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1.  Associations of adiponectin with individual European ancestry in African Americans: the Jackson Heart Study 
Background: Compared with European Americans, African Americans (AAs) exhibit lower levels of the cardio-metabolically protective adiponectin even after accounting for adiposity measures. Because few studies have examined in AA the association between adiponectin and genetic admixture, a dense panel of ancestry informative markers (AIMs) was used to estimate the individual proportions of European ancestry (PEA) for the AAs enrolled in a large community-based cohort, the Jackson Heart Study (JHS). We tested the hypothesis that plasma adiponectin and PEA are directly associated and assessed the interaction with a series of cardio-metabolic risk factors.
Methods: Plasma specimens from 1439 JHS participants were analyzed by ELISA for adiponectin levels. Using pseudo-ancestral population genotype data from the HapMap Consortium, PEA was estimated with a panel of up to 1447 genome-wide preselected AIMs by a maximum likelihood approach. Interaction assessment, stepwise linear and cubic multivariable-adjusted regression models were used to analyze the cross-sectional association between adiponectin and PEA.
Results: Among the study participants (62% women; mean age 48 ± 12 years), the median (interquartile range) of PEA was 15.8 (9.3)%. Body mass index (BMI) (p = 0.04) and insulin resistance (p = 0.0001) modified the association between adiponectin and PEA. Adiponectin was directly and linearly associated with PEA (β = 0.62 ± 0.28, p = 0.03) among non-obese (n = 673) and insulin sensitive participants (n = 1141; β = 0.74 ± 0.23, p = 0.001), but not among those obese or with insulin resistance. No threshold point effect was detected for non-obese participants.
Conclusions: In a large AA population, the individual proportion of European ancestry was linearly and directly associated with plasma adiponectin among non-obese and non insulin-resistant participants, pointing to the interaction of genetic and metabolic factors influencing adiponectin levels.
PMCID: PMC3918651  PMID: 24575123
cohort study; adiponectin; individual European ancestry; minorities; African Americans; obesity; insulin resistance
2.  Fatty Liver, Abdominal Adipose Tissue and Atherosclerotic Calcification in African Americans: the Jackson Heart Study 
Atherosclerosis  2012;224(2):521-525.
Both fatty liver and abdominal visceral fat (VAT) are associated with cardiometabolic risk factors. Whether fatty liver and VAT are jointly associated with coronary artery (CAC) or abdominal aortic (AAC) calcification is not clear.
Jackson Heart Study (JHS) participants (n=2884, mean age 60 years, 65% women) underwent non-contrast CT Exam for assessment of fatty liver, VAT, and CAC and AAC. Fatty liver was measured by liver attenuation (LA; low LA=high fatty liver). The Agatston score was used to quantify the amount of calcified artery plaque and the presence of calcified artery plaque was defined as Agatston score>0. Cross-sectional associations of LA and VAT with CAC and AAC were examined in logistic regression models.
LA (per 1-standard deviation [SD] decrement) was associated inversely with CAC in age-sex-adjusted (OR 0.84, 95%CI 0.7–0.9, p=0.0001) and multivariable adjusted models (OR 0.89, 95%CI 0.8–0.9, p=0.01). The association persisted for LA with CAC when additionally adjusted for body mass index (BMI) (OR 0.89, 95%CI 0.8–0.9, p=0.03) or VAT (OR 0.90, 95%CI 0.8–0.9, p=0.04). Abdominal VAT (per 1-SD increment) was positively associated with CAC in age-sex-adjusted models (OR 1.27, 95%CI 1.2–1.4, p=0.0001), but the association was diminished with multivariable adjustment (OR 1.10, 95%CI 0.9–1.2, p=0.09) and with additional adjustment for LA (p = 0.24) or BMI (p = 0.33). For AAC, the associations with LA and VAT were only present in age-sex-adjusted models. Finally, we did not observe interactions between LA and VAT for CAC (p=0.18) or AAC (p=0.24).
Fatty liver is associated with coronary atherosclerotic calcification independent of abdominal VAT or BMI in African Americans. Further investigations to uncover the clinical implications of fatty liver on coronary atherosclerosis in obesity are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3459068  PMID: 22902209
3.  Using population admixture to help complete maps of the human genome 
Nature genetics  2013;45(4):406-414e2.
Tens of millions of base pairs of euchromatic human genome sequence, including many protein-coding genes, have no known location in the human genome. We describe an approach for localizing the human genome's missing pieces by utilizing the patterns of genome sequence variation created by population admixture. We mapped the locations of 70 scaffolds spanning four million base pairs of the human genome's unplaced euchromatic sequence, including more than a dozen protein-coding genes, and identified eight large novel inter-chromosomal segmental duplications. We find that most of these sequences are hidden in the genome's heterochromatin, particularly its pericentromeric regions. Many cryptic, pericentromeric genes are expressed in RNA and have been maintained intact for millions of years while their expression patterns diverged from those of paralogous genes elsewhere in the genome. We describe how knowledge of the locations of these sequences can inform disease association and genome biology studies.
PMCID: PMC3683849  PMID: 23435088
4.  Epidemiology, Heritability and Genetic Linkage of C-Reactive Protein in African-Americans (From the Jackson Heart Study) 
The American journal of cardiology  2008;102(7):835-841.
C-reactive protein (CRP) largely has been studied in white non-Hispanic cohorts. There is limited information on CRP’s range of values, heritability and relation to cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in African Americans. We sought to evaluate the distribution, clinical correlates, heritability and genetic linkage of log-transformed CRP in participants of the middle-aged to elderly African American community-based Jackson Heart Study. The distribution and correlates of CRP were analyzed for the entire study cohort who underwent the first examination (2001–2004). Heritability was estimated for the family cohort nested within the larger Jackson Heart Study (246 families, n=1,317). The relation between CRP and CVD risk factors were tested with multivariable stepwise regression analyses. Heritability was estimated using a variance components method. Linkage analysis was performed using the multipoint variance components approach. The study sample consisted of 4,919 participants (mean age 55±13 years, 63% women); median CRP concentration was 2.7 mg/L. In stepwise models traditional risk factors explained 23.8% of CRP’s variability, with body mass index (BMI, partial R2=13.6%) explaining 57.1% of the variability of CRP due to traditional risk factors. The heritability of CRP (adjusted for age, sex and BMI) was 0.45. The strongest linkage evidence for CRP was observed on chromosome 11 (11p13–11p11.2) with a logarithm of odds score of 2.72. In conclusion, in this large population-based cohort of African Americans, circulating CRP concentration was heritable and associated with several traditional cardiovascular risk factors, particularly BMI.
PMCID: PMC3733442  PMID: 18805107
C-reactive protein; risk factors; genetics; heritability; blood pressure; cholesterol; body mass index; African Americans
6.  Genetic association analysis highlights new loci that modulate hematological trait variation in Caucasians and African Americans 
Human genetics  2010;129(3):307-317.
Red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet measures, including their count, sub-type and volume, are important diagnostic and prognostic clinical parameters for several human diseases. To identify novel loci associated with hematological traits, and compare the architecture of these phenotypes between ethnic groups, the CARe Project genotyped 49,094 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that capture variation in ~2,100 candidate genes in DNA of 23,439 Caucasians and 7,112 African Americans from five population-based cohorts. We found strong novel associations between erythrocyte phenotypes and the glucose-6 phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) A-allele in African Americans (rs1050828, P < 2.0 × 10−13, T-allele associated with lower red blood cell count, hemoglobin, and hematocrit, and higher mean corpuscular volume), and between platelet count and a SNP at the tropomyosin-4 (TPM4) locus (rs8109288, P = 3.0 × 10−7 in Caucasians; P = 3.0 × 10−7 in African Americans, T-allele associated with lower platelet count). We strongly replicated many genetic associations to blood cell phenotypes previously established in Caucasians. A common variant of the α-globin (HBA2-HBA1) locus was associated with red blood cell traits in African Americans, but not in Caucasians (rs1211375, P < 7 × 10−8, A-allele associated with lower hemoglobin, mean corpuscular hemoglobin, and mean corpuscular volume). Our results show similarities but also differences in the genetic regulation of hematological traits in European- and African-derived populations, and highlight the role of natural selection in shaping these differences.
PMCID: PMC3442357  PMID: 21153663
7.  Transferability and Fine Mapping of Type 2 Diabetes Loci in African Americans 
Diabetes  2013;62(3):965-976.
Type 2 diabetes (T2D) disproportionally affects African Americans (AfA) but, to date, genetic variants identified from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are primarily from European and Asian populations. We examined the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and locus transferability of 40 reported T2D loci in six AfA GWAS consisting of 2,806 T2D case subjects with or without end-stage renal disease and 4,265 control subjects from the Candidate Gene Association Resource Plus Study. Our results revealed that seven index SNPs at the TCF7L2, KLF14, KCNQ1, ADCY5, CDKAL1, JAZF1, and GCKR loci were significantly associated with T2D (P < 0.05). The strongest association was observed at TCF7L2 rs7903146 (odds ratio [OR] 1.30; P = 6.86 × 10−8). Locus-wide analysis demonstrated significant associations (Pemp < 0.05) at regional best SNPs in the TCF7L2, KLF14, and HMGA2 loci as well as suggestive signals in KCNQ1 after correction for the effective number of SNPs at each locus. Of these loci, the regional best SNPs were in differential linkage disequilibrium (LD) with the index and adjacent SNPs. Our findings suggest that some loci discovered in prior reports affect T2D susceptibility in AfA with similar effect sizes. The reduced and differential LD pattern in AfA compared with European and Asian populations may facilitate fine mapping of causal variants at loci shared across populations.
PMCID: PMC3581206  PMID: 23193183
8.  Fine-Mapping in African Americans of Eight Recently Discovered Genetic Loci for Plasma Lipids: The Jackson Heart Study 
Genome-wide association studies in cohorts of European descent have identified novel genomic regions as associated with lipids, but their relevance in African Americans remains unclear.
Methods and Results
We genotyped 8 index SNPs and 488 tagging SNPs across 8 novel lipid loci in the Jackson Heart Study, a community-based cohort of 4605 African Americans. For each trait, we calculated residuals adjusted for age, sex, and global ancestry and performed multivariable linear regression to detect genotype-phenotype association with adjustment for local ancestry. To explore admixture effects, we conducted stratified analyses in individuals with a high probability of 2 African ancestral alleles or at least 1 European allele at each locus. We confirmed 2 index SNPs as associated with lipid traits in African Americans, with suggestive association for 3 more. However, the effect sizes for 4 of the 5 associated SNPs were larger in the European local ancestry subgroup compared to the African local ancestry subgroup, suggesting that the replication is driven by European ancestry segments. Through fine-mapping, we discovered 3 new SNPs with significant associations, two with consistent effect on triglyceride levels across ancestral groups: rs636523 near DOCK7/ANGPTL3 and rs780093 in GCKR. African LD patterns did not assist in narrowing association signals.
We confirm that 5 genetic regions associated with lipid traits in European-derived populations are relevant in African Americans. To further evaluate these loci, fine-mapping in larger African American cohorts and/or resequencing will be required.
PMCID: PMC3074173  PMID: 20570916
lipids; genetics; epidemiology; risk factors
9.  Admixture Mapping of Obesity-Related Traits in African Americans: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2009;18(3):563-572.
Obesity is an important cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. In the U.S., the prevalence of obesity is higher in African Americans than whites, even after adjustment for socioeconomic status. This leads to the hypothesis that differences in genetic background may contribute to racial/ethnic differences in obesity-related traits. We tested this hypothesis by conducting a genome-wide admixture mapping scan using 1,350 ancestry-informative SNPs in 3,531 self-identified blacks from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. We used these markers to estimate the overall proportions of European ancestry (PEA) for each individual and then scanned for the association between PEA and obesity-related traits (both continuous and dichotomous) at each locus. The median (interquartile range) PEA was 0.151 (0.115). PEA was inversely correlated with continuous body mass index (BMI), weight, and subscapular skinfold thickness, even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors. In contrast, PEA was positively correlated with BMI-adjusted waist circumference. Using admixture mapping on dichotomized traits, we identified a locus on 2p23.3 to be suggestively associated with BMI (locus-specific LOD = 4.11) and weight (locus-specific LOD = 4.07). After adjusting for global PEA, each additional copy of a European ancestral allele at the 2p23.3 peak was associated with a BMI decrease of ∼0.92 kg/m2 (p = 2.9 × 10-5). Further mapping in this region on chromosome 2 may be able to uncover causative variants underlying obesity, which may offer insights into the control of energy homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC2866099  PMID: 19696751
10.  Single-Nucleotide Polymorphisms in LPA Explain Most of the Ancestry-Specific Variation in Lp(a) Levels in African Americans 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e14581.
Lipoprotein(a) (Lp(a)) is an important causal cardiovascular risk factor, with serum Lp(a) levels predicting atherosclerotic heart disease and genetic determinants of Lp(a) levels showing association with myocardial infarction. Lp(a) levels vary widely between populations, with African-derived populations having nearly 2-fold higher Lp(a) levels than European Americans. We investigated the genetic basis of this difference in 4464 African Americans from the Jackson Heart Study (JHS) using a panel of up to 1447 ancestry informative markers, allowing us to accurately estimate the African ancestry proportion of each individual at each position in the genome. In an unbiased genome-wide admixture scan for frequency-differentiated genetic determinants of Lp(a) level, we found a convincing peak (LOD = 13.6) at 6q25.3, which spans the LPA locus. Dense fine-mapping of the LPA locus identified a number of strongly associated, common biallelic SNPs, a subset of which can account for up to 7% of the variation in Lp(a) level, as well as >70% of the African-European population differences in Lp(a) level. We replicated the association of the most strongly associated SNP, rs9457951 (p = 6×10−22, 27% change in Lp(a) per allele, ∼5% of Lp(a) variance explained in JHS), in 1,726 African Americans from the Dallas Heart Study and found an even stronger association after adjustment for the kringle(IV) repeat copy number. Despite the strong association with Lp(a) levels, we find no association of any LPA SNP with incident coronary heart disease in 3,225 African Americans from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study.
PMCID: PMC3025914  PMID: 21283670
11.  Development of an in vitro culture method for cells and tissues from the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) 
Cytotechnology  2009;59(2):121-134.
Despite the successful transfer of mammalian in vitro techniques for use with fish and other vertebrates, little progress has been made in the area of invertebrate tissue culture. This paper describes the development of an in vitro technique for the culture of both cells in suspension and tissue explants from the gill, digestive gland and mantle of the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) and their successful maintenance in culture for up to 14 days. Cell suspensions from the gills and digestive gland were the most successful technique developed with viability >80% maintained for up to 8 days in culture, suitable for use in short term toxicity tests. Tissue explants from the mantle were also maintained in culture for up to 14 days. This paper describes the challenges involved in the development of a novel in vitro culture technique for aquatic invertebrates.
PMCID: PMC2698444  PMID: 19521791
In vitro; Cell culture; Invertebrate; Zebra mussel
12.  Genetic Differences between the Determinants of Lipid Profile Phenotypes in African and European Americans: The Jackson Heart Study 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(1):e1000342.
Genome-wide association analysis in populations of European descent has recently found more than a hundred genetic variants affecting risk for common disease. An open question, however, is how relevant the variants discovered in Europeans are to other populations. To address this problem for cardiovascular phenotypes, we studied a cohort of 4,464 African Americans from the Jackson Heart Study (JHS), in whom we genotyped both a panel of 12 recently discovered genetic variants known to predict lipid profile levels in Europeans and a panel of up to 1,447 ancestry informative markers allowing us to determine the African ancestry proportion of each individual at each position in the genome. Focusing on lipid profiles—HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C), LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglycerides (TG)—we identified the lipoprotein lipase (LPL) locus as harboring variants that account for interethnic variation in HDL-C and TG. In particular, we identified a novel common variant within LPL that is strongly associated with TG (p = 2.7×10−6) and explains nearly 1% of the variability in this phenotype, the most of any variant in African Americans to date. Strikingly, the extensively studied “gain-of-function” S447X mutation at LPL, which has been hypothesized to be the major determinant of the LPL-TG genetic association and is in trials for human gene therapy, has a significantly diminished strength of biological effect when it is found on a background of African rather than European ancestry. These results suggest that there are other, yet undiscovered variants at the locus that are truly causal (and are in linkage disequilibrium with S447X) or that work synergistically with S447X to modulate TG levels. Finally, we find systematically lower effect sizes for the 12 risk variants discovered in European populations on the African local ancestry background in JHS, highlighting the need for caution in the use of genetic variants for risk assessment across different populations.
Author Summary
Single-base changes in DNA can affect biochemical measures, such as blood cholesterol or lipid levels. Such changes or “variants” can be associated with a trait either because they cause the trait or because they are linked to other causal variants. In either case, the associated variant(s) may be useful in predicting the trait. The chromosomes in which DNA is packaged cross over and recombine with each other in each generation, so that in historically separate populations, such as Africans and Europeans, the patterns of genetic linkage between variants differ. In the current study, we analyzed a large group of African Americans, testing genetic variants that had been associated with cholesterol and lipid levels in European-derived populations to assess their predictive value on two different genetic backgrounds within the same cohort. The ability of some variants to predict cholesterol or lipid traits was strongly dependent on genetic background, indicating that they may be tightly linked to other causal variant(s) in European populations and may not, themselves, be directly responsible for trait variability. We conclude that the predictive value of specific variants for risk assessment can differ critically across populations.
PMCID: PMC2613537  PMID: 19148283
15.  Genetics of coronary artery calcification among African Americans, a meta-analysis 
BMC Medical Genetics  2013;14:75.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the major cause of death in the United States. Coronary artery calcification (CAC) scores are independent predictors of CHD. African Americans (AA) have higher rates of CHD but are less well-studied in genomic studies. We assembled the largest AA data resource currently available with measured CAC to identify associated genetic variants.
We analyzed log transformed CAC quantity (ln(CAC + 1)), for association with ~2.5 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and performed an inverse-variance weighted meta-analysis on results for 5,823 AA from 8 studies. Heritability was calculated using family studies. The most significant SNPs among AAs were evaluated in European Ancestry (EA) CAC data; conversely, the significance of published SNPs for CAC/CHD in EA was queried within our AA meta-analysis.
Heritability of CAC was lower in AA (~30%) than previously reported for EA (~50%). No SNP reached genome wide significance (p < 5E-08). Of 67 SNPs with p < 1E-05 in AA there was no evidence of association in EA CAC data. Four SNPs in regions previously implicated in CAC/CHD (at 9p21 and PHACTR1) in EA reached nominal significance for CAC in AA, with concordant direction. Among AA, rs16905644 (p = 4.08E-05) had the strongest association in the 9p21 region.
While we observed substantial heritability for CAC in AA, we failed to identify loci for CAC at genome-wide significant levels despite having adequate power to detect alleles with moderate to large effects. Although suggestive signals in AA were apparent at 9p21 and additional CAC and CAD EA loci, overall the data suggest that even larger samples and an ethnic specific focus will be required for GWAS discoveries for CAC in AA populations.
PMCID: PMC3733595  PMID: 23870195
Atherosclerosis; Coronary artery calcium; Genetics; Meta-analysis; African-American
16.  Best Practices and Joint Calling of the HumanExome BeadChip: The CHARGE Consortium 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68095.
Genotyping arrays are a cost effective approach when typing previously-identified genetic polymorphisms in large numbers of samples. One limitation of genotyping arrays with rare variants (e.g., minor allele frequency [MAF] <0.01) is the difficulty that automated clustering algorithms have to accurately detect and assign genotype calls. Combining intensity data from large numbers of samples may increase the ability to accurately call the genotypes of rare variants. Approximately 62,000 ethnically diverse samples from eleven Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) Consortium cohorts were genotyped with the Illumina HumanExome BeadChip across seven genotyping centers. The raw data files for the samples were assembled into a single project for joint calling. To assess the quality of the joint calling, concordance of genotypes in a subset of individuals having both exome chip and exome sequence data was analyzed. After exclusion of low performing SNPs on the exome chip and non-overlap of SNPs derived from sequence data, genotypes of 185,119 variants (11,356 were monomorphic) were compared in 530 individuals that had whole exome sequence data. A total of 98,113,070 pairs of genotypes were tested and 99.77% were concordant, 0.14% had missing data, and 0.09% were discordant. We report that joint calling allows the ability to accurately genotype rare variation using array technology when large sample sizes are available and best practices are followed. The cluster file from this experiment is available at
PMCID: PMC3709915  PMID: 23874508
17.  Large-Scale Candidate Gene Analysis in Whites and African-Americans Identifies IL6R Polymorphism in Relation to Atrial Fibrillation: The NHLBI CARe Project 
The genetic background of atrial fibrillation (AF) in whites and African Americans is largely unknown. Genes in cardiovascular pathways have not been systematically investigated.
Methods and Results
We examined a panel of approximately 50,000 common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 2,095 cardiovascular candidate genes and AF in three cohorts with participants of European (n=18,524; 2,260 cases) or African American descent (n=3,662; 263 cases) in the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute's Candidate Gene Association Resource. Results in whites were followed up in the German Competence Network for AF (n=906, 468 cases). The top result was assessed in relation to incident ischemic stroke in the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology Stroke Consortium (n= 19,602 whites, 1544 incident strokes). SNP rs4845625 in the IL6R gene was associated with AF (relative risk (RR) C allele, 0.90; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.85–0.95; P=0.0005) in whites, but did not reach statistical significance in African Americans (RR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.72–1.03; P=0.09). The results were comparable in the German AF Network replication, (RR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.57–0.89; P=0.003). No association between rs4845625 and stroke was observed in whites. The known chromosome 4 locus near PITX2 in whites also was associated with AF in African Americans (rs4611994, hazard ratio, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.16–1.69; P=0.0005).
In a community-based cohort meta-analysis, we identified genetic association in IL6R with AF in whites. Additionally, we demonstrated that the chromosome 4 locus known from recent genome-wide association studies in whites is associated with AF in African Americans.
PMCID: PMC3224824  PMID: 21846873
atrial fibrillation; single nucleotide polymorphism; epidemiology; cohort study; race/ethnicity
18.  Multi-Ethnic Analysis of Lipid-Associated Loci: The NHLBI CARe Project 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36473.
Whereas it is well established that plasma lipid levels have substantial heritability within populations, it remains unclear how many of the genetic determinants reported in previous studies (largely performed in European American cohorts) are relevant in different ethnicities.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We tested a set of ∼50,000 polymorphisms from ∼2,000 candidate genes and genetic loci from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for association with low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and triglycerides (TG) in 25,000 European Americans and 9,000 African Americans in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Candidate Gene Association Resource (CARe). We replicated associations for a number of genes in one or both ethnicities and identified a novel lipid-associated variant in a locus harboring ICAM1. We compared the architecture of genetic loci associated with lipids in both African Americans and European Americans and found that the same genes were relevant across ethnic groups but the specific associated variants at each gene often differed.
We identify or provide further evidence for a number of genetic determinants of plasma lipid levels through population association studies. In many loci the determinants appear to differ substantially between African Americans and European Americans.
PMCID: PMC3357427  PMID: 22629316
19.  African Ancestry and Its Correlation to Type 2 Diabetes in African Americans: A Genetic Admixture Analysis in Three U.S. Population Cohorts 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32840.
The risk of type 2 diabetes is approximately 2-fold higher in African Americans than in European Americans even after adjusting for known environmental risk factors, including socioeconomic status (SES), suggesting that genetic factors may explain some of this population difference in disease risk. However, relatively few genetic studies have examined this hypothesis in a large sample of African Americans with and without diabetes. Therefore, we performed an admixture analysis using 2,189 ancestry-informative markers in 7,021 African Americans (2,373 with type 2 diabetes and 4,648 without) from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, the Jackson Heart Study, and the Multiethnic Cohort to 1) determine the association of type 2 diabetes and its related quantitative traits with African ancestry controlling for measures of SES and 2) identify genetic loci for type 2 diabetes through a genome-wide admixture mapping scan. The median percentage of African ancestry of diabetic participants was slightly greater than that of non-diabetic participants (study-adjusted difference = 1.6%, P<0.001). The odds ratio for diabetes comparing participants in the highest vs. lowest tertile of African ancestry was 1.33 (95% confidence interval 1.13–1.55), after adjustment for age, sex, study, body mass index (BMI), and SES. Admixture scans identified two potential loci for diabetes at 12p13.31 (LOD = 4.0) and 13q14.3 (Z score = 4.5, P = 6.6×10−6). In conclusion, genetic ancestry has a significant association with type 2 diabetes above and beyond its association with non-genetic risk factors for type 2 diabetes in African Americans, but no single gene with a major effect is sufficient to explain a large portion of the observed population difference in risk of diabetes. There undoubtedly is a complex interplay among specific genetic loci and non-genetic factors, which may both be associated with overall admixture, leading to the observed ethnic differences in diabetes risk.
PMCID: PMC3306373  PMID: 22438884
20.  A Meta-Analysis and Genome-Wide Association Study of Platelet Count and Mean Platelet Volume in African Americans 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(3):e1002491.
Several genetic variants associated with platelet count and mean platelet volume (MPV) were recently reported in people of European ancestry. In this meta-analysis of 7 genome-wide association studies (GWAS) enrolling African Americans, our aim was to identify novel genetic variants associated with platelet count and MPV. For all cohorts, GWAS analysis was performed using additive models after adjusting for age, sex, and population stratification. For both platelet phenotypes, meta-analyses were conducted using inverse-variance weighted fixed-effect models. Platelet aggregation assays in whole blood were performed in the participants of the GeneSTAR cohort. Genetic variants in ten independent regions were associated with platelet count (N = 16,388) with p<5×10−8 of which 5 have not been associated with platelet count in previous GWAS. The novel genetic variants associated with platelet count were in the following regions (the most significant SNP, closest gene, and p-value): 6p22 (rs12526480, LRRC16A, p = 9.1×10−9), 7q11 (rs13236689, CD36, p = 2.8×10−9), 10q21 (rs7896518, JMJD1C, p = 2.3×10−12), 11q13 (rs477895, BAD, p = 4.9×10−8), and 20q13 (rs151361, SLMO2, p = 9.4×10−9). Three of these loci (10q21, 11q13, and 20q13) were replicated in European Americans (N = 14,909) and one (11q13) in Hispanic Americans (N = 3,462). For MPV (N = 4,531), genetic variants in 3 regions were significant at p<5×10−8, two of which were also associated with platelet count. Previously reported regions that were also significant in this study were 6p21, 6q23, 7q22, 12q24, and 19p13 for platelet count and 7q22, 17q11, and 19p13 for MPV. The most significant SNP in 1 region was also associated with ADP-induced maximal platelet aggregation in whole blood (12q24). Thus through a meta-analysis of GWAS enrolling African Americans, we have identified 5 novel regions associated with platelet count of which 3 were replicated in other ethnic groups. In addition, we also found one region associated with platelet aggregation that may play a potential role in atherothrombosis.
Author Summary
The majority of the variation in platelet count and mean platelet volume between individuals is heritable. We performed genome-wide association studies in more than 16,000 African American participants from seven population-based cohorts to identify genetic variants that correlate with variation in platelet count and mean platelet volume. We observed statistically significant evidence (p-value<5×10−8) that 10 genomic regions were associated with platelet count and 3 were associated with mean platelet volume. Of the regions that were significantly associated, we found 5 novel regions that were not reported previously in other populations. Three of these 5 regions were also associated with platelet count in European Americans and Hispanic Americans. All these regions contain genes that are either known to have or potentially may have a role in determining platelet count and/or mean platelet volume. We further found that one of these regions was also associated with agonist-induced platelet aggregation. Further studies will determine the exact role played by these genomic regions in platelet biology. The knowledge generated by this and other studies will not only help us better understand platelet biology but can also lead us to the discovery of new anti-platelet drugs.
PMCID: PMC3299192  PMID: 22423221
21.  Candidate Gene Association Study for Diabetic Retinopathy in Persons with Type 2 Diabetes: The Candidate Gene Association Resource (CARe) 
Cardiovascular disease candidate genes, including genes previously associated with type 2 diabetes and diabetic nephropathy, were not associated with diabetic retinopathy, although a limited number of variants merit further investigation in larger cohorts.
To investigate whether variants in cardiovascular candidate genes, some of which have been previously associated with type 2 diabetes (T2D), diabetic retinopathy (DR), and diabetic nephropathy (DN), are associated with DR in the Candidate gene Association Resource (CARe).
Persons with T2D who were enrolled in the study (n = 2691) had fundus photography and genotyping of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 2000 candidate genes. Two case definitions were investigated: Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS) grades ≥14 and ≥30. The χ2 analyses for each CARe cohort were combined by Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel (CMH) pooling of odds ratios (ORs) and corrected for multiple hypothesis testing. Logistic regression was performed with adjustment for other DR risk factors. Results from replication in independent cohorts were analyzed with CMH meta-analysis methods.
Among 39 genes previously associated with DR, DN, or T2D, three SNPs in P-selectin (SELP) were associated with DR. The strongest association was to rs6128 (OR = 0.43, P = 0.0001, after Bonferroni correction). These associations remained significant after adjustment for DR risk factors. Among other genes examined, several variants were associated with DR with significant P values, including rs6856425 tagging α-l-iduronidase (IDUA) (P = 2.1 × 10−5, after Bonferroni correction). However, replication in independent cohorts did not reveal study-wide significant effects. The P values after replication were 0.55 and 0.10 for rs6128 and rs6856425, respectively.
Genes associated with DN, T2D, and vascular diseases do not appear to be consistently associated with DR. A few genetic variants associated with DR, particularly those in SELP and near IDUA, should be investigated in additional DR cohorts.
PMCID: PMC3183981  PMID: 21873659
22.  Multiple Loci Are Associated with White Blood Cell Phenotypes 
Nalls, Michael A. | Couper, David J. | Tanaka, Toshiko | van Rooij, Frank J. A. | Chen, Ming-Huei | Smith, Albert V. | Toniolo, Daniela | Zakai, Neil A. | Yang, Qiong | Greinacher, Andreas | Wood, Andrew R. | Garcia, Melissa | Gasparini, Paolo | Liu, Yongmei | Lumley, Thomas | Folsom, Aaron R. | Reiner, Alex P. | Gieger, Christian | Lagou, Vasiliki | Felix, Janine F. | Völzke, Henry | Gouskova, Natalia A. | Biffi, Alessandro | Döring, Angela | Völker, Uwe | Chong, Sean | Wiggins, Kerri L. | Rendon, Augusto | Dehghan, Abbas | Moore, Matt | Taylor, Kent | Wilson, James G. | Lettre, Guillaume | Hofman, Albert | Bis, Joshua C. | Pirastu, Nicola | Fox, Caroline S. | Meisinger, Christa | Sambrook, Jennifer | Arepalli, Sampath | Nauck, Matthias | Prokisch, Holger | Stephens, Jonathan | Glazer, Nicole L. | Cupples, L. Adrienne | Okada, Yukinori | Takahashi, Atsushi | Kamatani, Yoichiro | Matsuda, Koichi | Tsunoda, Tatsuhiko | Tanaka, Toshihiro | Kubo, Michiaki | Nakamura, Yusuke | Yamamoto, Kazuhiko | Kamatani, Naoyuki | Stumvoll, Michael | Tönjes, Anke | Prokopenko, Inga | Illig, Thomas | Patel, Kushang V. | Garner, Stephen F. | Kuhnel, Brigitte | Mangino, Massimo | Oostra, Ben A. | Thein, Swee Lay | Coresh, Josef | Wichmann, H.-Erich | Menzel, Stephan | Lin, JingPing | Pistis, Giorgio | Uitterlinden, André G. | Spector, Tim D. | Teumer, Alexander | Eiriksdottir, Gudny | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Bandinelli, Stefania | Frayling, Timothy M. | Chakravarti, Aravinda | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Melzer, David | Ouwehand, Willem H. | Levy, Daniel | Boerwinkle, Eric | Singleton, Andrew B. | Hernandez, Dena G. | Longo, Dan L. | Soranzo, Nicole | Witteman, Jacqueline C. M. | Psaty, Bruce M. | Ferrucci, Luigi | Harris, Tamara B. | O'Donnell, Christopher J. | Ganesh, Santhi K. | Visscher, Peter M.
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002113.
White blood cell (WBC) count is a common clinical measure from complete blood count assays, and it varies widely among healthy individuals. Total WBC count and its constituent subtypes have been shown to be moderately heritable, with the heritability estimates varying across cell types. We studied 19,509 subjects from seven cohorts in a discovery analysis, and 11,823 subjects from ten cohorts for replication analyses, to determine genetic factors influencing variability within the normal hematological range for total WBC count and five WBC subtype measures. Cohort specific data was supplied by the CHARGE, HeamGen, and INGI consortia, as well as independent collaborative studies. We identified and replicated ten associations with total WBC count and five WBC subtypes at seven different genomic loci (total WBC count—6p21 in the HLA region, 17q21 near ORMDL3, and CSF3; neutrophil count—17q21; basophil count- 3p21 near RPN1 and C3orf27; lymphocyte count—6p21, 19p13 at EPS15L1; monocyte count—2q31 at ITGA4, 3q21, 8q24 an intergenic region, 9q31 near EDG2), including three previously reported associations and seven novel associations. To investigate functional relationships among variants contributing to variability in the six WBC traits, we utilized gene expression- and pathways-based analyses. We implemented gene-clustering algorithms to evaluate functional connectivity among implicated loci and showed functional relationships across cell types. Gene expression data from whole blood was utilized to show that significant biological consequences can be extracted from our genome-wide analyses, with effect estimates for significant loci from the meta-analyses being highly corellated with the proximal gene expression. In addition, collaborative efforts between the groups contributing to this study and related studies conducted by the COGENT and RIKEN groups allowed for the examination of effect homogeneity for genome-wide significant associations across populations of diverse ancestral backgrounds.
Author Summary
WBC traits are highly variable, moderately heritable, and commonly assayed as part of clinical complete blood count (CBC) examinations. The counts of constituent cell subtypes comprising the WBC count measure are assayed as part of a standard clinical WBC differential test. In this study we employed meta-analytic techniques and identified ten associations with WBC measures at seven genomic loci in a large sample set of over 31,000 participants. Cohort specific data was supplied by the CHARGE, HeamGen, and INGI consortia, as well as independent collaborative studies. We confirm previous associations of WBC traits with three loci and identified seven novel loci. We also utilize a number of additional analytic methods to infer the functional relatedness of independently implicated loci across WBC phenotypes, as well as investigate direct functional consequences of these loci through analyses of genomic variation affecting the expression of proximal genes in samples of whole blood. In addition, subsequent collaborative efforts with studies of WBC traits in African-American and Japanese cohorts allowed for the investigation of the effects of these genomic variants across populations of diverse continental ancestries.
PMCID: PMC3128114  PMID: 21738480
23.  Candidate Gene Association Resource (CARe): Design, Methods, and Proof of Concept 
. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Candidate Gene Association Resource (CARe), a planned cross-cohort analysis of genetic variation in cardiovascular, pulmonary, hematological, and sleep-related traits, comprises more than 40,000 participants representing four ethnic groups in nine community-based cohorts. The goals of CARe include the discovery of new variants associated with traits using a candidate gene approach and the discovery of new variants using the genome-wide association mapping approach specifically in African Americans.
Methods and Results
. CARe has assembled DNA samples for more than 40,000 individuals self-identified as European-American, African-American, Hispanic, or Chinese-American, with accompanying data on hundreds of phenotypes that have been standardized and deposited in the CARe Phenotype Database. All participants were genotyped for seven single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) selected based on prior association evidence. We performed association analyses relating each of these SNPs to lipid traits, stratified by gender and ethnicity and adjusted for age and age2. In at least two of the ethnic groups, SNPs near CETP, LIPC, and LPL strongly replicated for association with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations, PCSK9 with low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, and LPL and APOA5 with serum triglycerides. Notably, some SNPs showed varying effect sizes and significance of association in different ethnic groups.
. The CARe Pilot Study validates the operational framework for phenotype collection, SNP genotyping, and analytical pipeline of the CARe project and validates the planned candidate gene study of ~2,000 biologic candidate loci in all participants and genome-wide association study in ~8,000 African-American participants. CARe will serve as a valuable resource for the scientific community.
PMCID: PMC3048024  PMID: 20400780
Genetics; lipids; diabetes; blood pressure; epidemiology
24.  Admixture Mapping of 15,280 African Americans Identifies Obesity Susceptibility Loci on Chromosomes 5 and X 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(5):e1000490.
The prevalence of obesity (body mass index (BMI) ≥30 kg/m2) is higher in African Americans than in European Americans, even after adjustment for socioeconomic factors, suggesting that genetic factors may explain some of the difference. To identify genetic loci influencing BMI, we carried out a pooled analysis of genome-wide admixture mapping scans in 15,280 African Americans from 14 epidemiologic studies. Samples were genotyped at a median of 1,411 ancestry-informative markers. After adjusting for age, sex, and study, BMI was analyzed both as a dichotomized (top 20% versus bottom 20%) and a continuous trait. We found that a higher percentage of European ancestry was significantly correlated with lower BMI (ρ = −0.042, P = 1.6×10−7). In the dichotomized analysis, we detected two loci on chromosome X as associated with increased African ancestry: the first at Xq25 (locus-specific LOD = 5.94; genome-wide score = 3.22; case-control Z = −3.94); and the second at Xq13.1 (locus-specific LOD = 2.22; case-control Z = −4.62). Quantitative analysis identified a third locus at 5q13.3 where higher BMI was highly significantly associated with greater European ancestry (locus-specific LOD = 6.27; genome-wide score = 3.46). Further mapping studies with dense sets of markers will be necessary to identify the alleles in these regions of chromosomes X and 5 that may be associated with variation in BMI.
Author Summary
Obesity is about 1.5-fold more prevalent in African Americans than European Americans. To determine whether genetic background may contribute to this observed disparity, we scanned the genomes of African Americans, searching for genomic regions where obese individuals have a difference from the average proportion of African ancestry. By examining genetic data from more than 15,000 African Americans, we show that the proportion of European ancestry is inversely correlated with BMI. In obese individuals, we detect two loci with increased African ancestry on chromosome X (Xq13.1 and Xq25) and one locus with increased European ancestry on chromosome 5 (5q13.3). The 5q13.3 and Xq25 regions both contain genes that are known to be involved in appetite regulation. Our results suggest that genetic factors may contribute to the difference in obesity prevalence between African Americans and European Americans. Further studies of the regions may identify the causative variants affecting susceptibility to obesity.
PMCID: PMC2679192  PMID: 19461885
25.  Reduced Neutrophil Count in People of African Descent Is Due To a Regulatory Variant in the Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines Gene 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(1):e1000360.
Persistently low white blood cell count (WBC) and neutrophil count is a well-described phenomenon in persons of African ancestry, whose etiology remains unknown. We recently used admixture mapping to identify an approximately 1-megabase region on chromosome 1, where ancestry status (African or European) almost entirely accounted for the difference in WBC between African Americans and European Americans. To identify the specific genetic change responsible for this association, we analyzed genotype and phenotype data from 6,005 African Americans from the Jackson Heart Study (JHS), the Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study, and the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. We demonstrate that the causal variant must be at least 91% different in frequency between West Africans and European Americans. An excellent candidate is the Duffy Null polymorphism (SNP rs2814778 at chromosome 1q23.2), which is the only polymorphism in the region known to be so differentiated in frequency and is already known to protect against Plasmodium vivax malaria. We confirm that rs2814778 is predictive of WBC and neutrophil count in African Americans above beyond the previously described admixture association (P = 3.8×10−5), establishing a novel phenotype for this genetic variant.
Author Summary
Many African Americans have white blood cell counts (WBC) that are persistently below the normal range for people of European descent, a condition called “benign ethnic neutropenia.” Because most African Americans have both African and European ancestors, selected genetic variants can be analyzed to assign probable African or European origin to each region of each such person's chromosomes. Previously, we found a region on chromosome 1 where increased local African ancestry completely accounted for differences in WBC between African and European Americans, suggesting the presence of an African-derived variant causing low WBC. Here, we show that low neutrophil count is predominantly responsible for low WBC; that a dominant, European-derived allele contributes to high neutrophil count; and that the frequency of this allele differs in Africans and Europeans by >91%. Across the chromosome 1 locus, only the well-characterized “Duffy” polymorphism was this differentiated. Neutrophil count was more strongly associated to the Duffy variant than to ancestry, suggesting that the variant itself causes benign ethnic neutropenia. The African, or “null,” form of this variant abolishes expression of the “Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines” on red blood cells, perhaps altering the concentrations and distribution of chemokines that regulate neutrophil production or migration.
PMCID: PMC2628742  PMID: 19180233

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