Background The extent to which adult height, a biomarker of the interplay of genetic endowment and early-life experiences, is related to risk of chronic diseases in adulthood is uncertain.
Methods We calculated hazard ratios (HRs) for height, assessed in increments of 6.5 cm, using individual–participant data on 174 374 deaths or major non-fatal vascular outcomes recorded among 1 085 949 people in 121 prospective studies.
Results For people born between 1900 and 1960, mean adult height increased 0.5–1 cm with each successive decade of birth. After adjustment for age, sex, smoking and year of birth, HRs per 6.5 cm greater height were 0.97 (95% confidence interval: 0.96–0.99) for death from any cause, 0.94 (0.93–0.96) for death from vascular causes, 1.04 (1.03–1.06) for death from cancer and 0.92 (0.90–0.94) for death from other causes. Height was negatively associated with death from coronary disease, stroke subtypes, heart failure, stomach and oral cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, mental disorders, liver disease and external causes. In contrast, height was positively associated with death from ruptured aortic aneurysm, pulmonary embolism, melanoma and cancers of the pancreas, endocrine and nervous systems, ovary, breast, prostate, colorectum, blood and lung. HRs per 6.5 cm greater height ranged from 1.26 (1.12–1.42) for risk of melanoma death to 0.84 (0.80–0.89) for risk of death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. HRs were not appreciably altered after further adjustment for adiposity, blood pressure, lipids, inflammation biomarkers, diabetes mellitus, alcohol consumption or socio-economic indicators.
Conclusion Adult height has directionally opposing relationships with risk of death from several different major causes of chronic diseases.
Height; cardiovascular disease; cancer; cause-specific mortality; epidemiological study; meta-analysis
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of complex behavioural phenotypes such as cigarette smoking typically employ self-report phenotypes. However, precise biomarker phenotypes may afford greater statistical power and identify novel variants. Here we report the results of a GWAS meta-analysis of levels of cotinine, the primary metabolite of nicotine, in 4,548 daily smokers of European ancestry. We identified a locus close to UGT2B10 at 4q13.2 (minimum p = 5.89 × 10−10 for rs114612145), which was consequently replicated. This variant is in high linkage disequilibrium with a known functional variant in the UGT2B10 gene which is associated with reduced nicotine and cotinine glucuronidation activity, but intriguingly is not associated with nicotine intake. Additionally, we observed association between multiple variants within the 15q25.1 region and cotinine levels, all located within the CHRNA5-A3-B4 gene cluster or adjacent genes, consistent with previous much larger GWAS using self-report measures of smoking quantity. These results clearly illustrate the increase in power afforded by using precise biomarker measures in GWAS. Perhaps more importantly however, they also highlight that biomarkers do not always mark the phenotype of interest. The use of metabolite data as a proxy for environmental exposures should be carefully considered in the context of individual differences in metabolic pathways.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common and disabling joint disorder affecting millions of people worldwide. In OA, pathological changes are seen in all of the joint tissues including bone. Although both cross-sectional and longitudinal epidemiological studies have consistently demonstrated an association between higher bone mineral density (BMD) and OA, suggesting that increased BMD is a risk factor for OA, the mechanisms underlying this observation remain unclear. Recently, novel approaches to examining the BMD-OA relationship have included studying the disease in individuals with extreme high bone mass, and analyses searching for genetic variants associated with both BMD variation and OA, suggesting possible pleiotropic effects on bone mass and OA risk. These studies have yielded valuable insights into potentially relevant pathways that might one day be exploited therapeutically. Although animal models have suggested that drugs reducing bone turnover (antiresorptives) may retard OA progression, it remains to be seen whether this approach will prove to be useful in human OA. Identifying individuals with a phenotype of OA predominantly driven by increased bone formation could help improve the overall response to these treatments. This review aims to summarise current knowledge regarding the complex relationship between BMD and OA.
Alcohol-related blackouts (ARBs) are reported by ~50% of drinkers. While much is known about the prevalence of ARBs in young adults and their cross-sectional correlates, there are few prospective studies regarding their trajectories over time during mid-adolescence. This paper reports latent trajectory classes of alcohol-related blackouts between ages 15 and 19, along with predictors of those patterns.
Latent Class Growth Analysis (LCGA) was used to evaluate the pattern of occurrence of ARBs across four time points for 1402 drinking adolescents from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Multinomial regression analyses evaluated age 15 demography, substance-related items, externalizing characteristics, and estimated peer substance use as predictors of latent class membership.
ARBs were reported at age 15 in 30% and at age 19 in 74% of these subjects. Four latent trajectory classes were identified: Class 1 (5.1%) reported no blackouts; for Class 2 (29.5%) ARBs rapidly increased with age; for Class 3 (44.9%) blackouts slowly increased; and for Class 4 (20.5%) ARBs were consistently reported. Using Class 2 (rapid increasers) as the reference, predictors of class membership included female sex, higher drinking quantities, smoking, externalizing characteristics, and estimated peer substance involvement (pseudo R2 =.22).
ARBs were common and repetitive in these young subjects, and predictors of their trajectories over time involved multiple domains representing diverse characteristics.
alcohol; blackouts; predictors; latent trajectories
Association studies have identified a number of loci that contribute to an increased body mass index (BMI), the strongest of which is in the first intron of the FTO gene on human chromosome 16q12.2. However, this region is both non-coding and under strong linkage disequilibrium, making it recalcitrant to functional interpretation. Furthermore, the FTO gene is located within a complex cis-regulatory landscape defined by a topologically associated domain that includes the IRXB gene cluster, a trio of developmental regulators. Consequently, at least three genes in this interval have been implicated in the aetiology of obesity.
Here, we sequence a 2 Mb region encompassing the FTO, RPGRIP1L and IRXB cluster genes in 284 individuals from a well-characterised study group of Danish men containing extremely overweight young adults and controls. We further replicate our findings both in an expanded male cohort and an independent female study group. Finally, we compare our variant data with a previous study describing IRX3 and FTO interactions in this region.
We obtain deep coverage across the entire region, allowing accurate and unequivocal determination of almost every single nucleotide polymorphism and short insertion/deletion. As well as confirming previous findings across the interval, we identify a further novel age-dependent association upstream of IRX5 that imposes a similar burden on BMI to the FTO locus.
Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that chromatin architectures play a role in regulating gene expression levels across topological domains while our targeted sequence approach represents a widely applicable methodology for high-resolution analysis of regional variation across candidate genomic loci.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13073-015-0250-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
We investigated the role of common genetic variation in educational attainment and household income. We used data from 5,458 participants of the National Child Development Study to estimate: 1) the associations of rs9320913, rs11584700 and rs4851266 and socioeconomic position and educational phenotypes; and 2) the univariate chip-heritability of each phenotype, and the genetic correlation between each phenotype and educational attainment at age 16. The three SNPs were associated with most measures of educational attainment. Common genetic variation contributed to 6 of 14 socioeconomic background phenotypes, and 17 of 29 educational phenotypes. We found evidence of genetic correlations between educational attainment at age 16 and 4 of 14 social background and 8 of 28 educational phenotypes. This suggests common genetic variation contributes both to differences in educational attainment and its relationship with other phenotypes. However, we remain cautious that cryptic population structure, assortative mating, and dynastic effects may influence these associations.
Identifying preventable exposures that lead to asthma and associated allergies has proved challenging, partly because of the difficulty in differentiating phenotypes that define homogeneous disease groups. Understanding the socioeconomic patterns of disease phenotypes can help distinguish which exposures are preventable. In the present study, we identified disease phenotypes that are susceptible to socioeconomic variation, and we determined which life-course exposures were associated with these inequalities in a contemporary birth cohort. Participants included children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a population-based birth cohort in England, who were born in 1991 and 1992 and attended the clinic at 7–8 years of age (n = 6,378). Disease phenotypes included asthma, atopy, wheezing, altered lung function, and bronchial reactivity phenotypes. Combining atopy with a diagnosis of asthma from a doctor captured the greatest socioeconomic variation, including opposing patterns between phenotype groups: Children with a low socioeconomic position (SEP) had more asthma alone (adjusted multinomial odds ratio = 1.50, 95% confidence interval: 1.21, 1.87) but less atopy alone (adjusted multinomial odds ratio = 0.80, 95% confidence interval: 0.66, 0.98) than did children with high SEP. Adjustment for maternal exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy and childhood exposure to tobacco smoke reduced the odds of asthma alone in children with a low SEP. Current inequalities among children who have asthma but not atopy can be prevented by eliminating exposure to tobacco smoke. Other disease phenotypes were not socially patterned or had SEP patterns that were not related to smoke exposure.
asthma; atopy; childhood; inequalities; phenotypes; socioeconomic position
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing is a widely accepted screening method for prostate cancer, but with low specificity at thresholds giving good sensitivity. Previous research identified four single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) principally associated with circulating PSA levels rather than with prostate cancer risk (TERT rs2736098, FGFR2 rs10788160, TBX3 rs11067228, KLK3 rs17632542). Removing the genetic contribution to PSA levels may improve the ability of the remaining biologically-determined variation in PSA to discriminate between high and low risk of progression within men with identified prostate cancer. We investigate whether incorporating information on the PSA-SNPs improves the discrimination achieved by a single PSA threshold in men with raised PSA levels.
Materials and Methods
Men with PSA between 3-10ng/mL and histologically-confirmed prostate cancer were categorised as high or low risk of progression (Low risk: Gleason score≤6 and stage T1-T2a; High risk: Gleason score 7–10 or stage T2C). We used the combined genetic effect of the four PSA-SNPs to calculate a genetically corrected PSA risk score. We calculated the Area under the Curve (AUC) to determine how well genetically corrected PSA risk scores distinguished men at high risk of progression from low risk men.
The analysis includes 868 men with prostate cancer (Low risk: 684 (78.8%); High risk: 184 (21.2%)). Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves indicate that including the 4 PSA-SNPs does not improve the performance of measured PSA as a screening tool for high/low risk prostate cancer (measured PSA level AU C = 59.5% (95% CI: 54.7,64.2) vs additionally including information from the 4 PSA-SNPs AUC = 59.8% (95% CI: 55.2,64.5) (p-value = 0.40)).
We demonstrate that genetically correcting PSA for the combined genetic effect of four PSA-SNPs, did not improve discrimination between high and low risk prostate cancer in men with raised PSA levels (3-10ng/mL). Replication and gaining more accurate estimates of the effects of the 4 PSA-SNPs and additional variants associated with PSA levels and not prostate cancer could be obtained from subsequent GWAS from larger prospective studies.
The long-term effects on bone health of nutritional status in adolescence are unclear. The impact of adolescent and current body mass on bone mass in young adulthood in rural India was assessed. Current lean mass was a more important determinant of bone mass than thinness during adolescence in this population.
Adolescence is a crucial period for skeletal growth. However, the long-term effects on bone health of nutritional status in adolescence, particularly in the context of nutritional transition, are unclear. The current manuscript assessed the impact of adolescent and current body size on bone mass in young adulthood in an Indian rural community that is undergoing rapid socioeconomic changes.
The Andhra Pradesh Children and Parents Study is a prospective cohort study in Hyderabad, India. In 2003–2005, the study collected anthropometric and cardiovascular data on adolescents (mean age = 16 years old). The second and third waves of the study in 2009–2012 collected data on current anthropometric measures, areal bone mineral density (aBMD) in hip and lumbar spine (L1–L4) measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and living standards of the trial participants who were now young adults (mean age = 22 years old).
The median body mass index (BMI) of the 722 participants included in this analysis was 16.8 kg/m2 during adolescence, while the median BMI as young adults was 19.3 kg/m2. Lower aBMD during adulthood was associated with lower adolescent BMI (β (95 % confidence interval) for hip aBMD 0.017 (0.013 to 0.022) and LS aBMD 0.012 (0.008 to 0.016)). This association was attenuated upon adjustment for current fat and lean mass (β (95 % CI) for hip aBMD 0.00 (−0.005 to 0.005) and LS aBMD 0.005 (0.000 to 0.01)). There was clear evidence for positive associations between aBMDs and current lean mass.
Current lean mass was a more important determinant of bone mass than thinness during adolescence in this population. Weight gain during late adolescence and young adulthood coupled with improvement in lean mass may help to mitigate any adverse effects that pre-adulthood undernutrition may have on bone mass accrual.
Undernutrition; Adolescence; Bone mineral density; Longitudinal
Little is known about genes regulating male puberty. Further, while many identified pubertal timing variants associate with age at menarche, a late manifestation of puberty, and body mass, little is known about these variants' relationship to pubertal initiation or tempo. To address these questions, we performed genome-wide association meta-analysis in over 11 000 European samples with data on early pubertal traits, male genital and female breast development, measured by the Tanner scale. We report the first genome-wide significant locus for male sexual development upstream of myocardin-like 2 (MKL2) (P = 8.9 × 10−9), a menarche locus tagging a developmental pathway linking earlier puberty with reduced pubertal growth (P = 4.6 × 10−5) and short adult stature (p = 7.5 × 10−6) in both males and females. Furthermore, our results indicate that a proportion of menarche loci are important for pubertal initiation in both sexes. Consistent with epidemiological correlations between increased prepubertal body mass and earlier pubertal timing in girls, body mass index (BMI)-increasing alleles correlated with earlier breast development. In boys, some BMI-increasing alleles associated with earlier, and others with delayed, sexual development; these genetic results mimic the controversy in epidemiological studies, some of which show opposing correlations between prepubertal BMI and male puberty. Our results contribute to our understanding of the pubertal initiation program in both sexes and indicate that although mechanisms regulating pubertal onset in males and females may largely be shared, the relationship between body mass and pubertal timing in boys may be complex and requires further genetic studies.
To investigate, using a Mendelian randomisation approach, whether heavier smoking is associated with a range of regional adiposity phenotypes, in particular those related to abdominal adiposity.
Mendelian randomisation meta-analyses using a genetic variant (rs16969968/rs1051730 in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene region) as a proxy for smoking heaviness, of the associations of smoking heaviness with a range of adiposity phenotypes.
148 731 current, former and never-smokers of European ancestry aged ≥16 years from 29 studies in the consortium for Causal Analysis Research in Tobacco and Alcohol (CARTA).
Primary outcome measures
Waist and hip circumferences, and waist-hip ratio.
The data included up to 66 809 never-smokers, 43 009 former smokers and 38 913 current daily cigarette smokers. Among current smokers, for each extra minor allele, the geometric mean was lower for waist circumference by −0.40% (95% CI −0.57% to −0.22%), with effects on hip circumference, waist-hip ratio and body mass index (BMI) being −0.31% (95% CI −0.42% to −0.19), −0.08% (−0.19% to 0.03%) and −0.74% (−0.96% to −0.51%), respectively. In contrast, among never-smokers, these effects were higher by 0.23% (0.09% to 0.36%), 0.17% (0.08% to 0.26%), 0.07% (−0.01% to 0.15%) and 0.35% (0.18% to 0.52%), respectively. When adjusting the three central adiposity measures for BMI, the effects among current smokers changed direction and were higher by 0.14% (0.05% to 0.22%) for waist circumference, 0.02% (−0.05% to 0.08%) for hip circumference and 0.10% (0.02% to 0.19%) for waist-hip ratio, for each extra minor allele.
For a given BMI, a gene variant associated with increased cigarette consumption was associated with increased waist circumference. Smoking in an effort to control weight may lead to accumulation of central adiposity.
Background: Observational studies suggest that breastfeeding benefits later maternal child-feeding practices, which in turn may contribute to positive eating attitudes. We investigated the effect of a randomized intervention to increase duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding on pre-adolescent eating attitudes.
Methods: Long-term follow-up of the Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT), a cluster-randomized trial in 31 maternity hospitals and affiliated polyclinics in Belarus. Sites were randomly assigned an experimental intervention to promote longer duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding in mothers who initiated breastfeeding (n = 16 sites), or a control intervention of continuing usual care (n = 15 sites); 17 046 healthy infants were enrolled in 1996–7, of whom 13 751 (80.7%) completed the Children’s Eating Attitude Test (ChEAT) at 11.5 years of age. A ChEAT score ≥22.5 (85th percentile) was used as an indicator of problematic eating attitudes. Analysis was based on intention-to-treat, accounting for clustering within hospitals/clinics.
Results: Compared with the control arm, the experimental intervention substantially increased breastfeeding exclusivity (43.3% vs 6.4% exclusively breastfed at 3 months of age) and duration of any breastfeeding throughout infancy. The proportion of children with ChEAT scores ≥22.5 was lower in the experimental than control arm (boys 11.4% vs 17.2%; girls 18.5% vs 23.4%) [cluster-adjusted odds ratio (OR), boys: 0.44; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.21,0.93; girls: 0.51; 95% CI: 0.27,0.99). Results were robust to adjustment for potential confounders and using a ChEAT score ≥25.5 (91st percentile) as the outcome (OR: 0.53; 95% CI: 0.28,1.03).
Conclusions: An intervention to improve the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding among term infants in Belarus was associated with a reduction in problematic eating attitudes at 11.5 years of age.
Breastfeeding; problematic eating attitudes; cluster-randomized trial
Whooping cough is currently seeing resurgence in countries despite high vaccine coverage. There is considerable variation in subject-specific response to infection and vaccine efficacy, but little is known about the role of human genetics. We carried out a case–control genome-wide association study of adult or parent-reported history of whooping cough in two cohorts from the UK: the ALSPAC cohort and the 1958 British Birth Cohort (815/758 cases and 6341/4308 controls, respectively). We also imputed HLA alleles using dense SNP data in the MHC region and carried out gene-based and gene-set tests of association and estimated the amount of additive genetic variation explained by common SNPs. We observed a novel association at SNPs in the MHC class II region in both cohorts [lead SNP rs9271768 after meta-analysis, odds ratio [95% confidence intervals (CIs)] 1.47 (1.35, 1.6), P-value 1.21E − 18]. Multiple strong associations were also observed at alleles at the HLA class II loci. The majority of these associations were explained by the lead SNP rs9271768. Gene-based and gene-set tests and estimates of explainable common genetic variation could not establish the presence of additional associations in our sample. Genetic variation at the MHC class II region plays a role in susceptibility to whooping cough. These findings provide additional perspective on mechanisms of whooping cough infection and vaccine efficacy.
Supplemental periconceptional folic acid is recommended to reduce the risk of fetal neural tube defects. A previous report indicated an elevated risk of breast cancer and all cancer deaths in later life among women randomised by alternate allocation to high-dose (5 mg/day) folic acid in pregnancy compared with placebo; however, findings were based on small numbers of cases. Our aim was to extend the previous analysis by including data from an additional 10 years of follow-up.
Records of participants in a large (n=2928) trial of folate supplementation (5 or 0.2 mg folic acid, or placebo) in pregnancy in the 1960s were linked to central registries in Scotland. Unadjusted and adjusted HRs were calculated for all-cause, cardiovascular, all cancer and breast cancer mortality, and all cancer and breast cancer morbidity. Analyses were done using (1) data from the time of the previous linkage (2002) to March 2013; and (2) data from 1980 to March 2013.
There was no evidence to suggest an excess risk of morbidity or mortality in either supplementation group compared with placebo for 2002–2013 and no associations were seen for the full time period (1980–2013).
Findings from this extended follow-up do not support our previous observation of an elevated risk of mortality from breast cancer or all cancers in later life among women who had taken 5 mg folic acid/day during pregnancy. Furthermore, there were no associations with risk of mortality from all-causes, all cancers or cardiovascular disease.
CANCER; CANCER: BREAST; MORTALITY; EPIDEMIOLOGY; MATERNAL HEALTH
Given that observational associations may be inaccurate, we used offspring blood pressure (BP) to provide alternative estimates of the associations between own BP and mortality. Observational associations between BP and mortality, estimated as hazard ratios (HRs) from Cox regression, were compared to HRs obtained using offspring BP as an instrumental variable (IV) for own BP (N = 32,227 mother-offspring and 27,535 father-offspring pairs). Observationally, there were positive associations between own BP and mortality from all-causes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and diabetes. Point estimates of the associations between BP and mortality from all-causes, CVD and CHD were amplified in magnitude when using offspring BP as an IV. For example, the HR for all-cause mortality per standard deviation (SD) increase in own systolic BP (SBP) obtained in conventional observational analyses increased from 1.10 (95% CI: 1.09–1.12; P < 0.0001) to 1.31 (95% CI: 1.19–1.43; P < 0.0001). Additionally, SBP was positively associated with diabetes and cancer mortality (HRs: 2.00; 95% CI: 1.12–3.35; P = 0.02 and 1.20; 95% CI: 1.02–1.42; P = 0.03, respectively), and diastolic BP (DBP) with stroke mortality (HR: 1.30; 95% CI: 1.02–1.66; P = 0.03). Results support positive associations between BP and mortality from all-causes, CVD, and CHD, SBP on cancer mortality, and DBP on stroke mortality.
While high body mass index is associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety, cumulative evidence indicates that it is a protective factor for suicide. The associations from conventional observational studies of body mass index with mental health outcomes are likely to be influenced by reverse causality or confounding by ill-health. In the present study, we investigated the associations between offspring body mass index and parental anxiety, depression and suicide in order to avoid problems with reverse causality and confounding by ill-health.
We used data from 32,457 mother-offspring and 27,753 father-offspring pairs from the Norwegian HUNT-study. Anxiety and depression were assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and suicide death from national registers. Associations between offspring and own body mass index and symptoms of anxiety and depression and suicide mortality were estimated using logistic and Cox regression. Causal effect estimates were estimated with a two sample instrument variable approach using offspring body mass index as an instrument for parental body mass index.
Both own and offspring body mass index were positively associated with depression, while the results did not indicate any substantial association between body mass index and anxiety. Although precision was low, suicide mortality was inversely associated with own body mass index and the results from the analysis using offspring body mass index supported these results. Adjusted odds ratios per standard deviation body mass index from the instrumental variable analysis were 1.22 (95% CI: 1.05, 1.43) for depression, 1.10 (95% CI: 0.95, 1.27) for anxiety, and the instrumental variable estimated hazard ratios for suicide was 0.69 (95% CI: 0.30, 1.63).
The present study’s results indicate that suicide mortality is inversely associated with body mass index. We also found support for a positive association between body mass index and depression, but not for anxiety.
Evidence of an association between serum vitamin D and cardiovascular disease risk is inconsistent and comes predominantly from studies in high-income settings. We assessed the association between serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25(OH)D) and cardiovascular disease risk factors in a population of young Indian adults.
Cross-sectional analyses of data from APCAPS (Andhra Pradesh Children and Parents Study); a prospective birth cohort study in rural south India. Participants were 1038 (40.3% females) adults aged 18-24 years. Main outcome measures were blood pressures, fasting serum lipids (cholesterols and triglycerides), fasting glucose, insulin, measures of arterial stiffness (aortic augmentation index and aortic pulse wave velocity (aPWV)), carotid intima-media thickness, body mass index (BMI) and body fat (dual X-ray absorptiometry).
Vitamin D deficiency (≤20ng/ml) was observed in 41.1% of this lean (mean BMI: 19.5) and active (mean minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity per day: 186) population. Vitamin D deficiency was associated with higher median body fat in both males (15.9% body fat in vitamin D deficient males vs. 14.6% in non-deficient males, p<0.05) and females (29.1% body fat in vitamin D deficient females vs. 27.8% in non-deficient females, p<0.05) but no associations were observed between vitamin D deficiency and mean BMI or median fat mass index (FMI). Except a weak inverse association with fasting insulin in males, there was no clear association between serum vitamin D levels and cardiovascular disease risk factors in fully adjusted models.
We did not find clear evidence for an association between serum vitamin D levels and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Our results, consistent with the limited evidence from randomised trials of vitamin D supplementation and Mendelian randomisation experiments, suggest that the postulated link between serum vitamin D and cardiovascular disease may be non-causal. Instead, it may be attributable to confounding by lifestyle factors such as obesity and physical inactivity which may provide more fruitful targets for cardiovascular disease prevention.
Background: The number of Mendelian randomization analyses including large numbers of genetic variants is rapidly increasing. This is due to the proliferation of genome-wide association studies, and the desire to obtain more precise estimates of causal effects. However, some genetic variants may not be valid instrumental variables, in particular due to them having more than one proximal phenotypic correlate (pleiotropy).
Methods: We view Mendelian randomization with multiple instruments as a meta-analysis, and show that bias caused by pleiotropy can be regarded as analogous to small study bias. Causal estimates using each instrument can be displayed visually by a funnel plot to assess potential asymmetry. Egger regression, a tool to detect small study bias in meta-analysis, can be adapted to test for bias from pleiotropy, and the slope coefficient from Egger regression provides an estimate of the causal effect. Under the assumption that the association of each genetic variant with the exposure is independent of the pleiotropic effect of the variant (not via the exposure), Egger’s test gives a valid test of the null causal hypothesis and a consistent causal effect estimate even when all the genetic variants are invalid instrumental variables.
Results: We illustrate the use of this approach by re-analysing two published Mendelian randomization studies of the causal effect of height on lung function, and the causal effect of blood pressure on coronary artery disease risk. The conservative nature of this approach is illustrated with these examples.
Conclusions: An adaption of Egger regression (which we call MR-Egger) can detect some violations of the standard instrumental variable assumptions, and provide an effect estimate which is not subject to these violations. The approach provides a sensitivity analysis for the robustness of the findings from a Mendelian randomization investigation.
Mendelian randomization; invalid instruments; meta-analysis; pleiotropy; small study bias; MR-Egger test
Background: Several studies have investigated the effect of known adult body mass index (BMI) associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on BMI in childhood. There has been no genome-wide association study (GWAS) of BMI trajectories over childhood.
Methods: We conducted a GWAS meta-analysis of BMI trajectories from 1 to 17 years of age in 9377 children (77 967 measurements) from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study. Genome-wide significant loci were examined in a further 3918 individuals (48 530 measurements) from Northern Finland. Linear mixed effects models with smoothing splines were used in each cohort for longitudinal modelling of BMI.
Results: A novel SNP, downstream from the FAM120AOS gene on chromosome 9, was detected in the meta-analysis of ALSPAC and Raine. This association was driven by a difference in BMI at 8 years (T allele of rs944990 increased BMI; PSNP = 1.52 × 10−8), with a modest association with change in BMI over time (PWald(Change) = 0.006). Three known adult BMI-associated loci (FTO, MC4R and ADCY3) and one childhood obesity locus (OLFM4) reached genome-wide significance (PWald < 1.13 × 10−8) with BMI at 8 years and/or change over time.
Conclusions: This GWAS of BMI trajectories over childhood identified a novel locus that warrants further investigation. We also observed genome-wide significance with previously established obesity loci, making the novel observation that these loci affected both the level and the rate of change in BMI. We have demonstrated that the use of repeated measures data can increase power to allow detection of genetic loci with smaller sample sizes.
Body mass index; genome-wide association study; trajectory; childhood; ALSPAC; Raine
Low adiposity has been linked to elevated mortality from several causes including respiratory disease. However, this could arise from confounding or reverse causality. We explore the association between two measures of adiposity (BMI and WHR) with COPD in the British Women’s Heart and Health Study including a detailed assessment of the potential for confounding and reverse causality for each adiposity measure. Low BMI was found to be associated with increased COPD risk while low WHR was not (OR = 2.2; 95% CI 1.3 – 3.1 versus OR = 1.2; 95% CI 0.7 – 1.6). Potential confounding variables (e.g. smoking) and markers of ill-health (e.g. unintentional weight loss) were found to be higher in low BMI but not in low WHR. Women with low BMI have a detrimental profile across a broad range of health markers compared to women with low WHR, and women with low WHR do not appear to have an elevated COPD risk, lending support to the hypothesis that WHR is a less confounded measure of adiposity than BMI. Low adiposity does not in itself appear to increase the risk of respiratory disease, and the apparent adverse consequences of low BMI may be due to reverse causation and confounding.
Gestational age (GA) and birth weight have been implicated in the determination of long-term health. It has been hypothesized that changes in DNA methylation may mediate these long-term effects. We obtained DNA methylation profiles from cord blood and peripheral blood at ages 7 and 17 in the same children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Repeated-measures data were used to investigate changes in birth-related methylation during childhood and adolescence. Ten developmental phenotypes (e.g. height) were analysed to identify possible mediation of health effects by DNA methylation. In cord blood, methylation at 224 CpG sites was found to be associated with GA and 23 CpG sites with birth weight. Methylation changed in the majority of these sites over time, but neither birth characteristic was strongly associated with methylation at age 7 or 17 (using a conservative correction for multiple testing of P < 1.03 × 10–7), suggesting resolution of differential methylation by early childhood. Associations were observed between birth weight-associated CpG sites and phenotypic characteristics in childhood. One strong association involved birth weight, methylation of a CpG site proximal to the NFIX locus and bone mineral density at age 17. Analysis of serial methylation from birth to adolescence provided evidence for a lack of persistence of methylation differences beyond early childhood. Sites associated with birth weight were linked to developmental genes and have methylation levels which are associated with developmental phenotypes. Replication and interrogation of causal relationships are needed to substantiate whether methylation differences at birth influence the association between birth weight and development.
Background: Evidence suggests that in utero exposure to undernutrition and overnutrition might affect adiposity in later life. Epigenetic modification is suggested as a plausible mediating mechanism.
Methods: We used multivariable linear regression and a negative control design to examine offspring epigenome-wide DNA methylation in relation to maternal and offspring adiposity in 1018 participants.
Results: Compared with neonatal offspring of normal weight mothers, 28 and 1621 CpG sites were differentially methylated in offspring of obese and underweight mothers, respectively [false discovert rate (FDR)-corrected P-value < 0.05), with no overlap in the sites that maternal obesity and underweight relate to. A positive association, where higher methylation is associated with a body mass index (BMI) outside the normal range, was seen at 78.6% of the sites associated with obesity and 87.9% of the sites associated with underweight. Associations of maternal obesity with offspring methylation were stronger than associations of paternal obesity, supporting an intrauterine mechanism. There were no consistent associations of gestational weight gain with offspring DNA methylation. In general, sites that were hypermethylated in association with maternal obesity or hypomethylated in association with maternal underweight tended to be positively associated with offspring adiposity, and sites hypomethylated in association with maternal obesity or hypermethylated in association with maternal underweight tended to be inversely associated with offspring adiposity.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that both maternal obesity and, to a larger degree, underweight affect the neonatal epigenome via an intrauterine mechanism, but weight gain during pregnancy has little effect. We found some evidence that associations of maternal underweight with lower offspring adiposity and maternal obesity with greater offspring adiposity may be mediated via increased DNA methylation.
Epigenetic; ALSPAC; ARIES; causality; epigenome-wide association study; longitudinal; overweight; overnutrition; undernutrition
Twin studies and genome-wide complex trait analysis (GCTA) are not in agreement regarding heritability estimates for behavioral traits in children from the general population. This has sparked a debate on the possible difference in genetic architecture between behavioral traits and psychiatric disorders. In this study, we test whether polygenic risk scores associated with variation in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) trait levels in children from the general population predict ADHD diagnostic status and severity in an independent clinical sample.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with p < .5 from a genome-wide association study of ADHD traits in 4,546 children (mean age, 7 years 7 months) from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC; general population sample) were selected to calculate polygenic risk scores in 508 children with an ADHD diagnosis (independent clinical sample) and 5,081 control participants. Polygenic scores were tested for association with case-control status and severity of disorder in the clinical sample.
Increased polygenic score for ADHD traits predicted ADHD case-control status (odds ratio = 1.17 [95% CI = 1.08–1.28], p = .0003), higher ADHD symptom severity (β = 0.29 [95% CI = 0.04–0.54], p = 0.02), and symptom domain severity in the clinical sample.
This study highlights the relevance of additive genetic variance in ADHD, and provides evidence that shared genetic factors contribute to both behavioral traits in the general population and psychiatric disorders at least in the case of ADHD.
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); polygenic risk scores; Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC); common variants; genetics
Normal thyroid function is essential for health, but its genetic architecture remains poorly understood. Here, for the heritable thyroid traits thyrotropin (TSH) and free thyroxine (FT4), we analyse whole-genome sequence data from the UK10K project (N=2,287). Using additional whole-genome sequence and deeply imputed data sets, we report meta-analysis results for common variants (MAF≥1%) associated with TSH and FT4 (N=16,335). For TSH, we identify a novel variant in SYN2 (MAF=23.5%, P=6.15 × 10−9) and a new independent variant in PDE8B (MAF=10.4%, P=5.94 × 10−14). For FT4, we report a low-frequency variant near B4GALT6/SLC25A52 (MAF=3.2%, P=1.27 × 10−9) tagging a rare TTR variant (MAF=0.4%, P=2.14 × 10−11). All common variants explain ≥20% of the variance in TSH and FT4. Analysis of rare variants (MAF<1%) using sequence kernel association testing reveals a novel association with FT4 in NRG1. Our results demonstrate that increased coverage in whole-genome sequence association studies identifies novel variants associated with thyroid function.
Levels of circulating thyrotropin and free thyroxine reflect thyroid function, however, their genetic underpinnings remain poorly understood. Taylor et al. take advantage of whole-genome sequence data from cohorts within the UK10K project to identify novel variants associated with these traits.