occurred in three genes: DNMT3A, TET2, and ASXL1. The presence of a somatic mutation was associated with an increase in the risk of hematologic cancer (hazard ratio, 11.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.9 to 32.6), an increase in all-cause mortality (hazard ratio, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.1 to 1.8), and increases in the risks of incident coronary heart disease (hazard ratio, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.2 to 3.4) and ischemic stroke (hazard ratio, 2.6; 95% CI, 1.4 to 4.8).
Age-related clonal hematopoiesis is a common condition that is associated with increases in the risk of hematologic cancer and in all-cause mortality, with the latter possibly due to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others.)
Patients with established type 2 diabetes display both β-cell dysfunction and insulin resistance. To define fundamental processes leading to the diabetic state, we examined the relationship between type 2 diabetes risk variants at 37 established susceptibility loci, and indices of proinsulin processing, insulin secretion, and insulin sensitivity. We included data from up to 58,614 nondiabetic subjects with basal measures and 17,327 with dynamic measures. We used additive genetic models with adjustment for sex, age, and BMI, followed by fixed-effects, inverse-variance meta-analyses. Cluster analyses grouped risk loci into five major categories based on their relationship to these continuous glycemic phenotypes. The first cluster (PPARG, KLF14, IRS1, GCKR) was characterized by primary effects on insulin sensitivity. The second cluster (MTNR1B, GCK) featured risk alleles associated with reduced insulin secretion and fasting hyperglycemia. ARAP1 constituted a third cluster characterized by defects in insulin processing. A fourth cluster (TCF7L2, SLC30A8, HHEX/IDE, CDKAL1, CDKN2A/2B) was defined by loci influencing insulin processing and secretion without a detectable change in fasting glucose levels. The final group contained 20 risk loci with no clear-cut associations to continuous glycemic traits. By assembling extensive data on continuous glycemic traits, we have exposed the diverse mechanisms whereby type 2 diabetes risk variants impact disease predisposition.
In genetics, pleiotropy describes the genetic effect of a single gene on multiple phenotypic traits. A common approach is to analyze the phenotypic traits separately using univariate analyses and combine the test results through multiple comparisons. This approach may lead to low power. Multivariate functional linear models are developed to connect genetic variant data to multiple quantitative traits adjusting for covariates for a unified analysis. Three types of approximate F-distribution tests based on Pillai–Bartlett trace, Hotelling–Lawley trace, and Wilks’s Lambda are introduced to test for association between multiple quantitative traits and multiple genetic variants in one genetic region. The approximate F-distribution tests provide much more significant results than those of F-tests of univariate analysis and optimal sequence kernel association test (SKAT-O). Extensive simulations were performed to evaluate the false positive rates and power performance of the proposed models and tests. We show that the approximate F-distribution tests control the type I error rates very well. Overall, simultaneous analysis of multiple traits can increase power performance compared to an individual test of each trait. The proposed methods were applied to analyze (1) four lipid traits in eight European cohorts, and (2) three biochemical traits in the Trinity Students Study. The approximate F-distribution tests provide much more significant results than those of F-tests of univariate analysis and SKAT-O for the three biochemical traits. The approximate F-distribution tests of the proposed functional linear models are more sensitive than those of the traditional multivariate linear models that in turn are more sensitive than SKAT-O in the univariate case. The analysis of the four lipid traits and the three biochemical traits detects more association than SKAT-O in the univariate case.
pleiotropy analysis; rare variants; common variants; association mapping; quantitative trait loci; complex traits; functional data analysis; multivariate linear models
The main challenge for gaining biological insights from genetic associations is identifying which genes and pathways explain the associations. Here we present DEPICT, an integrative tool that employs predicted gene functions to systematically prioritize the most likely causal genes at associated loci, highlight enriched pathways and identify tissues/cell types where genes from associated loci are highly expressed. DEPICT is not limited to genes with established functions and prioritizes relevant gene sets for many phenotypes.
Genome and exome sequencing in large cohorts enables characterization of the role of rare variation in complex diseases. Success in this endeavor, however, requires investigators to test a diverse array of genetic hypotheses which differ in the number, frequency and effect sizes of underlying causal variants. In this study, we evaluated the power of gene-based association methods to interrogate such hypotheses, and examined the implications for study design. We developed a flexible simulation approach, using 1000 Genomes data, to (a) generate sequence variation at human genes in up to 10K case-control samples, and (b) quantify the statistical power of a panel of widely used gene-based association tests under a variety of allelic architectures, locus effect sizes, and significance thresholds. For loci explaining ~1% of phenotypic variance underlying a common dichotomous trait, we find that all methods have low absolute power to achieve exome-wide significance (~5-20% power at α=2.5×10-6) in 3K individuals; even in 10K samples, power is modest (~60%). The combined application of multiple methods increases sensitivity, but does so at the expense of a higher false positive rate. MiST, SKAT-O, and KBAC have the highest individual mean power across simulated datasets, but we observe wide architecture-dependent variability in the individual loci detected by each test, suggesting that inferences about disease architecture from analysis of sequencing studies can differ depending on which methods are used. Our results imply that tens of thousands of individuals, extensive functional annotation, or highly targeted hypothesis testing will be required to confidently detect or exclude rare variant signals at complex disease loci.
Re-sequencing technologies allow for a more complete interrogation of the role of human variation in complex disease. The inadequate power of single variant methods to assess the role of less common variation has led to the development of numerous statistical methods for testing aggregate groups of variants for association with disease. Such endeavors pose substantial analytical challenges, however, due to the diverse array of genetic hypotheses that need to be considered. In this work, we systematically quantify and compare the performance of a panel of commonly used gene-based association methods under a range of allelic architectures, significance thresholds, locus effect sizes, sample sizes, and filters for neutral variation. We find that MiST, SKAT-O, and KBAC have the highest mean power across simulated datasets. Across all methods, however, the power to detect even loci of relatively large effect is very low at exome-wide significance thresholds for sample sizes comparable with those of ongoing sequencing studies; as such, the absence of signal in studies of a few thousand individuals does not exclude a role for rare variation in complex traits. Finally, we directly compare the results reported by different gene-based methods in order to identify their comparative advantages and disadvantages under distinct locus architectures. Our findings have implications for meaningful interpretation of both positive and negative findings in ongoing and future sequencing studies.
Fasting glucose and insulin are intermediate traits for type 2 diabetes. Here we explore the role of coding variation on these traits by analysis of variants on the HumanExome BeadChip in 60,564 non-diabetic individuals and in 16,491 T2D cases and 81,877 controls. We identify a novel association of a low-frequency nonsynonymous SNV in GLP1R (A316T; rs10305492; MAF=1.4%) with lower FG (β=−0.09±0.01 mmol l−1, P=3.4 × 10−12), T2D risk (OR[95%CI]=0.86[0.76–0.96], P=0.010), early insulin secretion (β=−0.07±0.035 pmolinsulin mmolglucose−1, P=0.048), but higher 2-h glucose (β=0.16±0.05 mmol l−1, P=4.3 × 10−4). We identify a gene-based association with FG at G6PC2 (pSKAT=6.8 × 10−6) driven by four rare protein-coding SNVs (H177Y, Y207S, R283X and S324P). We identify rs651007 (MAF=20%) in the first intron of ABO at the putative promoter of an antisense lncRNA, associating with higher FG (β=0.02±0.004 mmol l−1, P=1.3 × 10−8). Our approach identifies novel coding variant associations and extends the allelic spectrum of variation underlying diabetes-related quantitative traits and T2D susceptibility.
Both rare and common variants contribute to the aetiology of complex traits such as type 2 diabetes (T2D). Here, the authors examine the effect of coding variation on glycaemic traits and T2D, and identify low-frequency variation in GLP1R significantly associated with these traits.
Genome wide association studies (GWAS) for fasting glucose (FG) and insulin (FI) have identified common variant signals which explain 4.8% and 1.2% of trait variance, respectively. It is hypothesized that low-frequency and rare variants could contribute substantially to unexplained genetic variance. To test this, we analyzed exome-array data from up to 33,231 non-diabetic individuals of European ancestry. We found exome-wide significant (P<5×10-7) evidence for two loci not previously highlighted by common variant GWAS: GLP1R (p.Ala316Thr, minor allele frequency (MAF)=1.5%) influencing FG levels, and URB2 (p.Glu594Val, MAF = 0.1%) influencing FI levels. Coding variant associations can highlight potential effector genes at (non-coding) GWAS signals. At the G6PC2/ABCB11 locus, we identified multiple coding variants in G6PC2 (p.Val219Leu, p.His177Tyr, and p.Tyr207Ser) influencing FG levels, conditionally independent of each other and the non-coding GWAS signal. In vitro assays demonstrate that these associated coding alleles result in reduced protein abundance via proteasomal degradation, establishing G6PC2 as an effector gene at this locus. Reconciliation of single-variant associations and functional effects was only possible when haplotype phase was considered. In contrast to earlier reports suggesting that, paradoxically, glucose-raising alleles at this locus are protective against type 2 diabetes (T2D), the p.Val219Leu G6PC2 variant displayed a modest but directionally consistent association with T2D risk. Coding variant associations for glycemic traits in GWAS signals highlight PCSK1, RREB1, and ZHX3 as likely effector transcripts. These coding variant association signals do not have a major impact on the trait variance explained, but they do provide valuable biological insights.
Understanding how FI and FG levels are regulated is important because their derangement is a feature of T2D. Despite recent success from GWAS in identifying regions of the genome influencing glycemic traits, collectively these loci explain only a small proportion of trait variance. Unlocking the biological mechanisms driving these associations has been challenging because the vast majority of variants map to non-coding sequence, and the genes through which they exert their impact are largely unknown. In the current study, we sought to increase our understanding of the physiological pathways influencing both traits using exome-array genotyping in up to 33,231 non-diabetic individuals to identify coding variants and consequently genes associated with either FG or FI levels. We identified novel association signals for both traits including the receptor for GLP-1 agonists which are a widely used therapy for T2D. Furthermore, we identified coding variants at several GWAS loci which point to the genes underlying these association signals. Importantly, we found that multiple coding variants in G6PC2 result in a loss of protein function and lower fasting glucose levels.
We used an unbiased genome-wide approach to identify exonic variants segregating with diabetes in a multigenerational Finnish family. At least eight members of this family presented with diabetes with age of diagnosis ranging from 18 to 51 years and a pattern suggesting autosomal dominant inheritance. We sequenced the exomes of four affected members of this family and performed follow-up genotyping of additional affected and unaffected family members. We uncovered a novel nonsynonymous variant (p.Trp314Arg) in the Wolfram syndrome 1 (WFS1) gene that segregates completely with the diabetic phenotype. Multipoint parametric linkage analysis with 13 members of this family identified a single linkage signal with maximum logarithm of odds score 3.01 at 4p16.2-p16.1, corresponding to a region harboring the WFS1 locus. Functional studies demonstrate a role for this variant in endoplasmic reticulum stress, which is consistent with the β-cell failure phenotype seen in mutation carriers. This represents the first compelling report of a mutation in WFS1 associated with dominantly inherited nonsyndromic adult-onset diabetes.
With challenges in data harmonization and covariate heterogeneity across various data sources, meta-analysis of gene-environment interaction studies can often involve subtle statistical issues. In this paper, we study the effect of environmental covariate heterogeneity (within and between cohorts) on two approaches for fixed-effect meta-analysis: the standard inverse-variance weighted meta-analysis and a meta-regression approach. Akin to the results in Simmonds and Higgins (2007), we obtain analytic efficiency results for both methods under the assumption of gene-environment independence. The relative efficiency of the two methods depends on the ratio of within- versus between- cohort variability of the environmental covariate. We propose to use an adaptively weighted estimator (AWE), between meta-analysis and meta-regression, for the interaction parameter. The AWE retains full efficiency of the joint analysis using individual level data under certain natural assumptions. Lin and Zeng (2010a, b) showed that a multivariate inverse-variance weighted estimator also had asymptotically full efficiency as joint analysis using individual level data, if the estimates with full covariance matrices for all the common parameters are pooled across all studies. We show consistency of our work with Lin and Zeng (2010a, b). Without sacrificing much efficiency, the AWE uses only univariate summary statistics from each study, and bypasses issues with sharing individual level data or full covariance matrices across studies. We compare the performance of the methods both analytically and numerically. The methods are illustrated through meta-analysis of interaction between Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in FTO gene and body mass index on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol data from a set of eight studies of type 2 diabetes.
ADAPTIVELY WEIGHTED ESTIMATOR; COVARIATE HETEROGENEITY; GENE-ENVIRONMENT INTERACTION; INDIVIDUAL PATIENT DATA; META-ANALYSIS; META-REGRESSION; POWER CALCULATION
We investigated the association of the levels of ketone bodies (KBs) with hyperglycemia and with 62 genetic risk variants regulating glucose levels or type 2 diabetes in the population-based Metabolic Syndrome in Men (METSIM) study, including 9,398 Finnish men without diabetes or newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. Increasing fasting and 2-h plasma glucose levels were associated with elevated levels of acetoacetate (AcAc) and β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). AcAc and BHB predicted an increase in the glucose area under the curve in an oral glucose tolerance test, and AcAc predicted the conversion to type 2 diabetes in a 5-year follow-up of the METSIM cohort. Impaired insulin secretion, but not insulin resistance, explained these findings. Of the 62 single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes or hyperglycemia, the glucose-increasing C allele of GCKR significantly associated with elevated levels of fasting BHB levels. Adipose tissue mRNA expression levels of genes involved in ketolysis were significantly associated with insulin sensitivity (Matsuda index). In conclusion, high levels of KBs predicted subsequent worsening of hyperglycemia, and a common variant of GCKR was significantly associated with BHB levels.
Adiponectin is strongly inversely associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, but its causal role remains controversial. We used a Mendelian randomization approach to test the hypothesis that adiponectin causally influences insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. We used genetic variants at the ADIPOQ gene as instruments to calculate a regression slope between adiponectin levels and metabolic traits (up to 31,000 individuals) and a combination of instrumental variables and summary statistics–based genetic risk scores to test the associations with gold-standard measures of insulin sensitivity (2,969 individuals) and type 2 diabetes (15,960 case subjects and 64,731 control subjects). In conventional regression analyses, a 1-SD decrease in adiponectin levels was correlated with a 0.31-SD (95% CI 0.26–0.35) increase in fasting insulin, a 0.34-SD (0.30–0.38) decrease in insulin sensitivity, and a type 2 diabetes odds ratio (OR) of 1.75 (1.47–2.13). The instrumental variable analysis revealed no evidence of a causal association between genetically lower circulating adiponectin and higher fasting insulin (0.02 SD; 95% CI −0.07 to 0.11; N = 29,771), nominal evidence of a causal relationship with lower insulin sensitivity (−0.20 SD; 95% CI −0.38 to −0.02; N = 1,860), and no evidence of a relationship with type 2 diabetes (OR 0.94; 95% CI 0.75–1.19; N = 2,777 case subjects and 13,011 control subjects). Using the ADIPOQ summary statistics genetic risk scores, we found no evidence of an association between adiponectin-lowering alleles and insulin sensitivity (effect per weighted adiponectin-lowering allele: −0.03 SD; 95% CI −0.07 to 0.01; N = 2,969) or type 2 diabetes (OR per weighted adiponectin-lowering allele: 0.99; 95% CI 0.95–1.04; 15,960 case subjects vs. 64,731 control subjects). These results do not provide any consistent evidence that interventions aimed at increasing adiponectin levels will improve insulin sensitivity or risk of type 2 diabetes.
Blood lipid levels are heritable, treatable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. We systematically assessed genome-wide coding variation to identify novel lipid genes, fine-map known lipid loci, and evaluate whether low frequency variants with large effect exist. Using an exome array, we genotyped 80,137 coding variants in 5,643 Norwegians. We followed up 18 variants in 4,666 Norwegians to identify 10 loci with coding variants associated with a lipid trait (P < 5×10−8). One coding variant in TM6SF2 (p.Glu167Lys), residing in a GWAS locus for lipid levels, modifies total cholesterol levels and is associated with myocardial infarction. Transient overexpression and knockdown of TM6SF2 in mouse produces alteration in serum lipid profiles consistent with the association observed in humans, identifying TM6SF2 as the functional gene at a large GWAS locus previously known as NCAN/CILP2/PBX4 or 19p13. This study demonstrates that systematic assessment of coding variation can quickly point to a candidate causal gene.
In genome-wide association studies of binary traits, investigators typically use logistic regression to test common variants for disease association within studies, and combine association results across studies using meta-analysis. For common variants, logistic regression tests are well-calibrated, and meta-analysis of study-specific association results is only slightly less powerful than joint analysis of the combined individual-level data. In recent sequencing and dense chip-based association studies, investigators increasingly test low frequency variants for disease association. In this paper, we seek to (1) identify the association test with maximal power among tests with well-controlled type I error rate and (2) compare the relative power of joint and meta-analysis tests. We use analytic calculation and simulation to compare the empirical type I error rate and power of four logistic regression-based tests: Wald, score, likelihood ratio, and Firth bias-corrected.
We demonstrate for low count variants (roughly minor allele count [MAC] < 400) that: (1) for joint analysis, the Firth test has the best combination of type I error and power; (2) for meta-analysis of balanced studies (equal numbers of cases and controls), the score test is best, but is less powerful than Firth-test based joint analysis; and (3) for meta-analysis of sufficiently unbalanced studies, all four tests can be anti-conservative, particularly the score test. We also establish MAC as the key parameter determining test calibration for joint and meta-analysis.
meta-analysis; joint analysis; single variant tests; single nucleotide polymorphisms; low frequency variants
Exome sequencing studies in complex diseases are challenged by the allelic heterogeneity, large number and modest effect sizes of associated variants on disease risk and the presence of large numbers of neutral variants, even in phenotypically relevant genes. Isolated populations with recent bottlenecks offer advantages for studying rare variants in complex diseases as they have deleterious variants that are present at higher frequencies as well as a substantial reduction in rare neutral variation. To explore the potential of the Finnish founder population for studying low-frequency (0.5–5%) variants in complex diseases, we compared exome sequence data on 3,000 Finns to the same number of non-Finnish Europeans and discovered that, despite having fewer variable sites overall, the average Finn has more low-frequency loss-of-function variants and complete gene knockouts. We then used several well-characterized Finnish population cohorts to study the phenotypic effects of 83 enriched loss-of-function variants across 60 phenotypes in 36,262 Finns. Using a deep set of quantitative traits collected on these cohorts, we show 5 associations (p<5×10−8) including splice variants in LPA that lowered plasma lipoprotein(a) levels (P = 1.5×10−117). Through accessing the national medical records of these participants, we evaluate the LPA finding via Mendelian randomization and confirm that these splice variants confer protection from cardiovascular disease (OR = 0.84, P = 3×10−4), demonstrating for the first time the correlation between very low levels of LPA in humans with potential therapeutic implications for cardiovascular diseases. More generally, this study articulates substantial advantages for studying the role of rare variation in complex phenotypes in founder populations like the Finns and by combining a unique population genetic history with data from large population cohorts and centralized research access to National Health Registers.
We explored the coding regions of 3,000 Finnish individuals with 3,000 non-Finnish Europeans (NFEs) using whole-exome sequence data, in order to understand how an individual from a bottlenecked population might differ from an individual from an out-bred population. We provide empirical evidence that there are more rare and low-frequency deleterious alleles in Finns compared to NFEs, such that an average Finn has almost twice as many low-frequency complete knockouts of a gene. As such, we hypothesized that some of these low-frequency loss-of-function variants might have important medical consequences in humans and genotyped 83 of these variants in 36,000 Finns. In doing so, we discovered that completely knocking out the TSFM gene might result in inviability or a very severe phenotype in humans and that knocking out the LPA gene might confer protection against coronary heart diseases, suggesting that LPA is likely to be a good potential therapeutic target.
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.
Elevated resting heart rate is associated with greater risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. In a 2-stage meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies in up to 181,171 individuals, we identified 14 new loci associated with heart rate and confirmed associations with all 7 previously established loci. Experimental downregulation of gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster and Danio rerio identified 20 genes at 11 loci that are relevant for heart rate regulation and highlight a role for genes involved in signal transmission, embryonic cardiac development and the pathophysiology of dilated cardiomyopathy, congenital heart failure and/or sudden cardiac death. In addition, genetic susceptibility to increased heart rate is associated with altered cardiac conduction and reduced risk of sick sinus syndrome, and both heart rate–increasing and heart rate–decreasing variants associate with risk of atrial fibrillation. Our findings provide fresh insights into the mechanisms regulating heart rate and identify new therapeutic targets.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol are heritable, modifiable, risk factors for coronary artery disease. To identify new loci and refine known loci influencing these lipids, we examined 188,578 individuals using genome-wide and custom genotyping arrays. We identify and annotate 157 loci associated with lipid levels at P < 5×10−8, including 62 loci not previously associated with lipid levels in humans. Using dense genotyping in individuals of European, East Asian, South Asian, and African ancestry, we narrow association signals in 12 loci. We find that loci associated with blood lipids are often associated with cardiovascular and metabolic traits including coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, blood pressure, waist-hip ratio, and body mass index. Our results illustrate the value of genetic data from individuals of diverse ancestries and provide insights into biological mechanisms regulating blood lipids to guide future genetic, biological, and therapeutic research.
Triglycerides are transported in plasma by specific triglyceride-rich lipoproteins; in epidemiologic studies, increased triglyceride levels correlate with higher risk for coronary artery disease (CAD). However, it is unclear whether this association reflects causal processes. We used 185 common variants recently mapped for plasma lipids (P<5×10−8 for each) to examine the role of triglycerides on risk for CAD. First, we highlight loci associated with both low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and triglycerides, and show that the direction and magnitude of both are factors in determining CAD risk. Second, we consider loci with only a strong magnitude of association with triglycerides and show that these loci are also associated with CAD. Finally, in a model accounting for effects on LDL-C and/or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, a polymorphism's strength of effect on triglycerides is correlated with the magnitude of its effect on CAD risk. These results suggest that triglyceride-rich lipoproteins causally influence risk for CAD.
Approaches exploiting extremes of the trait distribution may reveal novel loci for common traits, but it is unknown whether such loci are generalizable to the general population. In a genome-wide search for loci associated with upper vs. lower 5th percentiles of body mass index, height and waist-hip ratio, as well as clinical classes of obesity including up to 263,407 European individuals, we identified four new loci (IGFBP4, H6PD, RSRC1, PPP2R2A) influencing height detected in the tails and seven new loci (HNF4G, RPTOR, GNAT2, MRPS33P4, ADCY9, HS6ST3, ZZZ3) for clinical classes of obesity. Further, we show that there is large overlap in terms of genetic structure and distribution of variants between traits based on extremes and the general population and little etiologic heterogeneity between obesity subgroups.
When planning re-sequencing studies for complex diseases, previous association and linkage studies can constrain the range of plausible genetic models for a given locus. Here, we explore the combinations of causal risk allele frequency RAFC and genotype relative risk GRRC consistent with no or limited evidence for affected sibling pair (ASP) linkage and strong evidence for case-control association. We find that significant evidence for case-control association combined with no or moderate evidence for ASP linkage can define a lower bound for the plausible RAFC. Using data from large type 2 diabetes (T2D) linkage and genome-wide association study meta-analyses, we find that under reasonable model assumptions, 23 of 36 autosomal T2D risk loci are unlikely to be due to causal variants with combined RAFC < .005, and four of the 23 are unlikely to be due to causal variants with combined RAFC < .05.
gene mapping; genetics; genetic structure; complex diseases
Biological plausibility and other prior information could help select genome-wide association (GWA) findings for further follow-up, but there is no consensus on which types of knowledge should be considered or how to weight them. We used experts’ opinions and empirical evidence to estimate the relative importance of 15 types of information at the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and gene levels. Opinions were elicited from ten experts using a two-round Delphi survey. Empirical evidence was obtained by comparing the frequency of each type of characteristic in SNPs established as being associated with seven disease traits through GWA meta-analysis and independent replication, with the corresponding frequency in a randomly selected set of SNPs. SNP and gene characteristics were retrieved using a specially developed bioinformatics tool. Both the expert and the empirical evidence rated previous association in a meta-analysis or more than one study as conferring the highest relative probability of true association, while previous association in a single study ranked much lower. High relative probabilities were also observed for location in a functional protein domain, while location in a region evolutionarily conserved in vertebrates was ranked high by the data but not by the experts. Our empirical evidence did not support the importance attributed by the experts to whether the gene encodes a protein in a pathway or shows interactions relevant to the trait. Our findings provide insight into the selection and weighting of different types of knowledge in SNP or gene prioritization, and point to areas requiring further research.
Gene prioritization; Genome-wide association studies; Bioinformatics databases
Prioritization is the process whereby a set of possible candidate genes or SNPs is ranked so that the most promising can be taken forward into further studies. In a genome-wide association study, prioritization is usually based on the p-values alone, but researchers sometimes take account of external annotation information about the SNPs such as whether the SNP lies close to a good candidate gene. Using external information in this way is inherently subjective and is often not formalized, making the analysis difficult to reproduce. Building on previous work that has identified fourteen important types of external information, we present an approximate Bayesian analysis that produces an estimate of the probability of association. The calculation combines four sources of information: the genome-wide data, SNP information derived from bioinformatics databases, empirical SNP weights, and the researchers’ subjective prior opinions. The calculation is fast enough that it can be applied to millions of SNPS and although it does rely on subjective judgments, those judgments are made explicit so that the final SNP selection can be reproduced. We show that the resulting probability of association is intuitively more appealing than the p-value because it is easier to interpret and it makes allowance for the power of the study. We illustrate the use of the probability of association for SNP prioritization by applying it to a meta-analysis of kidney function genome-wide association studies and demonstrate that SNP selection performs better using the probability of association compared with p-values alone.
replication; prior knowledge; genome-wide studies
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified >500 common variants associated with quantitative metabolic traits, but in aggregate such variants explain at most 20–30% of the heritable component of population variation in these traits. To further investigate the impact of genotypic variation on metabolic traits, we conducted re-sequencing studies in >6,000 members of a Finnish population cohort (The Northern Finland Birth Cohort of 1966 [NFBC]) and a type 2 diabetes case-control sample (The Finland-United States Investigation of NIDDM Genetics [FUSION] study). By sequencing the coding sequence and 5′ and 3′ untranslated regions of 78 genes at 17 GWAS loci associated with one or more of six metabolic traits (serum levels of fasting HDL-C, LDL-C, total cholesterol, triglycerides, plasma glucose, and insulin), and conducting both single-variant and gene-level association tests, we obtained a more complete understanding of phenotype-genotype associations at eight of these loci. At all eight of these loci, the identification of new associations provides significant evidence for multiple genetic signals to one or more phenotypes, and at two loci, in the genes ABCA1 and CETP, we found significant gene-level evidence of association to non-synonymous variants with MAF<1%. Additionally, two potentially deleterious variants that demonstrated significant associations (rs138726309, a missense variant in G6PC2, and rs28933094, a missense variant in LIPC) were considerably more common in these Finnish samples than in European reference populations, supporting our prior hypothesis that deleterious variants could attain high frequencies in this isolated population, likely due to the effects of population bottlenecks. Our results highlight the value of large, well-phenotyped samples for rare-variant association analysis, and the challenge of evaluating the phenotypic impact of such variants.
Abnormal serum levels of various metabolites, including measures relevant to cholesterol, other fats, and sugars, are known to be risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Identification of the genes that play a role in generating such abnormalities could advance the development of new treatment and prevention strategies for these disorders. Investigations of common genetic variants carried out in large sets of research subjects have successfully pinpointed such genes within many regions of the human genome. However, these studies often have not led to the identification of the specific genetic variations affecting metabolic traits. To attempt to detect such causal variations, we sequenced genes in 17 genomic regions implicated in metabolic traits in >6,000 people from Finland. By conducting statistical analyses relating specific variations (individually and grouped by gene) to the measures for these metabolic traits observed in the study subjects, we added to our understanding of how genotypes affect these traits. Our findings support a long-held hypothesis that the unique history of the Finnish population provides important advantages for analyzing the relationship between genetic variations and biomedically important traits.
Genetic studies might provide new insights into the biological
mechanisms underlying lipid metabolism and risk of CAD. We therefore
conducted a genome-wide association study to identify novel genetic
determinants of LDL-c, HDL-c and triglycerides.
Methods and results
We combined genome-wide association data from eight studies,
comprising up to 17,723 participants with information on circulating lipid
concentrations. We did independent replication studies in up to 37,774
participants from eight populations and also in a population of Indian Asian
descent. We also assessed the association between SNPs at lipid loci and
risk of CAD in up to 9,633 cases and 38,684 controls.
We identified four novel genetic loci that showed reproducible
associations with lipids (P values 1.6 × 10−8 to
3.1 × 10−10). These include a potentially
functional SNP in the SLC39A8 gene for HDL-c, a SNP near
the MYLIP/GMPR and PPP1R3B genes for LDL-c
and at the AFF1 gene for triglycerides. SNPs showing strong
statistical association with one or more lipid traits at the
APOE-C1-C4-C2 cluster, LPL,
ZNF259-APOA5-A4-C3-A1 cluster and
TRIB1 loci were also associated with CAD risk (P values
1.1 × 10−3 to 1.2 ×
We have identified four novel loci associated with circulating
lipids. We also show that in addition to those that are largely associated
with LDL-c, genetic loci mainly associated with circulating triglycerides
and HDL-c are also associated with risk of CAD. These findings potentially
provide new insights into the biological mechanisms underlying lipid
metabolism and CAD risk.
lipids; lipoproteins; genetics; epidemiology