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1.  Integration of genome-wide association studies with biological knowledge identifies six novel genes related to kidney function 
Chasman, Daniel I. | Fuchsberger, Christian | Pattaro, Cristian | Teumer, Alexander | Böger, Carsten A. | Endlich, Karlhans | Olden, Matthias | Chen, Ming-Huei | Tin, Adrienne | Taliun, Daniel | Li, Man | Gao, Xiaoyi | Gorski, Mathias | Yang, Qiong | Hundertmark, Claudia | Foster, Meredith C. | O'Seaghdha, Conall M. | Glazer, Nicole | Isaacs, Aaron | Liu, Ching-Ti | Smith, Albert V. | O'Connell, Jeffrey R. | Struchalin, Maksim | Tanaka, Toshiko | Li, Guo | Johnson, Andrew D. | Gierman, Hinco J. | Feitosa, Mary F. | Hwang, Shih-Jen | Atkinson, Elizabeth J. | Lohman, Kurt | Cornelis, Marilyn C. | Johansson, Åsa | Tönjes, Anke | Dehghan, Abbas | Lambert, Jean-Charles | Holliday, Elizabeth G. | Sorice, Rossella | Kutalik, Zoltan | Lehtimäki, Terho | Esko, Tõnu | Deshmukh, Harshal | Ulivi, Sheila | Chu, Audrey Y. | Murgia, Federico | Trompet, Stella | Imboden, Medea | Coassin, Stefan | Pistis, Giorgio | Harris, Tamara B. | Launer, Lenore J. | Aspelund, Thor | Eiriksdottir, Gudny | Mitchell, Braxton D. | Boerwinkle, Eric | Schmidt, Helena | Cavalieri, Margherita | Rao, Madhumathi | Hu, Frank | Demirkan, Ayse | Oostra, Ben A. | de Andrade, Mariza | Turner, Stephen T. | Ding, Jingzhong | Andrews, Jeanette S. | Freedman, Barry I. | Giulianini, Franco | Koenig, Wolfgang | Illig, Thomas | Meisinger, Christa | Gieger, Christian | Zgaga, Lina | Zemunik, Tatijana | Boban, Mladen | Minelli, Cosetta | Wheeler, Heather E. | Igl, Wilmar | Zaboli, Ghazal | Wild, Sarah H. | Wright, Alan F. | Campbell, Harry | Ellinghaus, David | Nöthlings, Ute | Jacobs, Gunnar | Biffar, Reiner | Ernst, Florian | Homuth, Georg | Kroemer, Heyo K. | Nauck, Matthias | Stracke, Sylvia | Völker, Uwe | Völzke, Henry | Kovacs, Peter | Stumvoll, Michael | Mägi, Reedik | Hofman, Albert | Uitterlinden, Andre G. | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Aulchenko, Yurii S. | Polasek, Ozren | Hastie, Nick | Vitart, Veronique | Helmer, Catherine | Wang, Jie Jin | Stengel, Bénédicte | Ruggiero, Daniela | Bergmann, Sven | Kähönen, Mika | Viikari, Jorma | Nikopensius, Tiit | Province, Michael | Ketkar, Shamika | Colhoun, Helen | Doney, Alex | Robino, Antonietta | Krämer, Bernhard K. | Portas, Laura | Ford, Ian | Buckley, Brendan M. | Adam, Martin | Thun, Gian-Andri | Paulweber, Bernhard | Haun, Margot | Sala, Cinzia | Mitchell, Paul | Ciullo, Marina | Kim, Stuart K. | Vollenweider, Peter | Raitakari, Olli | Metspalu, Andres | Palmer, Colin | Gasparini, Paolo | Pirastu, Mario | Jukema, J. Wouter | Probst-Hensch, Nicole M. | Kronenberg, Florian | Toniolo, Daniela | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Shuldiner, Alan R. | Coresh, Josef | Schmidt, Reinhold | Ferrucci, Luigi | Siscovick, David S. | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Borecki, Ingrid B. | Kardia, Sharon L.R. | Liu, Yongmei | Curhan, Gary C. | Rudan, Igor | Gyllensten, Ulf | Wilson, James F. | Franke, Andre | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Rettig, Rainer | Prokopenko, Inga | Witteman, Jacqueline | Hayward, Caroline | Ridker, Paul M | Parsa, Afshin | Bochud, Murielle | Heid, Iris M. | Kao, W.H. Linda | Fox, Caroline S. | Köttgen, Anna
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(24):5329-5343.
In conducting genome-wide association studies (GWAS), analytical approaches leveraging biological information may further understanding of the pathophysiology of clinical traits. To discover novel associations with estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), a measure of kidney function, we developed a strategy for integrating prior biological knowledge into the existing GWAS data for eGFR from the CKDGen Consortium. Our strategy focuses on single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) in genes that are connected by functional evidence, determined by literature mining and gene ontology (GO) hierarchies, to genes near previously validated eGFR associations. It then requires association thresholds consistent with multiple testing, and finally evaluates novel candidates by independent replication. Among the samples of European ancestry, we identified a genome-wide significant SNP in FBXL20 (P = 5.6 × 10−9) in meta-analysis of all available data, and additional SNPs at the INHBC, LRP2, PLEKHA1, SLC3A2 and SLC7A6 genes meeting multiple-testing corrected significance for replication and overall P-values of 4.5 × 10−4–2.2 × 10−7. Neither the novel PLEKHA1 nor FBXL20 associations, both further supported by association with eGFR among African Americans and with transcript abundance, would have been implicated by eGFR candidate gene approaches. LRP2, encoding the megalin receptor, was identified through connection with the previously known eGFR gene DAB2 and extends understanding of the megalin system in kidney function. These findings highlight integration of existing genome-wide association data with independent biological knowledge to uncover novel candidate eGFR associations, including candidates lacking known connections to kidney-specific pathways. The strategy may also be applicable to other clinical phenotypes, although more testing will be needed to assess its potential for discovery in general.
PMCID: PMC3607468  PMID: 22962313
2.  Comparison of Methods for Handling Missing Covariate Data 
The AAPS Journal  2013;15(4):1232-1241.
Missing covariate data is a common problem in nonlinear mixed effects modelling of clinical data. The aim of this study was to implement and compare methods for handling missing covariate data in nonlinear mixed effects modelling under different missing data mechanisms. Simulations generated data for 200 individuals with a 50% difference in clearance between males and females. Three different types of missing data mechanisms were simulated and information about sex was missing for 50% of the individuals. Six methods for handling the missing covariate were compared in a stochastic simulations and estimations study where 200 data sets were simulated. The methods were compared according to bias and precision of parameter estimates. Multiple imputation based on weight and response, full maximum likelihood modelling using information on weight and full maximum likelihood modelling where the proportion of males among the individuals lacking information about sex was estimated (EST) gave precise and unbiased estimates in the presence of missing data when data were missing completely at random or missing at random. When data were missing not at random, the only method resulting in low bias and high parameter precision was EST.
PMCID: PMC3787222  PMID: 24022319
categorical data; covariates; missing data; NONMEM
3.  Differential Gene Expression at the Maternal-Fetal Interface in Preeclampsia Is Influenced by Gestational Age 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69848.
Genome-wide transcription data of utero-placental tissue has been used to identify altered gene expression associated with preeclampsia (PE). As many women with PE deliver preterm, there is often a difference in gestational age between PE women and healthy pregnant controls. This may pose a potential bias since gestational age has been shown to dramatically influence gene expression in utero-placental tissue. By pooling data from three genome-wide transcription studies of the maternal-fetal interface, we have evaluated the relative effect of gestational age and PE on gene expression. A total of 18,180 transcripts were evaluated in 49 PE cases and 105 controls, with gestational age ranging from week 14 to 42. A total of 22 transcripts were associated with PE, whereas 92 transcripts with gestational age (nominal P value <1.51*10−6, Bonferroni adjusted P value <0.05). Our results indicate that gestational age has a great influence on gene expression both in normal and PE-complicated pregnancies. This effect might introduce serious bias in data analyses and needs to be carefully assessed in future genome-wide transcription studies.
PMCID: PMC3729459  PMID: 23936112
4.  Multiple Imputation of Missing Covariates in NONMEM and Evaluation of the Method’s Sensitivity to η-Shrinkage 
The AAPS Journal  2013;15(4):1035-1042.
Multiple imputation (MI) is an approach widely used in statistical analysis of incomplete data. However, its application to missing data problems in nonlinear mixed-effects modelling is limited. The objective was to implement a four-step MI method for handling missing covariate data in NONMEM and to evaluate the method’s sensitivity to η-shrinkage. Four steps were needed; (1) estimation of empirical Bayes estimates (EBEs) using a base model without the partly missing covariate, (2) a regression model for the covariate values given the EBEs from subjects with covariate information, (3) imputation of covariates using the regression model and (4) estimation of the population model. Steps (3) and (4) were repeated several times. The procedure was automated in PsN and is now available as the mimp functionality ( The method’s sensitivity to shrinkage in EBEs was evaluated in a simulation study where the covariate was missing according to a missing at random type of missing data mechanism. The η-shrinkage was increased in steps from 4.5 to 54%. Two hundred datasets were simulated and analysed for each scenario. When shrinkage was low the MI method gave unbiased and precise estimates of all population parameters. With increased shrinkage the estimates became less precise but remained unbiased.
PMCID: PMC3787209  PMID: 23868748
covariates; missing data; multiple imputation; NONMEM
5.  Continuous Aging of the Human DNA Methylome Throughout the Human Lifespan 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67378.
DNA methylation plays an important role in development of disease and the process of aging. In this study we examine DNA methylation at 476,366 sites throughout the genome of white blood cells from a population cohort (N = 421) ranging in age from 14 to 94 years old. Age affects DNA methylation at almost one third (29%) of the sites (Bonferroni adjusted P-value <0.05), of which 60.5% becomes hypomethylated and 39.5% hypermethylated with increasing age. DNA methylation sites that are located within CpG islands (CGIs) more often become hypermethylated compared to sites outside an island. CpG sites in promoters are more unaffected by age, whereas sites in enhancers more often becomes hypo- or hypermethylated. Hypermethylated sites are overrepresented among genes that are involved in DNA binding, transcription regulation, processes of anatomical structure and developmental process and cortex neuron differentiation (P-value down to P = 9.14*10−67). By contrast, hypomethylated sites are not strongly overrepresented among any biological function or process. Our results indicate that the 23% of the variation in DNA methylation is attributed chronological age, and that hypermethylation is more site-specific than hypomethylation. It appears that the change in DNA methylation partly overlap with regions that change histone modifications with age, indicating an interaction between the two major epigenetic mechanisms. Epigenetic modifications and change in gene expression over time most likely reflects the natural process of aging and variation between individuals might contribute to the development of age-related phenotypes and diseases such as type II diabetes, autoimmune and cardiovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC3695075  PMID: 23826282
6.  Bacterial colonization and resistance patterns in 133 patients undergoing a primary hip- or knee replacement in Southern Sweden 
Acta Orthopaedica  2013;84(1):87-91.
Background and purpose
Prosthetic joint infections can be caused by bacteria derived from the patient’s skin. The aim of the study was: (1) to determine which bacteria colonize the nose and groin in patients planned for primary hip or knee arthroplasty, (2) to determine the antimicrobial resistance patterns, and (3) to monitor changes in bacterial colonization and resistance patterns connected to surgery.
Patients and methods
2 weeks before scheduled primary hip or knee arthroplasty, culture samples were taken from the anterior nares and from the groin of 133 consecutive patients. At surgery, cloxacillin was given prophylactically and cement with gentamicin was used. 2 weeks after surgery, another set of samples were taken from 120 of these patients. Bacterial findings and resistance patterns were analyzed.
Preoperatively, 95% of the patients had coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS) in the groin and 77% in the nose. The proportion of patients with a methicillin-resistant CNS in the groin increased from 20% preoperatively to 50% postoperatively (p < 0.001), and the proportion of patients with a gentamicin-resistant CNS in the groin increased from 5% to 45% (p < 0.001). 28% of the patients had Staphylococcus aureus in the nose preoperatively, and 7% in the groin. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was found in the nose of 1 patient.
In southern Sweden, beta-lactams were effective against 99% of the Staphylococcus aureus strains and 80% of the CNS strains colonizing the patients undergoing primary hip or knee arthroplasty. Gentamicin protects against most CNS strains in cemented primary joint replacements.
PMCID: PMC3584610  PMID: 23409844
7.  Sequencing of high-complexity DNA pools for identification of nucleotide and structural variants in regions associated with complex traits 
We have used targeted genomic sequencing of high-complexity DNA pools based on long-range PCR and deep DNA sequencing by the SOLiD technology. The method was used for sequencing of 286 kb from four chromosomal regions with quantitative trait loci (QTL) influencing blood plasma lipid and uric acid levels in DNA pools of 500 individuals from each of five European populations. The method shows very good precision in estimating allele frequencies as compared with individual genotyping of SNPs (r2=0.95, P<10−16). Validation shows that the method is able to identify novel SNPs and estimate their frequency in high-complexity DNA pools. In our five populations, 17% of all SNPs and 61% of structural variants are not available in the public databases. A large fraction of the novel variants show a limited geographic distribution, with 62% of the novel SNPs and 59% of novel structural variants being detected in only one of the populations. The large number of population-specific novel SNPs underscores the need for comprehensive sequencing of local populations in order to identify the causal variants of human traits.
PMCID: PMC3234506  PMID: 21811304
pooling; next-generation DNA sequencing; SOLiD; SNP; indels
8.  Animal source food intake and association with blood cholesterol, glycerophospholipids and sphingolipids in a northern Swedish population 
International Journal of Circumpolar Health  2013;72:10.3402/ijch.v72i0.21162.
The high intake of game meat in populations with a subsistence-based diet may affect their blood lipids and health status.
To examine the association between diet and circulating levels of blood lipid levels in a northern Swedish population.
Study design
We compared a group with traditional lifestyle (TLS) based on reindeer herding (TLS group) with those from the same area with a non-traditional lifestyle (NTLS) typical of more industrialized regions of Sweden (NTLS group). The analysis was based on self-reported intake of animal source food (i.e. non-game meat, game meat, fish, dairy products and eggs) and the serum blood level of a number of lipids [total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), triglycerides (TG), glycerophospholipids and sphingolipids].
The TLS group had higher cholesterol, LDL and HDL levels than the reference group. Of the TLS group, 65% had cholesterol levels above the threshold for increased risk of coronary heart disease (≥240 mg/dl), as compared to 38% of the NTLS group. Self-reported consumption of game meat was positively associated with TC and LDL.
The high game meat consumption of the TLS group is associated with increased cholesterol levels. High intake of animal protein and fat and low fibre is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, but other studies of the TLS in northern Sweden have shown comparable incidences of cardiovascular disease to the reference (NTLS) group from the same geographical area. This indicates that factors other than TC influence disease risk. One such possible factor is dietary phospholipids, which are also found in high amounts specifically in game meat and have been shown to inhibit cholesterol absorption.
PMCID: PMC3753141  PMID: 23984293
epidemiology; nutrition; animal source foods; game; lipids; cholesterol; phospholipids; sphingolipids
9.  Prevalence and sensitization of atopic allergy and coeliac disease in the Northern Sweden Population Health Study 
International Journal of Circumpolar Health  2013;72:10.3402/ijch.v72i0.21403.
Atopic allergy is effected by a number of environmental exposures, such as dry air and time spent outdoors, but there are few estimates of the prevalence in populations from sub-arctic areas.
To determine the prevalence and severity of symptoms of food, inhalation and skin-related allergens and coeliac disease (CD) in the sub-arctic region of Sweden. To study the correlation between self-reported allergy and allergy test results. To estimate the heritability of these estimates.
Study design
The study was conducted in Karesuando and Soppero in Northern Sweden as part of the Northern Sweden Population Health Study (n=1,068). We used a questionnaire for self-reported allergy and CD status and measured inhalation-related allergens using Phadiatop, food-related allergens using the F×5 assay and IgA and IgG antibodies against tissue transglutaminase (anti-tTG) to indicate prevalence of CD.
The prevalence of self-reported allergy was very high, with 42.3% reporting mild to severe allergy. Inhalation-related allergy was reported in 26.7%, food-related allergy in 24.9% and skin-related allergy in 2.4% of the participants. Of inhalation-related allergy, 11.0% reported reactions against fur and 14.6% against pollen/grass. Among food-related reactions, 14.9% reported milk (protein and lactose) as the cause. The IgE measurements showed that 18.4% had elevated values for inhalation allergens and 11.7% for food allergens. Self-reported allergies and symptoms were positively correlated (p<0.01) with age- and sex-corrected inhalation allergens. Allergy prevalence was inversely correlated with age and number of hours spent outdoors. High levels of IgA and IgG anti-tTG antibodies, CD-related allergens, were found in 1.4 and 0.6% of participants, respectively. All allergens were found to be significantly (p<3 e–10) heritable, with estimated heritabilities ranging from 0.34 (F×5) to 0.65 (IgA).
Self-reported allergy correlated well with the antibody measurements. The prevalence of allergy was highest in the young and those working inside. Heritability of atopy and sensitization was high. The prevalence of CD-related autoantibodies was high and did not coincide with the self-reported allergy.
PMCID: PMC3754550  PMID: 23986895
allergy; coeliac disease; atopic allergy; heritability; self reported allergy
10.  Evidence of Inbreeding Depression on Human Height 
McQuillan, Ruth | Eklund, Niina | Pirastu, Nicola | Kuningas, Maris | McEvoy, Brian P. | Esko, Tõnu | Corre, Tanguy | Davies, Gail | Kaakinen, Marika | Lyytikäinen, Leo-Pekka | Kristiansson, Kati | Havulinna, Aki S. | Gögele, Martin | Vitart, Veronique | Tenesa, Albert | Aulchenko, Yurii | Hayward, Caroline | Johansson, Åsa | Boban, Mladen | Ulivi, Sheila | Robino, Antonietta | Boraska, Vesna | Igl, Wilmar | Wild, Sarah H. | Zgaga, Lina | Amin, Najaf | Theodoratou, Evropi | Polašek, Ozren | Girotto, Giorgia | Lopez, Lorna M. | Sala, Cinzia | Lahti, Jari | Laatikainen, Tiina | Prokopenko, Inga | Kals, Mart | Viikari, Jorma | Yang, Jian | Pouta, Anneli | Estrada, Karol | Hofman, Albert | Freimer, Nelson | Martin, Nicholas G. | Kähönen, Mika | Milani, Lili | Heliövaara, Markku | Vartiainen, Erkki | Räikkönen, Katri | Masciullo, Corrado | Starr, John M. | Hicks, Andrew A. | Esposito, Laura | Kolčić, Ivana | Farrington, Susan M. | Oostra, Ben | Zemunik, Tatijana | Campbell, Harry | Kirin, Mirna | Pehlic, Marina | Faletra, Flavio | Porteous, David | Pistis, Giorgio | Widén, Elisabeth | Salomaa, Veikko | Koskinen, Seppo | Fischer, Krista | Lehtimäki, Terho | Heath, Andrew | McCarthy, Mark I. | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Montgomery, Grant W. | Tiemeier, Henning | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Madden, Pamela A. F. | d'Adamo, Pio | Hastie, Nicholas D. | Gyllensten, Ulf | Wright, Alan F. | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Dunlop, Malcolm | Rudan, Igor | Gasparini, Paolo | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Deary, Ian J. | Toniolo, Daniela | Eriksson, Johan G. | Jula, Antti | Raitakari, Olli T. | Metspalu, Andres | Perola, Markus | Järvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Uitterlinden, André | Visscher, Peter M. | Wilson, James F. | Gibson, Greg
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(7):e1002655.
Stature is a classical and highly heritable complex trait, with 80%–90% of variation explained by genetic factors. In recent years, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have successfully identified many common additive variants influencing human height; however, little attention has been given to the potential role of recessive genetic effects. Here, we investigated genome-wide recessive effects by an analysis of inbreeding depression on adult height in over 35,000 people from 21 different population samples. We found a highly significant inverse association between height and genome-wide homozygosity, equivalent to a height reduction of up to 3 cm in the offspring of first cousins compared with the offspring of unrelated individuals, an effect which remained after controlling for the effects of socio-economic status, an important confounder (χ2 = 83.89, df = 1; p = 5.2×10−20). There was, however, a high degree of heterogeneity among populations: whereas the direction of the effect was consistent across most population samples, the effect size differed significantly among populations. It is likely that this reflects true biological heterogeneity: whether or not an effect can be observed will depend on both the variance in homozygosity in the population and the chance inheritance of individual recessive genotypes. These results predict that multiple, rare, recessive variants influence human height. Although this exploratory work focuses on height alone, the methodology developed is generally applicable to heritable quantitative traits (QT), paving the way for an investigation into inbreeding effects, and therefore genetic architecture, on a range of QT of biomedical importance.
Author Summary
Studies investigating the extent to which genetics influences human characteristics such as height have concentrated mainly on common variants of genes, where having one or two copies of a given variant influences the trait or risk of disease. This study explores whether a different type of genetic variant might also be important. We investigate the role of recessive genetic variants, where two identical copies of a variant are required to have an effect. By measuring genome-wide homozygosity—the phenomenon of inheriting two identical copies at a given point of the genome—in 35,000 individuals from 21 European populations, and by comparing this to individual height, we found that the more homozygous the genome, the shorter the individual. The offspring of first cousins (who have increased homozygosity) were predicted to be up to 3 cm shorter on average than the offspring of unrelated parents. Height is influenced by the combined effect of many recessive variants dispersed across the genome. This may also be true for other human characteristics and diseases, opening up a new way to understand how genetic variation influences our health.
PMCID: PMC3400549  PMID: 22829771
11.  Identification of ACOX2 as a shared genetic risk factor for preeclampsia and cardiovascular disease 
Preeclampsia (PE) is a serious complication of pregnancy, which is highly correlated with later life cardiovascular disease (CVD). Many risk factors are common for both diseases, but the contribution of shared genes remains to be determined. In this study, we used an integrative strategy to assess lipid traits as risk factors for PE and CVD by whole genome transcriptional profiling performed on Norwegian decidua basalis tissues (N=95) from preeclamptic and normal pregnancies and on blood lymphocytes (N=1240) from the San Antonio Family Heart Study (SAFHS). Among 222 genes that were differentially expressed (false discovery rate (FDR) P-value <0.05) between the PE, cases and controls, we found one gene, ACOX2 (acyl-coenzyme A oxidase 2, branched chain), that was downregulated in PE whose transcription was also inversely correlated with triglyceride levels (P=5.6 × 10−7; FDR P-value=0.0002) in SAFHS. We further report associations between SNPs in the ACOX2 gene and the transcription level (P-value=0.0045) of the gene, as well as with triglyceride levels (P-value=0.0051). ACOX2 is involved in bile acid production, a process that has been associated with both oxidative stress and regulation of triglyceride levels. Oxidative stress and increased triglyceride levels are known risk factors for CVD and both have also been associated with PE. Our results suggest that downregulation of ACOX2 is a shared risk factor for PE and CVD.
PMCID: PMC3137494  PMID: 21343950
preeclampsia; triglyceride; hyperlipidemia; transcription profiling
12.  Genetic architecture of circulating lipid levels 
Serum concentrations of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), triglycerides (TGs) and total cholesterol (TC) are important heritable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Although genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of circulating lipid levels have identified numerous loci, a substantial portion of the heritability of these traits remains unexplained. Evidence of unexplained genetic variance can be detected by combining multiple independent markers into additive genetic risk scores. Such polygenic scores, constructed using results from the ENGAGE Consortium GWAS on serum lipids, were applied to predict lipid levels in an independent population-based study, the Rotterdam Study-II (RS-II). We additionally tested for evidence of a shared genetic basis for different lipid phenotypes. Finally, the polygenic score approach was used to identify an alternative genome-wide significance threshold before pathway analysis and those results were compared with those based on the classical genome-wide significance threshold. Our study provides evidence suggesting that many loci influencing circulating lipid levels remain undiscovered. Cross-prediction models suggested a small overlap between the polygenic backgrounds involved in determining LDL-C, HDL-C and TG levels. Pathway analysis utilizing the best polygenic score for TC uncovered extra information compared with using only genome-wide significant loci. These results suggest that the genetic architecture of circulating lipids involves a number of undiscovered variants with very small effects, and that increasing GWAS sample sizes will enable the identification of novel variants that regulate lipid levels.
PMCID: PMC3137496  PMID: 21448234
serum lipids; polygenic; genome-wide association; polygenic score; pathway analysis
13.  Partial correlation network analyses to detect altered gene interactions in human disease: using preeclampsia as a model 
Human Genetics  2010;129(1):25-34.
Differences in gene expression between cases and controls have been identified for a number of human diseases. However, the underlying mechanisms of transcriptional regulation remain largely unknown. Beyond comparisons of absolute or relative expression levels, disease states may be associated with alterations in the observed correlational patterns among sets of genes. Here we use partial correlation networks aiming to compare the transcriptional co-regulation for 222 genes that are differentially expressed in decidual tissues between preeclampsia (PE) cases and non-PE controls. Partial correlation coefficients (PCCs) have been calculated in cases (N = 37) and controls (N = 58) separately. For all PCCs, we tested if they were significant non-zero in the cases and controls separately. In addition, to examine if a given PCC is different between the cases and controls, we tested if the difference between two PCCs were significant non-zero. In the group with PE cases, only five PCCs were significant (FDR p value ≤ 0.05), of which none were significantly different from the PCCs in the controls. However, in the controls we identified a total of 56 statistically significant PCCs (FDR p value ≤ 0.05), of which 31 were also significantly different (FDR p value ≤ 0.05) from the PCCs in the PE cases. The identified partial correlation networks included genes that are potentially relevant for developing PE, including both known susceptibility genes (EGFL7, HES1) and novel candidate genes (CFH, NADSYN1, DBP, FIGLA). Our results might suggest that disturbed interactions, or higher order relationships between these genes play an important role in developing the disease.
PMCID: PMC3332147  PMID: 20931231
14.  Genome-Wide Association and Functional Follow-Up Reveals New Loci for Kidney Function 
Pattaro, Cristian | Köttgen, Anna | Teumer, Alexander | Garnaas, Maija | Böger, Carsten A. | Fuchsberger, Christian | Olden, Matthias | Chen, Ming-Huei | Tin, Adrienne | Taliun, Daniel | Li, Man | Gao, Xiaoyi | Gorski, Mathias | Yang, Qiong | Hundertmark, Claudia | Foster, Meredith C. | O'Seaghdha, Conall M. | Glazer, Nicole | Isaacs, Aaron | Liu, Ching-Ti | Smith, Albert V. | O'Connell, Jeffrey R. | Struchalin, Maksim | Tanaka, Toshiko | Li, Guo | Johnson, Andrew D. | Gierman, Hinco J. | Feitosa, Mary | Hwang, Shih-Jen | Atkinson, Elizabeth J. | Lohman, Kurt | Cornelis, Marilyn C. | Johansson, Åsa | Tönjes, Anke | Dehghan, Abbas | Chouraki, Vincent | Holliday, Elizabeth G. | Sorice, Rossella | Kutalik, Zoltan | Lehtimäki, Terho | Esko, Tõnu | Deshmukh, Harshal | Ulivi, Sheila | Chu, Audrey Y. | Murgia, Federico | Trompet, Stella | Imboden, Medea | Kollerits, Barbara | Pistis, Giorgio | Harris, Tamara B. | Launer, Lenore J. | Aspelund, Thor | Eiriksdottir, Gudny | Mitchell, Braxton D. | Boerwinkle, Eric | Schmidt, Helena | Cavalieri, Margherita | Rao, Madhumathi | Hu, Frank B. | Demirkan, Ayse | Oostra, Ben A. | de Andrade, Mariza | Turner, Stephen T. | Ding, Jingzhong | Andrews, Jeanette S. | Freedman, Barry I. | Koenig, Wolfgang | Illig, Thomas | Döring, Angela | Wichmann, H.-Erich | Kolcic, Ivana | Zemunik, Tatijana | Boban, Mladen | Minelli, Cosetta | Wheeler, Heather E. | Igl, Wilmar | Zaboli, Ghazal | Wild, Sarah H. | Wright, Alan F. | Campbell, Harry | Ellinghaus, David | Nöthlings, Ute | Jacobs, Gunnar | Biffar, Reiner | Endlich, Karlhans | Ernst, Florian | Homuth, Georg | Kroemer, Heyo K. | Nauck, Matthias | Stracke, Sylvia | Völker, Uwe | Völzke, Henry | Kovacs, Peter | Stumvoll, Michael | Mägi, Reedik | Hofman, Albert | Uitterlinden, Andre G. | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Aulchenko, Yurii S. | Polasek, Ozren | Hastie, Nick | Vitart, Veronique | Helmer, Catherine | Wang, Jie Jin | Ruggiero, Daniela | Bergmann, Sven | Kähönen, Mika | Viikari, Jorma | Nikopensius, Tiit | Province, Michael | Ketkar, Shamika | Colhoun, Helen | Doney, Alex | Robino, Antonietta | Giulianini, Franco | Krämer, Bernhard K. | Portas, Laura | Ford, Ian | Buckley, Brendan M. | Adam, Martin | Thun, Gian-Andri | Paulweber, Bernhard | Haun, Margot | Sala, Cinzia | Metzger, Marie | Mitchell, Paul | Ciullo, Marina | Kim, Stuart K. | Vollenweider, Peter | Raitakari, Olli | Metspalu, Andres | Palmer, Colin | Gasparini, Paolo | Pirastu, Mario | Jukema, J. Wouter | Probst-Hensch, Nicole M. | Kronenberg, Florian | Toniolo, Daniela | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Shuldiner, Alan R. | Coresh, Josef | Schmidt, Reinhold | Ferrucci, Luigi | Siscovick, David S. | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Borecki, Ingrid | Kardia, Sharon L. R. | Liu, Yongmei | Curhan, Gary C. | Rudan, Igor | Gyllensten, Ulf | Wilson, James F. | Franke, Andre | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Rettig, Rainer | Prokopenko, Inga | Witteman, Jacqueline C. M. | Hayward, Caroline | Ridker, Paul | Parsa, Afshin | Bochud, Murielle | Heid, Iris M. | Goessling, Wolfram | Chasman, Daniel I. | Kao, W. H. Linda | Fox, Caroline S. | Gibson, Greg
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(3):e1002584.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is an important public health problem with a genetic component. We performed genome-wide association studies in up to 130,600 European ancestry participants overall, and stratified for key CKD risk factors. We uncovered 6 new loci in association with estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), the primary clinical measure of CKD, in or near MPPED2, DDX1, SLC47A1, CDK12, CASP9, and INO80. Morpholino knockdown of mpped2 and casp9 in zebrafish embryos revealed podocyte and tubular abnormalities with altered dextran clearance, suggesting a role for these genes in renal function. By providing new insights into genes that regulate renal function, these results could further our understanding of the pathogenesis of CKD.
Author Summary
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is an important public health problem with a hereditary component. We performed a new genome-wide association study in up to 130,600 European ancestry individuals to identify genes that may influence kidney function, specifically genes that may influence kidney function differently depending on sex, age, hypertension, and diabetes status of individuals. We uncovered 6 new loci associated with estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), the primary measure of renal function, in or near MPPED2, DDX1, SLC47A1, CDK12, CASP9, and INO80. CDK12 effect was stronger in younger and absent in older individuals. MPPED2, DDX1, SLC47A1, and CDK12 loci were associated with eGFR in African ancestry samples as well, highlighting the cross-ethnicity validity of our findings. Using the zebrafish model, we performed morpholino knockdown of mpped2 and casp9 in zebrafish embryos and revealed podocyte and tubular abnormalities with altered dextran clearance, suggesting a role for these genes in renal function. These results further our understanding of the pathogenesis of CKD and provide insights into potential novel mechanisms of disease.
PMCID: PMC3315455  PMID: 22479191
15.  Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies Novel Loci Associated with Circulating Phospho- and Sphingolipid Concentrations 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(2):e1002490.
Phospho- and sphingolipids are crucial cellular and intracellular compounds. These lipids are required for active transport, a number of enzymatic processes, membrane formation, and cell signalling. Disruption of their metabolism leads to several diseases, with diverse neurological, psychiatric, and metabolic consequences. A large number of phospholipid and sphingolipid species can be detected and measured in human plasma. We conducted a meta-analysis of five European family-based genome-wide association studies (N = 4034) on plasma levels of 24 sphingomyelins (SPM), 9 ceramides (CER), 57 phosphatidylcholines (PC), 20 lysophosphatidylcholines (LPC), 27 phosphatidylethanolamines (PE), and 16 PE-based plasmalogens (PLPE), as well as their proportions in each major class. This effort yielded 25 genome-wide significant loci for phospholipids (smallest P-value = 9.88×10−204) and 10 loci for sphingolipids (smallest P-value = 3.10×10−57). After a correction for multiple comparisons (P-value<2.2×10−9), we observed four novel loci significantly associated with phospholipids (PAQR9, AGPAT1, PKD2L1, PDXDC1) and two with sphingolipids (PLD2 and APOE) explaining up to 3.1% of the variance. Further analysis of the top findings with respect to within class molar proportions uncovered three additional loci for phospholipids (PNLIPRP2, PCDH20, and ABDH3) suggesting their involvement in either fatty acid elongation/saturation processes or fatty acid specific turnover mechanisms. Among those, 14 loci (KCNH7, AGPAT1, PNLIPRP2, SYT9, FADS1-2-3, DLG2, APOA1, ELOVL2, CDK17, LIPC, PDXDC1, PLD2, LASS4, and APOE) mapped into the glycerophospholipid and 12 loci (ILKAP, ITGA9, AGPAT1, FADS1-2-3, APOA1, PCDH20, LIPC, PDXDC1, SGPP1, APOE, LASS4, and PLD2) to the sphingolipid pathways. In large meta-analyses, associations between FADS1-2-3 and carotid intima media thickness, AGPAT1 and type 2 diabetes, and APOA1 and coronary artery disease were observed. In conclusion, our study identified nine novel phospho- and sphingolipid loci, substantially increasing our knowledge of the genetic basis for these traits.
Author Summary
Phospho- and sphingolipids are integral to membrane formation and are involved in crucial cellular functions such as signalling, membrane fluidity, membrane protein trafficking, neurotransmission, and receptor trafficking. In addition to severe monogenic diseases resulting from defective phospho- and sphingolipid function and metabolism, the evidence suggests that variations in these lipid levels at the population level are involved in the determination of cardiovascular and neurologic traits and subsequent disease. We took advantage of modern laboratory methods, including microarray-based genotyping and electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry, to hunt for genetic variation influencing the levels of more than 350 phospho- and sphingolipid phenotypes. We identified nine novel loci, in addition to confirming a number of previously described loci. Several other genetic regions provided substantial evidence of their involvement in these traits. All of these loci are strong candidates for further research in the field of lipid biology and are likely to yield considerable insights into the complex metabolic pathways underlying circulating phospho- and sphingolipid levels. Understanding these mechanisms might help to illuminate factors leading to the development of common cardiovascular and neurological diseases and might provide molecular targets for the development of new therapies.
PMCID: PMC3280968  PMID: 22359512
16.  Genes predict village of origin in rural Europe 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2010;18(11):1269-1270.
The genetic structure of human populations is important in population genetics, forensics and medicine. Using genome-wide scans and individuals with all four grandparents born in the same settlement, we here demonstrate remarkable geographical structure across 8–30 km in three different parts of rural Europe. After excluding close kin and inbreeding, village of origin could still be predicted correctly on the basis of genetic data for 89–100% of individuals.
PMCID: PMC2987479  PMID: 20571506
population structure; principal components; genome-wide genotyping
17.  A Genome-Wide Screen for Interactions Reveals a New Locus on 4p15 Modifying the Effect of Waist-to-Hip Ratio on Total Cholesterol 
Surakka, Ida | Isaacs, Aaron | Karssen, Lennart C. | Laurila, Pirkka-Pekka P. | Middelberg, Rita P. S. | Tikkanen, Emmi | Ried, Janina S. | Lamina, Claudia | Mangino, Massimo | Igl, Wilmar | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Lagou, Vasiliki | van der Harst, Pim | Mateo Leach, Irene | Esko, Tõnu | Kutalik, Zoltán | Wainwright, Nicholas W. | Struchalin, Maksim V. | Sarin, Antti-Pekka | Kangas, Antti J. | Viikari, Jorma S. | Perola, Markus | Rantanen, Taina | Petersen, Ann-Kristin | Soininen, Pasi | Johansson, Åsa | Soranzo, Nicole | Heath, Andrew C. | Papamarkou, Theodore | Prokopenko, Inga | Tönjes, Anke | Kronenberg, Florian | Döring, Angela | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Montgomery, Grant W. | Whitfield, John B. | Kähönen, Mika | Lehtimäki, Terho | Freimer, Nelson B. | Willemsen, Gonneke | de Geus, Eco J. C. | Palotie, Aarno | Sandhu, Manj S. | Waterworth, Dawn M. | Metspalu, Andres | Stumvoll, Michael | Uitterlinden, André G. | Jula, Antti | Navis, Gerjan | Wijmenga, Cisca | Wolffenbuttel, Bruce H. R. | Taskinen, Marja-Riitta | Ala-Korpela, Mika | Kaprio, Jaakko | Kyvik, Kirsten O. | Boomsma, Dorret I. | Pedersen, Nancy L. | Gyllensten, Ulf | Wilson, James F. | Rudan, Igor | Campbell, Harry | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Spector, Tim D. | Witteman, Jacqueline C. M. | Eriksson, Johan G. | Salomaa, Veikko | Oostra, Ben A. | Raitakari, Olli T. | Wichmann, H.-Erich | Gieger, Christian | Järvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Martin, Nicholas G. | Hofman, Albert | McCarthy, Mark I. | Peltonen, Leena | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Aulchenko, Yurii S. | Ripatti, Samuli | Gibson, Greg
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(10):e1002333.
Recent genome-wide association (GWA) studies described 95 loci controlling serum lipid levels. These common variants explain ∼25% of the heritability of the phenotypes. To date, no unbiased screen for gene–environment interactions for circulating lipids has been reported. We screened for variants that modify the relationship between known epidemiological risk factors and circulating lipid levels in a meta-analysis of genome-wide association (GWA) data from 18 population-based cohorts with European ancestry (maximum N = 32,225). We collected 8 further cohorts (N = 17,102) for replication, and rs6448771 on 4p15 demonstrated genome-wide significant interaction with waist-to-hip-ratio (WHR) on total cholesterol (TC) with a combined P-value of 4.79×10−9. There were two potential candidate genes in the region, PCDH7 and CCKAR, with differential expression levels for rs6448771 genotypes in adipose tissue. The effect of WHR on TC was strongest for individuals carrying two copies of G allele, for whom a one standard deviation (sd) difference in WHR corresponds to 0.19 sd difference in TC concentration, while for A allele homozygous the difference was 0.12 sd. Our findings may open up possibilities for targeted intervention strategies for people characterized by specific genomic profiles. However, more refined measures of both body-fat distribution and metabolic measures are needed to understand how their joint dynamics are modified by the newly found locus.
Author Summary
Circulating serum lipids contribute greatly to the global health by affecting the risk for cardiovascular diseases. Serum lipid levels are partly inherited, and already 95 loci affecting high- and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides have been found. Serum lipids are also known to be affected by multiple epidemiological risk factors like body composition, lifestyle, and sex. It has been hypothesized that there are loci modifying the effects between risk factors and serum lipids, but to date only candidate gene studies for interactions have been reported. We conducted a genome-wide screen with meta-analysis approach to identify loci having interactions with epidemiological risk factors on serum lipids with over 30,000 population-based samples. When combining results from our initial datasets and 8 additional replication cohorts (maximum N = 17,102), we found a genome-wide significant locus in chromosome 4p15 with a joint P-value of 4.79×10−9 modifying the effect of waist-to-hip ratio on total cholesterol. In the area surrounding this genetic variant, there were two genes having association between the genotypes and the gene expression in adipose tissue, and we also found enrichment of association in genes belonging to lipid metabolism related functions.
PMCID: PMC3197672  PMID: 22028671
18.  Hundreds of variants clustered in genomic loci and biological pathways affect human height 
Lango Allen, Hana | Estrada, Karol | Lettre, Guillaume | Berndt, Sonja I. | Weedon, Michael N. | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Willer, Cristen J. | Jackson, Anne U. | Vedantam, Sailaja | Raychaudhuri, Soumya | Ferreira, Teresa | Wood, Andrew R. | Weyant, Robert J. | Segrè, Ayellet V. | Speliotes, Elizabeth K. | Wheeler, Eleanor | Soranzo, Nicole | Park, Ju-Hyun | Yang, Jian | Gudbjartsson, Daniel | Heard-Costa, Nancy L. | Randall, Joshua C. | Qi, Lu | Smith, Albert Vernon | Mägi, Reedik | Pastinen, Tomi | Liang, Liming | Heid, Iris M. | Luan, Jian'an | Thorleifsson, Gudmar | Winkler, Thomas W. | Goddard, Michael E. | Lo, Ken Sin | Palmer, Cameron | Workalemahu, Tsegaselassie | Aulchenko, Yurii S. | Johansson, Åsa | Zillikens, M.Carola | Feitosa, Mary F. | Esko, Tõnu | Johnson, Toby | Ketkar, Shamika | Kraft, Peter | Mangino, Massimo | Prokopenko, Inga | Absher, Devin | Albrecht, Eva | Ernst, Florian | Glazer, Nicole L. | Hayward, Caroline | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Jacobs, Kevin B. | Knowles, Joshua W. | Kutalik, Zoltán | Monda, Keri L. | Polasek, Ozren | Preuss, Michael | Rayner, Nigel W. | Robertson, Neil R. | Steinthorsdottir, Valgerdur | Tyrer, Jonathan P. | Voight, Benjamin F. | Wiklund, Fredrik | Xu, Jianfeng | Zhao, Jing Hua | Nyholt, Dale R. | Pellikka, Niina | Perola, Markus | Perry, John R.B. | Surakka, Ida | Tammesoo, Mari-Liis | Altmaier, Elizabeth L. | Amin, Najaf | Aspelund, Thor | Bhangale, Tushar | Boucher, Gabrielle | Chasman, Daniel I. | Chen, Constance | Coin, Lachlan | Cooper, Matthew N. | Dixon, Anna L. | Gibson, Quince | Grundberg, Elin | Hao, Ke | Junttila, M. Juhani | Kaplan, Lee M. | Kettunen, Johannes | König, Inke R. | Kwan, Tony | Lawrence, Robert W. | Levinson, Douglas F. | Lorentzon, Mattias | McKnight, Barbara | Morris, Andrew P. | Müller, Martina | Ngwa, Julius Suh | Purcell, Shaun | Rafelt, Suzanne | Salem, Rany M. | Salvi, Erika | Sanna, Serena | Shi, Jianxin | Sovio, Ulla | Thompson, John R. | Turchin, Michael C. | Vandenput, Liesbeth | Verlaan, Dominique J. | Vitart, Veronique | White, Charles C. | Ziegler, Andreas | Almgren, Peter | Balmforth, Anthony J. | Campbell, Harry | Citterio, Lorena | De Grandi, Alessandro | Dominiczak, Anna | Duan, Jubao | Elliott, Paul | Elosua, Roberto | Eriksson, Johan G. | Freimer, Nelson B. | Geus, Eco J.C. | Glorioso, Nicola | Haiqing, Shen | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Havulinna, Aki S. | Hicks, Andrew A. | Hui, Jennie | Igl, Wilmar | Illig, Thomas | Jula, Antti | Kajantie, Eero | Kilpeläinen, Tuomas O. | Koiranen, Markku | Kolcic, Ivana | Koskinen, Seppo | Kovacs, Peter | Laitinen, Jaana | Liu, Jianjun | Lokki, Marja-Liisa | Marusic, Ana | Maschio, Andrea | Meitinger, Thomas | Mulas, Antonella | Paré, Guillaume | Parker, Alex N. | Peden, John F. | Petersmann, Astrid | Pichler, Irene | Pietiläinen, Kirsi H. | Pouta, Anneli | Ridderstråle, Martin | Rotter, Jerome I. | Sambrook, Jennifer G. | Sanders, Alan R. | Schmidt, Carsten Oliver | Sinisalo, Juha | Smit, Jan H. | Stringham, Heather M. | Walters, G.Bragi | Widen, Elisabeth | Wild, Sarah H. | Willemsen, Gonneke | Zagato, Laura | Zgaga, Lina | Zitting, Paavo | Alavere, Helene | Farrall, Martin | McArdle, Wendy L. | Nelis, Mari | Peters, Marjolein J. | Ripatti, Samuli | van Meurs, Joyce B.J. | Aben, Katja K. | Ardlie, Kristin G | Beckmann, Jacques S. | Beilby, John P. | Bergman, Richard N. | Bergmann, Sven | Collins, Francis S. | Cusi, Daniele | den Heijer, Martin | Eiriksdottir, Gudny | Gejman, Pablo V. | Hall, Alistair S. | Hamsten, Anders | Huikuri, Heikki V. | Iribarren, Carlos | Kähönen, Mika | Kaprio, Jaakko | Kathiresan, Sekar | Kiemeney, Lambertus | Kocher, Thomas | Launer, Lenore J. | Lehtimäki, Terho | Melander, Olle | Mosley, Tom H. | Musk, Arthur W. | Nieminen, Markku S. | O'Donnell, Christopher J. | Ohlsson, Claes | Oostra, Ben | Palmer, Lyle J. | Raitakari, Olli | Ridker, Paul M. | Rioux, John D. | Rissanen, Aila | Rivolta, Carlo | Schunkert, Heribert | Shuldiner, Alan R. | Siscovick, David S. | Stumvoll, Michael | Tönjes, Anke | Tuomilehto, Jaakko | van Ommen, Gert-Jan | Viikari, Jorma | Heath, Andrew C. | Martin, Nicholas G. | Montgomery, Grant W. | Province, Michael A. | Kayser, Manfred | Arnold, Alice M. | Atwood, Larry D. | Boerwinkle, Eric | Chanock, Stephen J. | Deloukas, Panos | Gieger, Christian | Grönberg, Henrik | Hall, Per | Hattersley, Andrew T. | Hengstenberg, Christian | Hoffman, Wolfgang | Lathrop, G.Mark | Salomaa, Veikko | Schreiber, Stefan | Uda, Manuela | Waterworth, Dawn | Wright, Alan F. | Assimes, Themistocles L. | Barroso, Inês | Hofman, Albert | Mohlke, Karen L. | Boomsma, Dorret I. | Caulfield, Mark J. | Cupples, L.Adrienne | Erdmann, Jeanette | Fox, Caroline S. | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Gyllensten, Ulf | Harris, Tamara B. | Hayes, Richard B. | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Mooser, Vincent | Munroe, Patricia B. | Ouwehand, Willem H. | Penninx, Brenda W. | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Quertermous, Thomas | Rudan, Igor | Samani, Nilesh J. | Spector, Timothy D. | Völzke, Henry | Watkins, Hugh | Wilson, James F. | Groop, Leif C. | Haritunians, Talin | Hu, Frank B. | Kaplan, Robert C. | Metspalu, Andres | North, Kari E. | Schlessinger, David | Wareham, Nicholas J. | Hunter, David J. | O'Connell, Jeffrey R. | Strachan, David P. | Wichmann, H.-Erich | Borecki, Ingrid B. | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Schadt, Eric E. | Thorsteinsdottir, Unnur | Peltonen, Leena | Uitterlinden, André | Visscher, Peter M. | Chatterjee, Nilanjan | Loos, Ruth J.F. | Boehnke, Michael | McCarthy, Mark I. | Ingelsson, Erik | Lindgren, Cecilia M. | Abecasis, Gonçalo R. | Stefansson, Kari | Frayling, Timothy M. | Hirschhorn, Joel N
Nature  2010;467(7317):832-838.
Most common human traits and diseases have a polygenic pattern of inheritance: DNA sequence variants at many genetic loci influence phenotype. Genome-wide association (GWA) studies have identified >600 variants associated with human traits1, but these typically explain small fractions of phenotypic variation, raising questions about the utility of further studies. Here, using 183,727 individuals, we show that hundreds of genetic variants, in at least 180 loci, influence adult height, a highly heritable and classic polygenic trait2,3. The large number of loci reveals patterns with important implications for genetic studies of common human diseases and traits. First, the 180 loci are not random, but instead are enriched for genes that are connected in biological pathways (P=0.016), and that underlie skeletal growth defects (P<0.001). Second, the likely causal gene is often located near the most strongly associated variant: in 13 of 21 loci containing a known skeletal growth gene, that gene was closest to the associated variant. Third, at least 19 loci have multiple independently associated variants, suggesting that allelic heterogeneity is a frequent feature of polygenic traits, that comprehensive explorations of already-discovered loci should discover additional variants, and that an appreciable fraction of associated loci may have been identified. Fourth, associated variants are enriched for likely functional effects on genes, being over-represented amongst variants that alter amino acid structure of proteins and expression levels of nearby genes. Our data explain ∼10% of the phenotypic variation in height, and we estimate that unidentified common variants of similar effect sizes would increase this figure to ∼16% of phenotypic variation (∼20% of heritable variation). Although additional approaches are needed to fully dissect the genetic architecture of polygenic human traits, our findings indicate that GWA studies can identify large numbers of loci that implicate biologically relevant genes and pathways.
PMCID: PMC2955183  PMID: 20881960
19.  Genome-wide association study identifies five loci associated with lung function 
Repapi, Emmanouela | Sayers, Ian | Wain, Louise V | Burton, Paul R | Johnson, Toby | Obeidat, Ma’en | Zhao, Jing Hua | Ramasamy, Adaikalavan | Zhai, Guangju | Vitart, Veronique | Huffman, Jennifer E | Igl, Wilmar | Albrecht, Eva | Deloukas, Panos | Henderson, John | Granell, Raquel | McArdle, Wendy L | Rudnicka, Alicja R | Barroso, Inês | Loos, Ruth J F | Wareham, Nicholas J | Mustelin, Linda | Rantanen, Taina | Surakka, Ida | Imboden, Medea | Wichmann, H Erich | Grkovic, Ivica | Jankovic, Stipan | Zgaga, Lina | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Peltonen, Leena | Gyllensten, Ulf | Johansson, Åsa | Zaboli, Ghazal | Campbell, Harry | Wild, Sarah H | Wilson, James F | Gläser, Sven | Homuth, Georg | Völzke, Henry | Mangino, Massimo | Soranzo, Nicole | Spector, Tim D | Polašek, Ozren | Rudan, Igor | Wright, Alan F | Heliövaara, Markku | Ripatti, Samuli | Pouta, Anneli | Naluai, Åsa Torinsson | Olin, Anna-Carin | Torén, Kjell | Cooper, Matthew N | James, Alan L | Palmer, Lyle J | Hingorani, Aroon D | Wannamethee, S Goya | Whincup, Peter H | Smith, George Davey | Ebrahim, Shah | McKeever, Tricia M | Pavord, Ian D | MacLeod, Andrew K | Morris, Andrew D | Porteous, David J | Cooper, Cyrus | Dennison, Elaine | Shaheen, Seif | Karrasch, Stefan | Schnabel, Eva | Schulz, Holger | Grallert, Harald | Bouatia-Naji, Nabila | Delplanque, Jérôme | Froguel, Philippe | Blakey, John D | Britton, John R | Morris, Richard W | Holloway, John W | Lawlor, Debbie A | Hui, Jennie | Nyberg, Fredrik | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Jackson, Cathy | Kähönen, Mika | Kaprio, Jaakko | Probst-Hensch, Nicole M | Koch, Beate | Hayward, Caroline | Evans, David M | Elliott, Paul | Strachan, David P | Hall, Ian P | Tobin, Martin D
Nature genetics  2009;42(1):36-44.
Pulmonary function measures are heritable traits that predict morbidity and mortality and define chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We tested genome-wide association with forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) and the ratio of FEV1 to forced vital capacity (FVC) in the SpiroMeta consortium (n = 20,288 individuals of European ancestry). We conducted a meta-analysis of top signals with data from direct genotyping (n ≤ 32,184 additional individuals) and in silico summary association data from the CHARGE Consortium (n = 21,209) and the Health 2000 survey (n ≤ 883). We confirmed the reported locus at 4q31 and identified associations with FEV1 or FEV1/FVC and common variants at five additional loci: 2q35 in TNS1 (P = 1.11 × 10−12), 4q24 in GSTCD (2.18 × 10−23), 5q33 in HTR4 (P = 4.29 × 10−9), 6p21 in AGER (P = 3.07 × 10−15) and 15q23 in THSD4 (P = 7.24 × 10−15). mRNA analyses showed expression of TNS1, GSTCD, AGER, HTR4 and THSD4 in human lung tissue. These associations offer mechanistic insight into pulmonary function regulation and indicate potential targets for interventions to alleviate respiratory disease.
PMCID: PMC2862965  PMID: 20010834
20.  Common variants in the JAZF1 gene associated with height identified by linkage and genome-wide association analysis 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;18(2):373-380.
Genes for height have gained interest for decades, but only recently have candidate genes started to be identified. We have performed linkage analysis and genome-wide association for height in approximately 4000 individuals from five European populations. A total of five chromosomal regions showed suggestive linkage and in one of these regions, two SNPs (rs849140 and rs1635852) were associated with height (nominal P = 7.0 × 10−8 and P = 9.6 × 10−7, respectively). In total, five SNPs across the genome showed an association with height that reached the threshold of genome-wide significance (nominal P < 1.6 × 10−7). The association with height was replicated for two SNPs (rs1635852 and rs849140) using three independent studies (n = 31 077, n=1268 and n = 5746) with overall meta P-values of 9.4 × 10−10 and 5.3 × 10−8. These SNPs are located in the JAZF1 gene, which has recently been associated with type II diabetes, prostate and endometrial cancer. JAZF1 is a transcriptional repressor of NR2C2, which results in low IGF1 serum concentrations, perinatal and early postnatal hypoglycemia and growth retardation when knocked out in mice. Both the linkage and association analyses independently identified the JAZF1 region affecting human height. We have demonstrated, through replication in additional independent populations, the consistency of the effect of the JAZF1 SNPs on height. Since this gene also has a key function in the metabolism of growth, JAZF1 represents one of the strongest candidates influencing human height identified so far.
PMCID: PMC2638782  PMID: 18952825
21.  Modeling of Environmental Effects in Genome-Wide Association Studies Identifies SLC2A2 and HP as Novel Loci Influencing Serum Cholesterol Levels 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(1):e1000798.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified 38 larger genetic regions affecting classical blood lipid levels without adjusting for important environmental influences. We modeled diet and physical activity in a GWAS in order to identify novel loci affecting total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. The Swedish (SE) EUROSPAN cohort (NSE = 656) was screened for candidate genes and the non-Swedish (NS) EUROSPAN cohorts (NNS = 3,282) were used for replication. In total, 3 SNPs were associated in the Swedish sample and were replicated in the non-Swedish cohorts. While SNP rs1532624 was a replication of the previously published association between CETP and HDL cholesterol, the other two were novel findings. For the latter SNPs, the p-value for association was substantially improved by inclusion of environmental covariates: SNP rs5400 (pSE,unadjusted = 3.6×10−5, pSE,adjusted = 2.2×10−6, pNS,unadjusted = 0.047) in the SLC2A2 (Glucose transporter type 2) and rs2000999 (pSE,unadjusted = 1.1×10−3, pSE,adjusted = 3.8×10−4, pNS,unadjusted = 0.035) in the HP gene (Haptoglobin-related protein precursor). Both showed evidence of association with total cholesterol. These results demonstrate that inclusion of important environmental factors in the analysis model can reveal new genetic susceptibility loci.
Author Summary
In this article we report a genome-wide association study on cholesterol levels in the human blood. We used a Swedish cohort to select genetic polymorphisms that showed the strongest association with cholesterol levels adjusted for diet and physical activity. We replicated several genetic loci in other European cohorts. This approach extends present genome-wide association studies on lipid levels, which did not take these lifestyle factors into account, to improve statistical results and discover novel genes. In our analysis, we could identify two genetic loci in the SLC2A2 (Glucose transporter type 2) and the HP (Haptoglobin-related protein precursor) gene whose effects on total cholesterol have not been reported yet. The results show that inclusion of important environmental factors in the analysis model can reveal new insights into genetic determinants of clinical parameters relevant for metabolic and cardiovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC2792712  PMID: 20066028
22.  Genetic Determinants of Circulating Sphingolipid Concentrations in European Populations 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(10):e1000672.
Sphingolipids have essential roles as structural components of cell membranes and in cell signalling, and disruption of their metabolism causes several diseases, with diverse neurological, psychiatric, and metabolic consequences. Increasingly, variants within a few of the genes that encode enzymes involved in sphingolipid metabolism are being associated with complex disease phenotypes. Direct experimental evidence supports a role of specific sphingolipid species in several common complex chronic disease processes including atherosclerotic plaque formation, myocardial infarction (MI), cardiomyopathy, pancreatic β-cell failure, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Therefore, sphingolipids represent novel and important intermediate phenotypes for genetic analysis, yet little is known about the major genetic variants that influence their circulating levels in the general population. We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) between 318,237 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and levels of circulating sphingomyelin (SM), dihydrosphingomyelin (Dih-SM), ceramide (Cer), and glucosylceramide (GluCer) single lipid species (33 traits); and 43 matched metabolite ratios measured in 4,400 subjects from five diverse European populations. Associated variants (32) in five genomic regions were identified with genome-wide significant corrected p-values ranging down to 9.08×10−66. The strongest associations were observed in or near 7 genes functionally involved in ceramide biosynthesis and trafficking: SPTLC3, LASS4, SGPP1, ATP10D, and FADS1–3. Variants in 3 loci (ATP10D, FADS3, and SPTLC3) associate with MI in a series of three German MI studies. An additional 70 variants across 23 candidate genes involved in sphingolipid-metabolizing pathways also demonstrate association (p = 10−4 or less). Circulating concentrations of several key components in sphingolipid metabolism are thus under strong genetic control, and variants in these loci can be tested for a role in the development of common cardiovascular, metabolic, neurological, and psychiatric diseases.
Author Summary
Although several rare monogenic diseases are caused by defects in enzymes involved in sphingolipid biosynthesis and metabolism, little is known about the major variants that control the circulating levels of these important bioactive molecules. As well as being essential components of plasma membranes and endosomes, sphingolipids play critical roles in cell surface protection, protein and lipid transport and sorting, and cellular signalling cascades. Experimental evidence supports a role for sphingolipids in several common complex chronic metabolic, cardiovascular, or neurological disease processes. Therefore, sphingolipids represent novel and important intermediate phenotypes for genetic analysis, and discovering the genetic variants that influence their circulating concentrations is an important step towards understanding how the genetic control of sphingolipids might contribute to common human disease. We have identified 32 variants in 7 genes that have a strong effect on the circulating plasma levels of 33 distinct sphingolipids, and 43 matched metabolite ratios. In a series of 3 German MI studies, we see association with MI for variants in 3 of the genes tested. Further cardiovascular, metabolic, neurological, and psychiatric disease associations can be tested with the variants described here, which may identify additional disease risk and potentially useful therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC2745562  PMID: 19798445
23.  Loci influencing lipid levels and coronary heart disease risk in 16 European population cohorts 
Nature genetics  2008;41(1):47-55.
Recent genome-wide association (GWA) studies of lipids have been conducted in samples ascertained for other phenotypes, particularly diabetes. Here we report the first GWA analysis of loci affecting total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides sampled randomly from 16 population-based cohorts and genotyped using mainly the Illumina HumanHap300-Duo platform. Our study included a total of 17,797-22,562 persons, aged 18-104 years and from geographic regions spanning from the Nordic countries to Southern Europe. We established 22 loci associated with serum lipid levels at a genome-wide significance level (P < 5 × 10-8), including 16 loci that were identified by previous GWA studies. The six newly identified loci in our cohort samples are ABCG5 (TC, P = 1.5 × 10-11; LDL, P = 2.6 × 10-10), TMEM57 (TC, P = 5.4 × 10-10), CTCF-PRMT8 region (HDL, P = 8.3 × 10-16), DNAH11 (LDL, P = 6.1 × 10-9), FADS3-FADS2 (TC, P = 1.5 × 10-10; LDL, P = 4.4 × 10-13) and MADD-FOLH1 region (HDL, P = 6 × 10-11). For three loci, effect sizes differed significantly by sex. Genetic risk scores based on lipid loci explain up to 4.8% of variation in lipids and were also associated with increased intima media thickness (P = 0.001) and coronary heart disease incidence (P = 0.04). The genetic risk score improves the screening of high-risk groups of dyslipidemia over classical risk factors.
PMCID: PMC2687074  PMID: 19060911
24.  NRXN3 Is a Novel Locus for Waist Circumference: A Genome-Wide Association Study from the CHARGE Consortium 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(6):e1000539.
Central abdominal fat is a strong risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. To identify common variants influencing central abdominal fat, we conducted a two-stage genome-wide association analysis for waist circumference (WC). In total, three loci reached genome-wide significance. In stage 1, 31,373 individuals of Caucasian descent from eight cohort studies confirmed the role of FTO and MC4R and identified one novel locus associated with WC in the neurexin 3 gene [NRXN3 (rs10146997, p = 6.4×10−7)]. The association with NRXN3 was confirmed in stage 2 by combining stage 1 results with those from 38,641 participants in the GIANT consortium (p = 0.009 in GIANT only, p = 5.3×10−8 for combined analysis, n = 70,014). Mean WC increase per copy of the G allele was 0.0498 z-score units (0.65 cm). This SNP was also associated with body mass index (BMI) [p = 7.4×10−6, 0.024 z-score units (0.10 kg/m2) per copy of the G allele] and the risk of obesity (odds ratio 1.13, 95% CI 1.07–1.19; p = 3.2×10−5 per copy of the G allele). The NRXN3 gene has been previously implicated in addiction and reward behavior, lending further evidence that common forms of obesity may be a central nervous system-mediated disorder. Our findings establish that common variants in NRXN3 are associated with WC, BMI, and obesity.
Author Summary
Obesity is a major health concern worldwide. In the past two years, genome-wide association studies of DNA markers known as SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) have identified two novel genetic factors that may help scientists better understand why some people may be more susceptible to obesity. Similarly, this paper describes results from a large scale genome-wide association analysis for obesity susceptibility genes that includes 31,373 individuals from 8 separate studies. We uncovered a new gene influencing waist circumference, the neurexin 3 gene (NRXN3), which has been previously implicated in studies of addiction and reward behavior. These findings lend further evidence that our genes may influence our desire and consumption of food and, in turn, our susceptibility to obesity.
PMCID: PMC2695005  PMID: 19557197
25.  Meta-Analysis of 28,141 Individuals Identifies Common Variants within Five New Loci That Influence Uric Acid Concentrations 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(6):e1000504.
Elevated serum uric acid levels cause gout and are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. To investigate the polygenetic basis of serum uric acid levels, we conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association scans from 14 studies totalling 28,141 participants of European descent, resulting in identification of 954 SNPs distributed across nine loci that exceeded the threshold of genome-wide significance, five of which are novel. Overall, the common variants associated with serum uric acid levels fall in the following nine regions: SLC2A9 (p = 5.2×10−201), ABCG2 (p = 3.1×10−26), SLC17A1 (p = 3.0×10−14), SLC22A11 (p = 6.7×10−14), SLC22A12 (p = 2.0×10−9), SLC16A9 (p = 1.1×10−8), GCKR (p = 1.4×10−9), LRRC16A (p = 8.5×10−9), and near PDZK1 (p = 2.7×10−9). Identified variants were analyzed for gender differences. We found that the minor allele for rs734553 in SLC2A9 has greater influence in lowering uric acid levels in women and the minor allele of rs2231142 in ABCG2 elevates uric acid levels more strongly in men compared to women. To further characterize the identified variants, we analyzed their association with a panel of metabolites. rs12356193 within SLC16A9 was associated with DL-carnitine (p = 4.0×10−26) and propionyl-L-carnitine (p = 5.0×10−8) concentrations, which in turn were associated with serum UA levels (p = 1.4×10−57 and p = 8.1×10−54, respectively), forming a triangle between SNP, metabolites, and UA levels. Taken together, these associations highlight additional pathways that are important in the regulation of serum uric acid levels and point toward novel potential targets for pharmacological intervention to prevent or treat hyperuricemia. In addition, these findings strongly support the hypothesis that transport proteins are key in regulating serum uric acid levels.
Author Summary
Elevated serum uric acid levels cause gout and are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The regulation of serum uric acid levels is under a strong genetic control. This study describes the first meta-analysis of genome-wide association scans from 14 studies totalling 28,141 participants of European descent. We show that common DNA variants at nine different loci are associated with uric acid concentrations, five of which are novel. These variants are located within the genes coding for organic anion transporter 4 (SLC22A11), monocarboxylic acid transporter 9 (SLC16A9), glucokinase regulatory protein (GCKR), Carmil (LRRC16A), and near PDZ domain-containing 1 (PDZK1). Gender-specific effects are shown for variants within the recently identified genes coding for glucose transporter 9 (SLC2A9) and the ATP-binding cassette transporter (ABCG2). Based on screening of 163 metabolites, we show an association of one of the identified variants within SLC16A9 with DL-carnitine and propionyl-L-carnitine. Moreover, DL-carnitine and propionyl-L-carnitine were strongly correlated with serum UA levels, forming a triangle between SNP, metabolites and UA levels. Taken together, these associations highlight pathways that are important in the regulation of serum uric acid levels and point toward novel potential targets for pharmacological intervention to prevent or treat hyperuricemia.
PMCID: PMC2683940  PMID: 19503597

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