The QT interval, an electrocardiographic measure reflecting myocardial repolarization, is a heritable trait. QT prolongation is a risk factor for ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death (SCD) and could indicate the presence of the potentially lethal Mendelian Long QT Syndrome (LQTS). Using a genome-wide association and replication study in up to 100,000 individuals we identified 35 common variant QT interval loci, that collectively explain ∼8-10% of QT variation and highlight the importance of calcium regulation in myocardial repolarization. Rare variant analysis of 6 novel QT loci in 298 unrelated LQTS probands identified coding variants not found in controls but of uncertain causality and therefore requiring validation. Several newly identified loci encode for proteins that physically interact with other recognized repolarization proteins. Our integration of common variant association, expression and orthogonal protein-protein interaction screens provides new insights into cardiac electrophysiology and identifies novel candidate genes for ventricular arrhythmias, LQTS,and SCD.
genome-wide association study; QT interval; Long QT Syndrome; sudden cardiac death; myocardial repolarization; arrhythmias
Forced vital capacity (FVC), a spirometric measure of pulmonary function, reflects lung volume and is used to diagnose and monitor lung diseases. We performed genome-wide association study meta-analysis of FVC in 52,253 individuals from 26 studies and followed up the top associations in 32,917 additional individuals of European ancestry. We found six new regions associated at genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10−8) with FVC in or near EFEMP1, BMP6, MIR-129-2/HSD17B12, PRDM11, WWOX, and KCNJ2. Two (GSTCD and PTCH1) loci previously associated with spirometric measures were related to FVC. Newly implicated regions were followed-up in samples of African American, Korean, Chinese, and Hispanic individuals. We detected transcripts for all six newly implicated genes in human lung tissue. The new loci may inform mechanisms involved in lung development and pathogenesis of restrictive lung disease.
Chemerin is an adipokine proposed to link obesity and chronic inflammation of adipose tissue. Genetic factors determining chemerin release from adipose tissue are yet unknown. We conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for serum chemerin in three independent cohorts from Europe: Sorbs and KORA from Germany and PPP-Botnia from Finland (total N = 2,791). In addition, we measured mRNA expression of genes within the associated loci in peripheral mononuclear cells by micro-arrays, and within adipose tissue by quantitative RT-PCR and performed mRNA expression quantitative trait and expression-chemerin association studies to functionally substantiate our loci. Heritability estimate of circulating chemerin levels was 16.2% in the Sorbs cohort. Thirty single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at chromosome 7 within the retinoic acid receptor responder 2 (RARRES2)/Leucine Rich Repeat Containing (LRRC61) locus reached genome-wide significance (p<5.0×10−8) in the meta-analysis (the strongest evidence for association at rs7806429 with p = 7.8×10−14, beta = −0.067, explained variance 2.0%). All other SNPs within the cluster were in linkage disequilibrium with rs7806429 (minimum r2 = 0.43 in the Sorbs cohort). The results of the subgroup analyses of males and females were consistent with the results found in the total cohort. No significant SNP-sex interaction was observed. rs7806429 was associated with mRNA expression of RARRES2 in visceral adipose tissue in women (p<0.05 after adjusting for age and body mass index). In conclusion, the present meta-GWAS combined with mRNA expression studies highlights the role of genetic variation in the RARRES2 locus in the regulation of circulating chemerin concentrations.
Chemerin is an adipokine proposed to link obesity and chronic inflammation of adipose tissue. In the present study we show that circulating chemerin is a heritable trait. In a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of 2,791 individuals from Germany and Finland, we identified common genetic variants which associate with serum chemerin levels. The variants map within the retinoic acid receptor responder 2 (RARRES2)/Leucine Rich Repeat Containing (LRRC61) at chromosome 7. To better understand the potential functionality of the identified variants, we also provide insights into the mRNA expression of RARRES2 (encoding chemerin) in blood and adipose tissue. Our results highlight the role and function of genetic variation in the RARRES2 locus in the regulation of circulating chemerin concentrations.
Using a nontargeted metabolomics approach of 447 fasting plasma metabolites, we searched for novel molecular markers that arise before and after hyperglycemia in a large population-based cohort of 2,204 females (115 type 2 diabetic [T2D] case subjects, 192 individuals with impaired fasting glucose [IFG], and 1,897 control subjects) from TwinsUK. Forty-two metabolites from three major fuel sources (carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins) were found to significantly correlate with T2D after adjusting for multiple testing; of these, 22 were previously reported as associated with T2D or insulin resistance. Fourteen metabolites were found to be associated with IFG. Among the metabolites identified, the branched-chain keto-acid metabolite 3-methyl-2-oxovalerate was the strongest predictive biomarker for IFG after glucose (odds ratio [OR] 1.65 [95% CI 1.39–1.95], P = 8.46 × 10−9) and was moderately heritable (h2 = 0.20). The association was replicated in an independent population (n = 720, OR 1.68 [ 1.34–2.11], P = 6.52 × 10−6) and validated in 189 twins with urine metabolomics taken at the same time as plasma (OR 1.87 [1.27–2.75], P = 1 × 10−3). Results confirm an important role for catabolism of branched-chain amino acids in T2D and IFG. In conclusion, this T2D-IFG biomarker study has surveyed the broadest panel of nontargeted metabolites to date, revealing both novel and known associated metabolites and providing potential novel targets for clinical prediction and a deeper understanding of causal mechanisms.
Genome-wide association scans with high-throughput metabolic profiling provide unprecedented insights into how genetic variation influences metabolism and complex disease. Here we report the most comprehensive exploration of genetic loci influencing human metabolism to date, including 7,824 adult individuals from two European population studies. We report genome-wide significant associations at 145 metabolic loci and their biochemical connectivity regarding more than 400 metabolites in human blood. We extensively characterize the resulting in vivo blueprint of metabolism in human blood by integrating it with information regarding gene expression, heritability, overlap with known drug targets, previous association with complex disorders and inborn errors of metabolism. We further developed a database and web-based resources for data mining and results visualization. Our findings contribute to a greater understanding of the role of inherited variation in blood metabolic diversity, and identify potential new opportunities for pharmacologic development and disease understanding.
Refractive error (RE) is a complex, multifactorial disorder characterized by a mismatch between the optical power of the eye and its axial length that causes object images to be focused off the retina. The two major subtypes of RE are myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness), which represent opposite ends of the distribution of the quantitative measure of spherical refraction. We performed a fixed effects meta-analysis of genome-wide association results of myopia and hyperopia from 9 studies of European-derived populations: AREDS, KORA, FES, OGP-Talana, MESA, RSI, RSII, RSIII and ERF. One genome-wide significant region was observed for myopia, corresponding to a previously identified myopia locus on 8q12 (p = 1.25×10−8), which has been reported by Kiefer et al. as significantly associated with myopia age at onset and Verhoeven et al. as significantly associated to mean spherical-equivalent (MSE) refractive error. We observed two genome-wide significant associations with hyperopia. These regions overlapped with loci on 15q14 (minimum p value = 9.11×10−11) and 8q12 (minimum p value 1.82×10−11) previously reported for MSE and myopia age at onset. We also used an intermarker linkage- disequilibrium-based method for calculating the effective number of tests in targeted regional replication analyses. We analyzed myopia (which represents the closest phenotype in our data to the one used by Kiefer et al.) and showed replication of 10 additional loci associated with myopia previously reported by Kiefer et al. This is the first replication of these loci using myopia as the trait under analysis. “Replication-level” association was also seen between hyperopia and 12 of Kiefer et al.'s published loci. For the loci that show evidence of association to both myopia and hyperopia, the estimated effect of the risk alleles were in opposite directions for the two traits. This suggests that these loci are important contributors to variation of refractive error across the distribution.
Estimates of the heritability of plasma fibrinogen concentration, an established predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD), range from 34 to 50%. Genetic variants so far identified by genome-wide association (GWA) studies only explain a small proportion (< 2%) of its variation.
Methods and Results
We conducted a meta-analysis of 28 GWA studies, including more than 90,000 subjects of European ancestry, the first GWA meta-analysis of fibrinogen levels in 7 African Americans studies totaling 8,289 samples, and a GWA study in Hispanic-Americans totaling 1,366 samples. Evaluation for association of SNPs with clinical outcomes included a total of 40,695 cases and 85,582 controls for coronary artery disease (CAD), 4,752 cases and 24,030 controls for stroke, and 3,208 cases and 46,167 controls for venous thromboembolism (VTE). Overall, we identified 24 genome-wide significant (P<5×10−8) independent signals in 23 loci, including 15 novel associations, together accounting for 3.7% of plasma fibrinogen variation. Gene-set enrichment analysis highlighted key roles in fibrinogen regulation for the three structural fibrinogen genes and pathways related to inflammation, adipocytokines and thyrotrophin-releasing hormone signaling. Whereas lead SNPs in a few loci were significantly associated with CAD, the combined effect of all 24 fibrinogen-associated lead SNPs was not significant for CAD, stroke or VTE.
We identify 23 robustly associated fibrinogen loci, 15 of which are new. Clinical outcome analysis of these loci does not support a causal relationship between circulating levels of fibrinogen and CAD, stroke or VTE.
Fibrinogen; cardiovascular disease; genome-wide association study
Obesity is of global health concern. There are well-described inverse relationships between female pubertal timing and obesity. Recent genome-wide association studies of age at menarche identified several obesity-related variants. Using data from the ReproGen Consortium, we employed meta-analytical techniques to estimate the associations of 95 a priori and recently identified obesity-related (body mass index (weight (kg)/height (m)2), waist circumference, and waist:hip ratio) single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with age at menarche in 92,116 women of European descent from 38 studies (1970–2010), in order to estimate associations between genetic variants associated with central or overall adiposity and pubertal timing in girls. Investigators in each study performed a separate analysis of associations between the selected SNPs and age at menarche (ages 9–17 years) using linear regression models and adjusting for birth year, site (as appropriate), and population stratification. Heterogeneity of effect-measure estimates was investigated using meta-regression. Six novel associations of body mass index loci with age at menarche were identified, and 11 adiposity loci previously reported to be associated with age at menarche were confirmed, but none of the central adiposity variants individually showed significant associations. These findings suggest complex genetic relationships between menarche and overall obesity, and to a lesser extent central obesity, in normal processes of growth and development.
adiposity; body mass index; genetic association studies; menarche; obesity; waist circumference; waist:hip ratio; women's health
Structural genetic variants as short tandem repeats (STRs) are not targeted in SNP-based association studies and thus, their possible association signals are missed. We systematically searched for STRs in gene regions known to contribute to total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in two independent studies (KORA F4, n = 2553 and SAPHIR, n = 1648), resulting in 16 STRs that were finally evaluated. In a combined dataset of both studies, the sum of STR alleles was regressed on each phenotype, adjusted for age and sex. The association analyses were repeated for SNPs in a 200 kb region surrounding the respective STRs in the KORA F4 Study. Three STRs were significantly associated with total cholesterol (within LDLR, the APOA1/C3/A4/A5/BUD13 gene region and ABCG5/8), five with HDL cholesterol (3 within CETP, one in LPL and one inAPOA1/C3/A4/A5/BUD13), three with LDL cholesterol (LDLR, ABCG5/8 and CETP) and two with triglycerides (APOA1/C3/A4/A5/BUD13 and LPL). None of the investigated STRs, however, showed a significant association after adjusting for the lead or adjacent SNPs within that gene region. The evaluated STRs were found to be well tagged by the lead SNP within the respective gene regions. Therefore, the STRs reflect the association signals based on surrounding SNPs. In conclusion, none of the STRs contributed additionally to the SNP-based association signals identified in GWAS on lipid traits.
With the help of epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS), increasing knowledge on the role of epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation in disease processes is obtained. In addition, EWAS aid the understanding of behavioral and environmental effects on DNA methylation. In terms of statistical analysis, specific challenges arise from the characteristics of methylation data. First, methylation β-values represent proportions with skewed and heteroscedastic distributions. Thus, traditional modeling strategies assuming a normally distributed response might not be appropriate. Second, recent evidence suggests that not only mean differences but also variability in site-specific DNA methylation associates with diseases, including cancer. The purpose of this study was to compare different modeling strategies for methylation data in terms of model performance and performance of downstream hypothesis tests. Specifically, we used the generalized additive models for location, scale and shape (GAMLSS) framework to compare beta regression with Gaussian regression on raw, binary logit and arcsine square root transformed methylation data, with and without modeling a covariate effect on the scale parameter.
Using simulated and real data from a large population-based study and an independent sample of cancer patients and healthy controls, we show that beta regression does not outperform competing strategies in terms of model performance. In addition, Gaussian models for location and scale showed an improved performance as compared to models for location only. The best performance was observed for the Gaussian model on binary logit transformed β-values, referred to as M-values. Our results further suggest that models for location and scale are specifically sensitive towards violations of the distribution assumption and towards outliers in the methylation data. Therefore, a resampling procedure is proposed as a mode of inference and shown to diminish type I error rate in practically relevant settings. We apply the proposed method in an EWAS of BMI and age and reveal strong associations of age with methylation variability that are validated in an independent sample.
Models for location and scale are promising tools for EWAS that may help to understand the influence of environmental factors and disease-related phenotypes on methylation variability and its role during disease development.
DNA methylation; Beta regression; GAMLSS; Infinium HumanMethylation450k BeadChip; EWAS; Modeling variability; Resampling; Model performance; Model comparison; Models for location and scale
Visual refractive errors (REs) are complex genetic traits with a largely unknown etiology. To date, genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of moderate size have identified several novel risk markers for RE, measured here as mean spherical equivalent (MSE). We performed a GWAS using a total of 7280 samples from five cohorts: the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS); the KORA study (‘Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg’); the Framingham Eye Study (FES); the Ogliastra Genetic Park-Talana (OGP-Talana) Study and the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Genotyping was performed on Illumina and Affymetrix platforms with additional markers imputed to the HapMap II reference panel. We identified a new genome-wide significant locus on chromosome 16 (rs10500355, P = 3.9 × 10−9) in a combined discovery and replication set (26 953 samples). This single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) is located within the RBFOX1 gene which is a neuron-specific splicing factor regulating a wide range of alternative splicing events implicated in neuronal development and maturation, including transcription factors, other splicing factors and synaptic proteins.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common neurologic disorder characterized by nightly dysesthesias affecting the legs primarily during periods of rest and relieved by movement. RLS is a complex genetic disease and susceptibility factors in six genomic regions have been identified by means of genome-wide association studies (GWAS). For some complex genetic traits, expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) are enriched among trait-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). With the aim of identifying new genetic susceptibility factors for RLS, we assessed the 332 best-associated SNPs from the genome-wide phase of the to date largest RLS GWAS for cis-eQTL effects in peripheral blood from individuals of European descent. In 740 individuals belonging to the KORA general population cohort, 52 cis-eQTLs with pnominal<10−3 were identified, while in 976 individuals belonging to the SHIP-TREND general population study 53 cis-eQTLs with pnominal<10−3 were present. 23 of these cis-eQTLs overlapped between the two cohorts. Subsequently, the twelve of the 23 cis-eQTL SNPs, which were not located at an already published RLS-associated locus, were tested for association in 2449 RLS cases and 1462 controls. The top SNP, located in the DET1 gene, was nominally significant (p<0.05) but did not withstand correction for multiple testing (p = 0.42). Although a similar approach has been used successfully with regard to other complex diseases, we were unable to identify new genetic susceptibility factor for RLS by adding this novel level of functional assessment to RLS GWAS data.
The mechanism of antihypertensive and lipid-lowering drugs on the human organism is still not fully understood. New insights on the drugs’ action can be provided by a metabolomics-driven approach, which offers a detailed view of the physiological state of an organism. Here, we report a metabolome-wide association study with 295 metabolites in human serum from 1,762 participants of the KORA F4 (Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg) study population. Our intent was to find variations of metabolite concentrations related to the intake of various drug classes and—based on the associations found—to generate new hypotheses about on-target as well as off-target effects of these drugs. In total, we found 41 significant associations for the drug classes investigated: For beta-blockers (11 associations), angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (four assoc.), diuretics (seven assoc.), statins (ten assoc.), and fibrates (nine assoc.) the top hits were pyroglutamine, phenylalanylphenylalanine, pseudouridine, 1-arachidonoylglycerophosphocholine, and 2-hydroxyisobutyrate, respectively. For beta-blockers we observed significant associations with metabolite concentrations that are indicative of drug side-effects, such as increased serotonin and decreased free fatty acid levels. Intake of ACE inhibitors and statins associated with metabolites that provide insight into the action of the drug itself on its target, such as an association of ACE inhibitors with des-Arg(9)-bradykinin and aspartylphenylalanine, a substrate and a product of the drug-inhibited ACE. The intake of statins which reduce blood cholesterol levels, resulted in changes in the concentration of metabolites of the biosynthesis as well as of the degradation of cholesterol. Fibrates showed the strongest association with 2-hydroxyisobutyrate which might be a breakdown product of fenofibrate and, thus, a possible marker for the degradation of this drug in the human organism. The analysis of diuretics showed a heterogeneous picture that is difficult to interpret. Taken together, our results provide a basis for a deeper functional understanding of the action and side-effects of antihypertensive and lipid-lowering drugs in the general population.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10654-014-9910-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Beta-blockers; Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors; Diuretics; Statins; Fibrates; Metabolomics
Heritability estimates for body mass index (BMI) variation are high. For mothers and their offspring higher BMI correlations have been described than for fathers. Variation(s) in the exclusively maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) might contribute to this parental effect. Thirty-two to 40 mtDNA single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were available from genome-wide association study SNP arrays (Affymetrix 6.0). For discovery, we analyzed association in a case-control (CC) sample of 1,158 extremely obese children and adolescents and 435 lean adult controls. For independent confirmation, 7,014 population-based adults were analyzed as CC sample of n = 1,697 obese cases (BMI≥30 kg/m2) and n = 2,373 normal weight and lean controls (BMI<25 kg/m2). SNPs were analyzed as single SNPs and haplogroups determined by HaploGrep. Fisher's two-sided exact test was used for association testing. Moreover, the D-loop was re-sequenced (Sanger) in 192 extremely obese children and adolescents and 192 lean adult controls. Association testing of detected variants was performed using Fisher's two-sided exact test. For discovery, nominal association with obesity was found for the frequent allele G of m.8994G/A (rs28358887, p = 0.002) located in ATP6. Haplogroup W was nominally overrepresented in the controls (p = 0.039). These findings could not be confirmed independently. For two of the 252 identified D-loop variants nominal association was detected (m.16292C/T, p = 0.007, m.16189T/C, p = 0.048). Only eight controls carried the m.16292T allele, five of whom belonged to haplogroup W that was initially enriched among these controls. m.16189T/C might create an uninterrupted poly-C tract located near a regulatory element involved in replication of mtDNA. Though follow-up of some D-loop variants still is conceivable, our hypothesis of a contribution of variation in the exclusively maternally inherited mtDNA to the observed larger correlations for BMI between mothers and their offspring could not be substantiated by the findings of the present study.
Using the ImmunoChip custom genotyping array, we analysed 14,498 multiple sclerosis subjects and 24,091 healthy controls for 161,311 autosomal variants and identified 135 potentially associated regions (p-value < 1.0 × 10-4). In a replication phase, we combined these data with previous genome-wide association study (GWAS) data from an independent 14,802 multiple sclerosis subjects and 26,703 healthy controls. In these 80,094 individuals of European ancestry we identified 48 new susceptibility variants (p-value < 5.0 × 10-8); three found after conditioning on previously identified variants. Thus, there are now 110 established multiple sclerosis risk variants in 103 discrete loci outside of the Major Histocompatibility Complex. With high resolution Bayesian fine-mapping, we identified five regions where one variant accounted for more than 50% of the posterior probability of association. This study enhances the catalogue of multiple sclerosis risk variants and illustrates the value of fine-mapping in the resolution of GWAS signals.
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.
Inter-individual variation in mean leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is associated with cancer and several age-associated diseases. Here, in a genome-wide meta-analysis of 37,684 individuals with replication of selected variants in a further 10,739 individuals, we identified seven loci, including five novel loci, associated with mean LTL (P<5x10−8). Five of the loci contain genes (TERC, TERT, NAF1, OBFC1, RTEL1) that are known to be involved in telomere biology. Lead SNPs at two loci (TERC and TERT) associate with several cancers and other diseases, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Moreover, a genetic risk score analysis combining lead variants at all seven loci in 22,233 coronary artery disease cases and 64,762 controls showed an association of the alleles associated with shorter LTL with increased risk of CAD (21% (95% CI: 5–35%) per standard deviation in LTL, p=0.014). Our findings support a causal role of telomere length variation in some age-related diseases.
JC polyomavirus (JCV) carriers with a compromised immune system, such as in HIV, or subjects on immune-modulating therapies, such as anti VLA-4 therapy may develop progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) which is a lytic infection of oligodendrocytes in the brain. Serum antibodies to JCV mark infection occur only in 50–60% of infected individuals, and high JCV-antibody titers seem to increase the risk of developing PML. We here investigated the role of human leukocyte antigen (HLA), instrumental in immune defense in JCV antibody response. Anti-JCV antibody status, as a surrogate for JCV infection, were compared to HLA class I and II alleles in 1621 Scandinavian persons with MS and 1064 population-based Swedish controls and associations were replicated in 718 German persons with MS. HLA-alleles were determined by SNP imputation, sequence specific (SSP) kits and a reverse PCR sequence-specific oligonucleotide (PCR-SSO) method. An initial GWAS screen displayed a strong HLA class II region signal. The HLA-DRB1*15 haplotype was strongly negatively associated to JCV sero-status in Scandinavian MS cases (OR = 0.42, p = 7×10−15) and controls (OR = 0.53, p = 2×10−5). In contrast, the DQB1*06:03 haplotype was positively associated with JCV sero-status, in Scandinavian MS cases (OR = 1.63, p = 0.006), and controls (OR = 2.69, p = 1×10−5). The German dataset confirmed these findings (OR = 0.54, p = 1×10−4 and OR = 1.58, p = 0.03 respectively for these haplotypes). HLA class II restricted immune responses, and hence CD4+ T cell immunity is pivotal for JCV infection control. Alleles within the HLA-DR1*15 haplotype are associated with a protective effect on JCV infection. Alleles within the DQB1*06:03 haplotype show an opposite association. These associations between JC virus antibody response and human leucocyte antigens supports the notion that CD4+ T cells are crucial in the immune defence to JCV and lays the ground for risk stratification for PML and development of therapy and prevention.
JC virus infection can lead to progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy in individuals with a compromised immune system, such as during HIV infections or when treated with immunosuppressive or immunomodulating therapies. Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy is a rare but potentially fatal disease characterized by progressive damage of the brain white matter at multiple locations. It is therefore of importance to understand the host genetic control of response to JC virus in order to identify patients that can be treated with immunomodulating therapies, common treatments for autoimmune diseases, without increased risk for progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. This may also lead to development of preventative or curative anti-JC virus therapies. We here identify genetic variants being associated with JC virus antibody development; a negative association with the human leucocyte antigen DRB1*15-DQA1*01:02-DQB1*06:02 haplotype and a positive association with the DRB1*13-DQA1*01:03-DQB1*06:03 haplotype among controls and patients with multiple sclerosis from Scandinavia. We confirmed the associations in patients with multiple sclerosis from Germany. These associations between JC virus antibody response and human leucocyte antigens imply that CD4+ T cells are crucial in the immune defence and lay the ground for development of therapy and prevention.
We aimed to assess whether whole blood expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) with effects in cis and trans are robust and can be used to identify regulatory pathways affecting disease susceptibility.
Materials and Methods
We performed whole-genome eQTL analyses in 890 participants of the KORA F4 study and in two independent replication samples (SHIP-TREND, N = 976 and EGCUT, N = 842) using linear regression models and Bonferroni correction.
In the KORA F4 study, 4,116 cis-eQTLs (defined as SNP-probe pairs where the SNP is located within a 500 kb window around the transcription unit) and 94 trans-eQTLs reached genome-wide significance and overall 91% (92% of cis-, 84% of trans-eQTLs) were confirmed in at least one of the two replication studies. Different study designs including distinct laboratory reagents (PAXgene™ vs. Tempus™ tubes) did not affect reproducibility (separate overall replication overlap: 78% and 82%). Immune response pathways were enriched in cis- and trans-eQTLs and significant cis-eQTLs were partly coexistent in other tissues (cross-tissue similarity 40–70%). Furthermore, four chromosomal regions displayed simultaneous impact on multiple gene expression levels in trans, and 746 eQTL-SNPs have been previously reported to have clinical relevance. We demonstrated cross-associations between eQTL-SNPs, gene expression levels in trans, and clinical phenotypes as well as a link between eQTLs and human metabolic traits via modification of gene regulation in cis.
Our data suggest that whole blood is a robust tissue for eQTL analysis and may be used both for biomarker studies and to enhance our understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying gene-disease associations.
Blood pressure (BP) is a heritable determinant of risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). To investigate genetic associations with systolic BP (SBP), diastolic BP (DBP), mean arterial pressure (MAP) and pulse pressure (PP), we genotyped ∼50 000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that capture variation in ∼2100 candidate genes for cardiovascular phenotypes in 61 619 individuals of European ancestry from cohort studies in the USA and Europe. We identified novel associations between rs347591 and SBP (chromosome 3p25.3, in an intron of HRH1) and between rs2169137 and DBP (chromosome1q32.1 in an intron of MDM4) and between rs2014408 and SBP (chromosome 11p15 in an intron of SOX6), previously reported to be associated with MAP. We also confirmed 10 previously known loci associated with SBP, DBP, MAP or PP (ADRB1, ATP2B1, SH2B3/ATXN2, CSK, CYP17A1, FURIN, HFE, LSP1, MTHFR, SOX6) at array-wide significance (P < 2.4 × 10−6). We then replicated these associations in an independent set of 65 886 individuals of European ancestry. The findings from expression QTL (eQTL) analysis showed associations of SNPs in the MDM4 region with MDM4 expression. We did not find any evidence of association of the two novel SNPs in MDM4 and HRH1 with sequelae of high BP including coronary artery disease (CAD), left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) or stroke. In summary, we identified two novel loci associated with BP and confirmed multiple previously reported associations. Our findings extend our understanding of genes involved in BP regulation, some of which may eventually provide new targets for therapeutic intervention.
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.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common multifactorial disease. Some genetic risk factors have been identified. RLS susceptibility also has been related to iron. We therefore asked whether known iron-related genes are candidates for association with RLS and, vice versa, whether known RLS-associated loci influence iron parameters in serum. RLS/control samples (n=954/1814 in the discovery step, 735/736 in replication 1, and 736/735 in replication 2) were tested for association with SNPs located within 4 Mb intervals surrounding each gene from a list of 111 iron-related genes using a discovery threshold of P=5 × 10−4. Two population cohorts (KORA F3 and F4 with together n=3447) were tested for association of six known RLS loci with iron, ferritin, transferrin, transferrin-saturation, and soluble transferrin receptor. Results were negative. None of the candidate SNPs at the iron-related gene loci was confirmed significantly. An intronic SNP, rs2576036, of KATNAL2 at 18q21.1 was significant in the first (P=0.00085) but not in the second replication step (joint nominal P-value=0.044). Especially, rs1800652 (C282Y) in the HFE gene did not associate with RLS. Moreover, SNPs at the known RLS loci did not significantly affect serum iron parameters in the KORA cohorts. In conclusion, the correlation between RLS and iron parameters in serum may be weaker than assumed. Moreover, in a general power analysis, we show that genetic effects are diluted if they are transmitted via an intermediate trait to an end-phenotype. Sample size formulas are provided for small effect sizes.
restless legs syndrome; iron parameters; MEIS1 haplotype; power calculation; linear regression; logistic regression
Emerging technologies based on mass spectrometry or nuclear magnetic resonance enable the monitoring of hundreds of small metabolites from tissues or body fluids. Profiling of metabolites can help elucidate causal pathways linking established genetic variants to known disease risk factors such as blood lipid traits.
We applied statistical methodology to dissect causal relationships between single nucleotide polymorphisms, metabolite concentrations, and serum lipid traits, focusing on 95 genetic loci reproducibly associated with the four main serum lipids (total-, low-density lipoprotein-, and high-density lipoprotein- cholesterol and triglycerides). The dataset used included 2,973 individuals from two independent population-based cohorts with data for 151 small molecule metabolites and four main serum lipids. Three statistical approaches, namely conditional analysis, Mendelian randomization, and structural equation modeling, were compared to investigate causal relationship at sets of a single nucleotide polymorphism, a metabolite, and a lipid trait associated with one another.
A subset of three lipid-associated loci (FADS1, GCKR, and LPA) have a statistically significant association with at least one main lipid and one metabolite concentration in our data, defining a total of 38 cross-associated sets of a single nucleotide polymorphism, a metabolite and a lipid trait. Structural equation modeling provided sufficient discrimination to indicate that the association of a single nucleotide polymorphism with a lipid trait was mediated through a metabolite at 15 of the 38 sets, and involving variants at the FADS1 and GCKR loci.
These data provide a framework for evaluating the causal role of components of the metabolome (or other intermediate factors) in mediating the association between established genetic variants and diseases or traits.