Metabolic traits are molecular phenotypes that can drive clinical phenotypes and may predict disease progression. Here, we report results from a metabolome- and genome-wide association study on 1H-NMR urine metabolic profiles. The study was conducted within an untargeted approach, employing a novel method for compound identification. From our discovery cohort of 835 Caucasian individuals who participated in the CoLaus study, we identified 139 suggestively significant (P<5×10−8) and independent associations between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and metabolome features. Fifty-six of these associations replicated in the TasteSensomics cohort, comprising 601 individuals from São Paulo of vastly diverse ethnic background. They correspond to eleven gene-metabolite associations, six of which had been previously identified in the urine metabolome and three in the serum metabolome. Our key novel findings are the associations of two SNPs with NMR spectral signatures pointing to fucose (rs492602, P = 6.9×10−44) and lysine (rs8101881, P = 1.2×10−33), respectively. Fine-mapping of the first locus pinpointed the FUT2 gene, which encodes a fucosyltransferase enzyme and has previously been associated with Crohn's disease. This implicates fucose as a potential prognostic disease marker, for which there is already published evidence from a mouse model. The second SNP lies within the SLC7A9 gene, rare mutations of which have been linked to severe kidney damage. The replication of previous associations and our new discoveries demonstrate the potential of untargeted metabolomics GWAS to robustly identify molecular disease markers.
The concentrations of small molecules known as metabolites, are subject to tight regulation in all organisms. Collectively, the metabolite concentrations make up the metabolome, which differs amongst individuals as a function of their environment and genetic makeup. In our study, we have further developed an untargeted approach to identify genetic factors affecting human metabolism. In this approach, we first identify all genetic variants that correlate with any of the measured metabolome features in a large set of individuals. For these variants, we then compute a profile of significance for association with all features, generating a signature that facilitates the expert or computational identification of the metabolite whose concentration is most likely affected by the genetic variant at hand. Our study replicated many of the previously reported genetically driven variations in human metabolism and revealed two new striking examples of genetic variations with a sizeable effect on the urine metabolome. Interestingly, in these two gene-metabolite pairs both the gene and the affected metabolite are related to human diseases – Crohn's disease in the first case, and kidney disease in the second. This highlights the connection between genetic predispositions, affected metabolites, and human health.
BACKGROUND & AIMS
Polymorphisms in IL28B were shown to affect clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in genome-wide association (GWA) studies. Only a fraction of patients with chronic HCV infection develop liver fibrosis, a process that might also be affected by genetic factors. We carried out a 2-stage GWA study of liver fibrosis progression related to HCV infection.
We studied well-characterized HCV-infected patients of European descent who had liver biopsies before treatment. We defined various liver fibrosis phenotypes on the basis of Metavir scores, with and without taking the duration of HCV infection into account. Our GWA analyses were conducted on a filtered primary cohort of 1161 patients using 780,650 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We genotyped 96 SNPs with P-values<5×10−5 from an independent replication cohort of 962 patients. We then assessed the most interesting replicated SNPs using DNA samples collected from 219 patients who participated in separate GWA studies of HCV clearance.
In the combined cohort of 2342 HCV-infected patients, the SNPs rs16851720 (in the total sample) and rs4374383 (in patients that received blood transfusions) were associated with fibrosis progression (Pcombined=8.9×10−9 and 1.1×10−9, respectively). The SNP rs16851720 is located within RNF7, which encodes an antioxidant that protects against apoptosis. The SNP rs4374383, together with another replicated SNP, rs9380516 (Pcombined=5.4×10−7), were linked to the functionally related genes MERTK and TULP1, which encode factors involved in phagocytosis of apoptotic cells by macrophages.
Our GWA study identified several susceptibility loci for HCV-induced liver fibrosis; these were linked to genes that regulate apoptosis. Apoptotic control might therefore be involved in liver fibrosis.
genetic analysis; risk factors; cirrhosis; liver disease
HIV-1 sequence diversity is affected by selection pressures arising from host genomic factors. Using paired human and viral data from 1071 individuals, we ran >3000 genome-wide scans, testing for associations between host DNA polymorphisms, HIV-1 sequence variation and plasma viral load (VL), while considering human and viral population structure. We observed significant human SNP associations to a total of 48 HIV-1 amino acid variants (p<2.4 × 10−12). All associated SNPs mapped to the HLA class I region. Clinical relevance of host and pathogen variation was assessed using VL results. We identified two critical advantages to the use of viral variation for identifying host factors: (1) association signals are much stronger for HIV-1 sequence variants than VL, reflecting the ‘intermediate phenotype’ nature of viral variation; (2) association testing can be run without any clinical data. The proposed genome-to-genome approach highlights sites of genomic conflict and is a strategy generally applicable to studies of host–pathogen interaction.
Developing treatments or vaccines for HIV is challenging because the genetic makeup of the virus is constantly changing in an effort to outwit the human immune system. Moreover, the immune system is highly variable as a result of the long-standing co-evolution of humans and microbes. Each individual will try to oppose the invading virus in a unique way, forcing the virus to acquire specific mutations that can be interpreted as the genetic signature of this one-against-one battle.
To explore the influence of co-evolution on HIV, Bartha et al. took samples of both human and viral genomes from 1071 individuals infected with HIV, the AIDS virus, and used genotyping and sequencing technology to obtain a comprehensive description of the genetic variation in both. Computational techniques were then used to search for links between variants in the human DNA sequences and variants in the viral sequences.
The most common type of genetic variation found in the human genome is a single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP for short: a SNP is produced when a single nucleotide – an A, C, G or T – is replaced by a different nucleotide. Bartha et al. found that SNPs within the human DNA sequences in their study were linked to variations in 48 amino acids in HIV. Moreover, all these SNPs were found within a group of genes known as the HLA (human leukocyte antigen) system, which encodes for proteins that play a vital role in the immune response. This work identified the areas of the human genome that put pressure on the AIDS virus, and the regions of the virus that serve to escape human control.
The approach developed by Bartha et al. allows the interactions between a microbe and a human host to be studied by looking at the genome of the microbe and the genome of the infected person. It also differentiates host-induced mutations that limit the capacity of the virus to do harm from those that are tolerated by the pathogen. A similar strategy could be used to study other infectious diseases.
human genomics; HIV; viral mutations; Human
Calcium is vital to the normal functioning of multiple organ systems and its serum concentration is tightly regulated. Apart from CASR, the genes associated with serum calcium are largely unknown. We conducted a genome-wide association meta-analysis of 39,400 individuals from 17 population-based cohorts and investigated the 14 most strongly associated loci in ≤21,679 additional individuals. Seven loci (six new regions) in association with serum calcium were identified and replicated. Rs1570669 near CYP24A1 (P = 9.1E-12), rs10491003 upstream of GATA3 (P = 4.8E-09) and rs7481584 in CARS (P = 1.2E-10) implicate regions involved in Mendelian calcemic disorders: Rs1550532 in DGKD (P = 8.2E-11), also associated with bone density, and rs7336933 near DGKH/KIAA0564 (P = 9.1E-10) are near genes that encode distinct isoforms of diacylglycerol kinase. Rs780094 is in GCKR. We characterized the expression of these genes in gut, kidney, and bone, and demonstrate modulation of gene expression in bone in response to dietary calcium in mice. Our results shed new light on the genetics of calcium homeostasis.
Calcium is vital to many biological processes and its serum concentration is tightly regulated. Family studies have shown that serum calcium is under strong genetic control. Apart from CASR, the genes associated with serum calcium are largely unknown. We conducted a genome-wide association meta-analysis of 39,400 individuals from 17 population-based cohorts and investigated the 14 most strongly associated loci in ≤21,679 additional individuals. We identified seven loci (six new regions) as being robustly associated with serum calcium. Three loci implicate regions involved in rare monogenic diseases including disturbances of serum calcium levels. Several of the newly identified loci harbor genes linked to the hormonal control of serum calcium. In mice experiments, we characterized the expression of these genes in gut, kidney, and bone, and explored the influence of dietary calcium intake on the expression of these genes in these organs. Our results shed new light on the genetics of calcium homeostasis and suggest a role for dietary calcium intake in bone-specific gene expression.
A genome-wide association study of educational attainment was conducted in a discovery sample of 101,069 individuals and a replication sample of 25,490. Three independent SNPs are genome-wide significant (rs9320913, rs11584700, rs4851266), and all three replicate. Estimated effects sizes are small (R2 ≈ 0.02%), approximately 1 month of schooling per allele. A linear polygenic score from all measured SNPs accounts for ≈ 2% of the variance in both educational attainment and cognitive function. Genes in the region of the loci have previously been associated with health, cognitive, and central nervous system phenotypes, and bioinformatics analyses suggest the involvement of the anterior caudate nucleus. These findings provide promising candidate SNPs for follow-up work, and our effect size estimates can anchor power analyses in social-science genetics.
Human perception of bitterness displays pronounced interindividual variation. This phenotypic variation is mirrored by equally pronounced genetic variation in the family of bitter taste receptor genes. To better understand the effects of common genetic variations on human bitter taste perception, we conducted a genome-wide association study on a discovery panel of 504 subjects and a validation panel of 104 subjects from the general population of São Paulo in Brazil. Correction for general taste-sensitivity allowed us to identify a SNP in the cluster of bitter taste receptors on chr12 (10.88– 11.24 Mb, build 36.1) significantly associated (best SNP: rs2708377, P = 5.31 × 10−13, r2 = 8.9%, β = −0.12, s.e. = 0.016) with the perceived bitterness of caffeine. This association overlaps with—but is statistically distinct from—the previously identified SNP rs10772420 influencing the perception of quinine bitterness that falls in the same bitter taste cluster. We replicated this association to quinine perception (P = 4.97 × 10−37, r2 = 23.2%, β = 0.25, s.e. = 0.020) and additionally found the effect of this genetic locus to be concentration specific with a strong impact on the perception of low, but no impact on the perception of high concentrations of quinine. Our study, thus, furthers our understanding of the complex genetic architecture of bitter taste perception.
Elevated serum urate concentrations can cause gout, a prevalent and painful inflammatory arthritis. By combining data from >140,000 individuals of European ancestry within the Global Urate Genetics Consortium (GUGC), we identified and replicated 28 genome-wide significant loci in association with serum urate concentrations (18 new regions in or near TRIM46, INHBB, SFMBT1, TMEM171, VEGFA, BAZ1B, PRKAG2, STC1, HNF4G, A1CF, ATXN2, UBE2Q2, IGF1R, NFAT5, MAF, HLF, ACVR1B-ACVRL1 and B3GNT4). Associations for many of the loci were of similar magnitude in individuals of non-European ancestry. We further characterized these loci for associations with gout, transcript expression and the fractional excretion of urate. Network analyses implicate the inhibins-activins signaling pathways and glucose metabolism in systemic urate control. New candidate genes for serum urate concentration highlight the importance of metabolic control of urate production and excretion, which may have implications for the treatment and prevention of gout.
Birth weight within the normal range is associated with a variety of adult-onset diseases, but the mechanisms behind these associations are poorly understood1. Previous genome-wide association studies identified a variant in the ADCY5 gene associated both with birth weight and type 2 diabetes, and a second variant, near CCNL1, with no obvious link to adult traits2. In an expanded genome-wide association meta-analysis and follow-up study (up to 69,308 individuals of European descent from 43 studies), we have now extended the number of genome-wide significant loci to seven, accounting for a similar proportion of variance to maternal smoking. Five of the loci are known to be associated with other phenotypes: ADCY5 and CDKAL1 with type 2 diabetes; ADRB1 with adult blood pressure; and HMGA2 and LCORL with adult height. Our findings highlight genetic links between fetal growth and postnatal growth and metabolism.
Given the anthropometric differences between men and women and previous evidence of sex-difference in genetic effects, we conducted a genome-wide search for sexually dimorphic associations with height, weight, body mass index, waist circumference, hip circumference, and waist-to-hip-ratio (133,723 individuals) and took forward 348 SNPs into follow-up (additional 137,052 individuals) in a total of 94 studies. Seven loci displayed significant sex-difference (FDR<5%), including four previously established (near GRB14/COBLL1, LYPLAL1/SLC30A10, VEGFA, ADAMTS9) and three novel anthropometric trait loci (near MAP3K1, HSD17B4, PPARG), all of which were genome-wide significant in women (P<5×10−8), but not in men. Sex-differences were apparent only for waist phenotypes, not for height, weight, BMI, or hip circumference. Moreover, we found no evidence for genetic effects with opposite directions in men versus women. The PPARG locus is of specific interest due to its role in diabetes genetics and therapy. Our results demonstrate the value of sex-specific GWAS to unravel the sexually dimorphic genetic underpinning of complex traits.
Men and women differ substantially regarding height, weight, and body fat. Interestingly, previous work detecting genetic effects for waist-to-hip ratio, to assess body fat distribution, has found that many of these showed sex-differences. However, systematic searches for sex-differences in genetic effects have not yet been conducted. Therefore, we undertook a genome-wide search for sexually dimorphic genetic effects for anthropometric traits including 133,723 individuals in a large meta-analysis and followed promising variants in further 137,052 individuals, including a total of 94 studies. We identified seven loci with significant sex-difference including four previously established (near GRB14/COBLL1, LYPLAL1/SLC30A10, VEGFA, ADAMTS9) and three novel anthropometric trait loci (near MAP3K1, HSD17B4, PPARG), all of which were significant in women, but not in men. Of interest is that sex-difference was only observed for waist phenotypes, but not for height or body-mass-index. We found no evidence for sex-differences with opposite effect direction for men and women. The PPARG locus is of specific interest due to its link to diabetes genetics and therapy. Our findings demonstrate the importance of investigating sex differences, which may lead to a better understanding of disease mechanisms with a potential relevance to treatment options.
Differences between genomes can be due to single nucleotide variants, translocations, inversions, and copy number variants (CNVs, gain or loss of DNA). The latter can range from sub-microscopic events to complete chromosomal aneuploidies. Small CNVs are often benign but those larger than 500 kb are strongly associated with morbid consequences such as developmental disorders and cancer. Detecting CNVs within and between populations is essential to better understand the plasticity of our genome and to elucidate its possible contribution to disease. Hence there is a need for better-tailored and more robust tools for the detection and genome-wide analyses of CNVs. While a link between a given CNV and a disease may have often been established, the relative CNV contribution to disease progression and impact on drug response is not necessarily understood. In this review we discuss the progress, challenges, and limitations that occur at different stages of CNV analysis from the detection (using DNA microarrays and next-generation sequencing) and identification of recurrent CNVs to the association with phenotypes. We emphasize the importance of germline CNVs and propose strategies to aid clinicians to better interpret structural variations and assess their clinical implications.
copy number variation; genome-wide association studies; personalized medicine; sequencing; complex disease; genomics; bioinformatics
Gene–lifestyle interactions have been suggested to contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. Glucose levels 2 h after a standard 75-g glucose challenge are used to diagnose diabetes and are associated with both genetic and lifestyle factors. However, whether these factors interact to determine 2-h glucose levels is unknown. We meta-analyzed single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) × BMI and SNP × physical activity (PA) interaction regression models for five SNPs previously associated with 2-h glucose levels from up to 22 studies comprising 54,884 individuals without diabetes. PA levels were dichotomized, with individuals below the first quintile classified as inactive (20%) and the remainder as active (80%). BMI was considered a continuous trait. Inactive individuals had higher 2-h glucose levels than active individuals (β = 0.22 mmol/L [95% CI 0.13–0.31], P = 1.63 × 10−6). All SNPs were associated with 2-h glucose (β = 0.06–0.12 mmol/allele, P ≤ 1.53 × 10−7), but no significant interactions were found with PA (P > 0.18) or BMI (P ≥ 0.04). In this large study of gene–lifestyle interaction, we observed no interactions between genetic and lifestyle factors, both of which were associated with 2-h glucose. It is perhaps unlikely that top loci from genome-wide association studies will exhibit strong subgroup-specific effects, and may not, therefore, make the best candidates for the study of interactions.
There is evidence across several species for genetic control of phenotypic variation of complex traits1–4, such that the variance among phenotypes is genotype dependent. Understanding genetic control of variability is important in evolutionary biology, agricultural selection programmes and human medicine, yet for complex traits, no individual genetic variants associated with variance, as opposed to the mean, have been identified. Here we perform a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies of phenotypic variation using 170,000 samples on height and body mass index (BMI) in human populations. We report evidence that the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs7202116 at the FTO gene locus, which is known to be associated with obesity (as measured by mean BMI for each rs7202116 genotype)5–7, is also associated with phenotypic variability. We show that the results are not due to scale effects or other artefacts, and find no other experiment-wise significant evidence for effects on variability, either at loci other than FTO for BMI or at any locus for height. The difference in variance for BMI among individuals with opposite homozygous genotypes at the FTO locus is approximately 7%, corresponding to a difference of 0.5 kilograms in the standard deviation of weight. Our results indicate that genetic variants can be discovered that are associated with variability, and that between-person variability in obesity can partly be explained by the genotype at the FTO locus. The results are consistent with reported FTO by environment interactions for BMI8, possibly mediated by DNA methylation9,10. Our BMI results for other SNPs and our height results for all SNPs suggest that most genetic variants, including those that influence mean height or mean BMI, are not associated with phenotypic variance, or that their effects on variability are too small to detect even with samples sizes greater than 100,000.
The recurrent ∼600 kb 16p11.2 BP4-BP5 deletion is among the most frequent known genetic aetiologies of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related neurodevelopmental disorders.
To define the medical, neuropsychological, and behavioural phenotypes in carriers of this deletion.
We collected clinical data on 285 deletion carriers and performed detailed evaluations on 72 carriers and 68 intrafamilial non-carrier controls.
When compared to intrafamilial controls, full scale intelligence quotient (FSIQ) is two standard deviations lower in carriers, and there is no difference between carriers referred for neurodevelopmental disorders and carriers identified through cascade family testing. Verbal IQ (mean 74) is lower than non-verbal IQ (mean 83) and a majority of carriers require speech therapy. Over 80% of individuals exhibit psychiatric disorders including ASD, which is present in 15% of the paediatric carriers. Increase in head circumference (HC) during infancy is similar to the HC and brain growth patterns observed in idiopathic ASD. Obesity, a major comorbidity present in 50% of the carriers by the age of 7 years, does not correlate with FSIQ or any behavioural trait. Seizures are present in 24% of carriers and occur independently of other symptoms. Malformations are infrequently found, confirming only a few of the previously reported associations.
The 16p11.2 deletion impacts in a quantitative and independent manner FSIQ, behaviour and body mass index, possibly through direct influences on neural circuitry. Although non-specific, these features are clinically significant and reproducible. Lastly, this study demonstrates the necessity of studying large patient cohorts ascertained through multiple methods to characterise the clinical consequences of rare variants involved in common diseases.
Clinical genetics; Obesity; Psychiatry; Complex traits
Polysaccharide sidechains attached to proteins play important roles in cell–cell and receptor–ligand interactions. Variation in the carbohydrate component has been extensively studied for the iron transport protein transferrin, because serum levels of the transferrin isoforms asialotransferrin + disialotransferrin (carbohydrate-deficient transferrin, CDT) are used as biomarkers of excessive alcohol intake. We conducted a genome-wide association study to assess whether genetic factors affect CDT concentration in serum. CDT was measured in three population-based studies: one in Switzerland (CoLaus study, n = 5181) and two in Australia (n = 1509, n = 775). The first cohort was used as the discovery panel and the latter ones served as replication. Genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) typing data were used to identify loci with significant associations with CDT as a percentage of total transferrin (CDT%). The top three SNPs in the discovery panel (rs2749097 near PGM1 on chromosome 1, and missense polymorphisms rs1049296, rs1799899 in TF on chromosome 3) were successfully replicated , yielding genome-wide significant combined association with CDT% (P = 1.9 × 10−9, 4 × 10−39, 5.5 × 10−43, respectively) and explain 5.8% of the variation in CDT%. These allelic effects are postulated to be caused by variation in availability of glucose-1-phosphate as a precursor of the glycan (PGM1), and variation in transferrin (TF) structure.
Essential hypertension is a multi-factorial disorder and is the main risk factor for renal and cardiovascular complications. The research on the genetics of hypertension has been frustrated by the small predictive value of the discovered genetic variants. The HYPERGENES Project investigated associations between genetic variants and essential hypertension pursuing a two-stage study by recruiting cases and controls from extensively characterized cohorts recruited over many years in different European regions.
The discovery phase consisted of 1,865 cases and 1,750 controls genotyped with 1M Illumina array. Best hits were followed up in a validation panel of 1,385 cases and 1,246 controls that were genotyped with a custom array of 14,055 markers. We identified a new hypertension susceptibility locus (rs3918226) in the promoter region of the endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) gene (odds ratio 1.54; 95% CI 1.37-1.73; combined p=2.58·10−13). A meta-analysis, using other in-silico/de novo genotyping data for a total of 21714 subjects, resulted in an overall odds ratio of 1.34 (95% CI 1.25-1.44, p=1.032·10−14). The quantitative analysis on a population-based sample revealed an effect size of 1.91 (95% CI 0.16-3.66) for systolic and 1.40 (95% CI 0.25-2.55) for diastolic blood pressure. We identified in-silico a potential binding site for ETS transcription-factors directly next to rs3918226, suggesting a potential modulation of eNOS expression. Biological evidence links eNOS with hypertension, as it is a critical mediator of cardiovascular homeostasis and blood pressure control via vascular tone regulation. This finding supports the hypothesis that there may be a causal genetic variation at this locus.
genetic epidemiology; risk factors; genetics-association studies; nitric oxide; Essential Hypertension
The male-to-female sex ratio at birth is constant across world populations with an average of 1.06 (106 male to 100 female live births) for populations of European descent. The sex ratio is considered to be affected by numerous biological and environmental factors and to have a heritable component. The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of common allele modest effects at autosomal and chromosome X variants that could explain the observed sex ratio at birth. We conducted a large-scale genome-wide association scan (GWAS) meta-analysis across 51 studies, comprising overall 114 863 individuals (61 094 women and 53 769 men) of European ancestry and 2 623 828 common (minor allele frequency >0.05) single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Allele frequencies were compared between men and women for directly-typed and imputed variants within each study. Forward-time simulations for unlinked, neutral, autosomal, common loci were performed under the demographic model for European populations with a fixed sex ratio and a random mating scheme to assess the probability of detecting significant allele frequency differences. We do not detect any genome-wide significant (P < 5 × 10−8) common SNP differences between men and women in this well-powered meta-analysis. The simulated data provided results entirely consistent with these findings. This large-scale investigation across ∼115 000 individuals shows no detectable contribution from common genetic variants to the observed skew in the sex ratio. The absence of sex-specific differences is useful in guiding genetic association study design, for example when using mixed controls for sex-biased traits.
Genotypes obtained with commercial SNP arrays have been extensively used in many large case-control or population-based cohorts for SNP-based genome-wide association studies for a multitude of traits. Yet, these genotypes capture only a small fraction of the variance of the studied traits. Genomic structural variants (GSV) such as Copy Number Variation (CNV) may account for part of the missing heritability, but their comprehensive detection requires either next-generation arrays or sequencing. Sophisticated algorithms that infer CNVs by combining the intensities from SNP-probes for the two alleles can already be used to extract a partial view of such GSV from existing data sets.
Here we present several advances to facilitate the latter approach. First, we introduce a novel CNV detection method based on a Gaussian Mixture Model. Second, we propose a new algorithm, PCA merge, for combining copy-number profiles from many individuals into consensus regions. We applied both our new methods as well as existing ones to data from 5612 individuals from the CoLaus study who were genotyped on Affymetrix 500K arrays. We developed a number of procedures in order to evaluate the performance of the different methods. This includes comparison with previously published CNVs as well as using a replication sample of 239 individuals, genotyped with Illumina 550K arrays. We also established a new evaluation procedure that employs the fact that related individuals are expected to share their CNVs more frequently than randomly selected individuals. The ability to detect both rare and common CNVs provides a valuable resource that will facilitate association studies exploring potential phenotypic associations with CNVs.
Our new methodologies for CNV detection and their evaluation will help in extracting additional information from the large amount of SNP-genotyping data on various cohorts and use this to explore structural variants and their impact on complex traits.
Brachial circumference (BC), also known as upper arm or mid arm circumference, can be used as an indicator of muscle mass and fat tissue, which are distributed differently in men and women. Analysis of anthropometric measures of peripheral fat distribution such as BC could help in understanding the complex pathophysiology behind overweight and obesity. The purpose of this study is to identify genetic variants associated with BC through a large-scale genome-wide association scan (GWAS) meta-analysis. We used fixed-effects meta-analysis to synthesise summary results across 14 GWAS discovery and 4 replication cohorts comprising overall 22,376 individuals (12,031 women and 10,345 men) of European ancestry. Individual analyses were carried out for men, women, and combined across sexes using linear regression and an additive genetic model: adjusted for age and adjusted for age and BMI. We prioritised signals for follow-up in two-stages. We did not detect any signals reaching genome-wide significance. The FTO rs9939609 SNP showed nominal evidence for association (p<0.05) in the age-adjusted strata for men and across both sexes. In this first GWAS meta-analysis for BC to date, we have not identified any genome-wide significant signals and do not observe robust association of previously established obesity loci with BC. Large-scale collaborations will be necessary to achieve higher power to detect loci underlying BC.
The degree of conservation of gene expression between homologous organs largely remains an open question. Several recent studies reported some evidence in favor of such conservation. Most studies compute organs' similarity across all orthologous genes, whereas the expression level of many genes are not informative about organ specificity.
Here, we use a modularization algorithm to overcome this limitation through the identification of inter-species co-modules of organs and genes. We identify such co-modules using mouse and human microarray expression data. They are functionally coherent both in terms of genes and of organs from both organisms. We show that a large proportion of genes belonging to the same co-module are orthologous between mouse and human. Moreover, their zebrafish orthologs also tend to be expressed in the corresponding homologous organs. Notable exceptions to the general pattern of conservation are the testis and the olfactory bulb. Interestingly, some co-modules consist of single organs, while others combine several functionally related organs. For instance, amygdala, cerebral cortex, hypothalamus and spinal cord form a clearly discernible unit of expression, both in mouse and human.
Our study provides a new framework for comparative analysis which will be applicable also to other sets of large-scale phenotypic data collected across different species.
Genome-wide association studies have been instrumental in identifying genetic variants associated with complex traits such as human disease or gene expression phenotypes. It has been proposed that extending existing analysis methods by considering interactions between pairs of loci may uncover additional genetic effects. However, the large number of possible two-marker tests presents significant computational and statistical challenges. Although several strategies to detect epistasis effects have been proposed and tested for specific phenotypes, so far there has been no systematic attempt to compare their performance using real data. We made use of thousands of gene expression traits from linkage and eQTL studies, to compare the performance of different strategies. We found that using information from marginal associations between markers and phenotypes to detect epistatic effects yielded a lower false discovery rate (FDR) than a strategy solely using biological annotation in yeast, whereas results from human data were inconclusive. For future studies whose aim is to discover epistatic effects, we recommend incorporating information about marginal associations between SNPs and phenotypes instead of relying solely on biological annotation. Improved methods to discover epistatic effects will result in a more complete understanding of complex genetic effects.
To identify loci for age at menarche, we performed a meta-analysis of 32 genome-wide association studies in 87,802 women of European descent, with replication in up to 14,731 women. In addition to the known loci at LIN28B (P=5.4×10−60) and 9q31.2 (P=2.2×10−33), we identified 30 novel menarche loci (all P<5×10−8) and found suggestive evidence for a further 10 loci (P<1.9×10−6). New loci included four previously associated with BMI (in/near FTO, SEC16B, TRA2B and TMEM18), three in/near other genes implicated in energy homeostasis (BSX, CRTC1, and MCHR2), and three in/near genes implicated in hormonal regulation (INHBA, PCSK2 and RXRG). Ingenuity and MAGENTA pathway analyses identified coenzyme A and fatty acid biosynthesis as biological processes related to menarche timing.
Natural genetic variation can have a pronounced influence on human taste perception, which in turn may influence food preference and dietary choice. Genome-wide association studies represent a powerful tool to understand this influence. To help optimize the design of future genome-wide-association studies on human taste perception we have used the well-known TAS2R38-PROP association as a tool to determine the relative power and efficiency of different phenotyping and data-analysis strategies. The results show that the choice of both data collection and data processing schemes can have a very substantial impact on the power to detect genotypic variation that affects chemosensory perception. Based on these results we provide practical guidelines for the design of future GWAS studies on chemosensory phenotypes. Moreover, in addition to the TAS2R38 gene past studies have implicated a number of other genetic loci to affect taste sensitivity to PROP and the related bitter compound PTC. None of these other locations showed genome-wide significant associations in our study. To facilitate further, target-gene driven, studies on PROP taste perception we provide the genome-wide list of p-values for all SNPs genotyped in the current study.
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.
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.
Family studies suggest a genetic component to the etiology of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end stage renal disease (ESRD). Previously, we identified 16 loci for eGFR in genome-wide association studies, but the associations of these single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for incident CKD or ESRD are unknown. We thus investigated the association of these loci with incident CKD in 26,308 individuals of European ancestry free of CKD at baseline drawn from eight population-based cohorts followed for a median of 7.2 years (including 2,122 incident CKD cases defined as eGFR <60ml/min/1.73m2 at follow-up) and with ESRD in four case-control studies in subjects of European ancestry (3,775 cases, 4,577 controls). SNPs at 11 of the 16 loci (UMOD, PRKAG2, ANXA9, DAB2, SHROOM3, DACH1, STC1, SLC34A1, ALMS1/NAT8, UBE2Q2, and GCKR) were associated with incident CKD; p-values ranged from p = 4.1e-9 in UMOD to p = 0.03 in GCKR. After adjusting for baseline eGFR, six of these loci remained significantly associated with incident CKD (UMOD, PRKAG2, ANXA9, DAB2, DACH1, and STC1). SNPs in UMOD (OR = 0.92, p = 0.04) and GCKR (OR = 0.93, p = 0.03) were nominally associated with ESRD. In summary, the majority of eGFR-related loci are either associated or show a strong trend towards association with incident CKD, but have modest associations with ESRD in individuals of European descent. Additional work is required to characterize the association of genetic determinants of CKD and ESRD at different stages of disease progression.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects about 6%–11% of the general population, and progression to end stage renal disease (ESRD) has a significant public health impact. Family studies suggest that the risk for CKD and ESRD is heritable. Unraveling the genetic underpinning of risk for these diseases may lead to the identification of novel mechanisms and thus diagnostic and therapeutic tools. We have previously identified 16 genetic markers in association with kidney function and prevalent CKD in general population studies. However, little is known about the relevance of these SNPs to the initial development of CKD or to ESRD risk. Therefore, we have now analyzed the association of these markers with the initiation of CKD in more than 26,000 individuals from the general population using serial estimations of kidney function, and with ESRD in four case-control studies in subjects of European ancestry (3,775 cases, 4,577 controls). We show that many of the 16 markers are also associated or show a strong trend towards association with initiation of CKD, while only 2 markers are nominally associated with ESRD. Further work is required to characterize the association of genetic determinants of different stages of CKD progression.
Waist-hip ratio (WHR) is a measure of body fat distribution and a predictor of metabolic consequences independent of overall adiposity. WHR is heritable, but few genetic variants influencing this trait have been identified. We conducted a meta-analysis of 32 genome-wide association studies for WHR adjusted for body-mass-index (up to 77,167 participants), following up 16 loci in an additional 29 studies (up to 113,636 subjects). We identified 13 novel loci in or near RSPO3, VEGFA, TBX15-WARS2, NFE2L3, GRB14, DNM3-PIGC, ITPR2-SSPN, LY86, HOXC13, ADAMTS9, ZNRF3-KREMEN1, NISCH-STAB1, and CPEB4 (P 1.9 × 10−9 to 1.8 × 10−40), and the known signal at LYPLAL1. Seven of these loci exhibited marked sexual dimorphism, all with a stronger effect on WHR in women than men (P for sex-difference 1.9 × 10−3 to 1.2 × 10−13). These findings provide evidence for multiple loci that modulate body fat distribution, independent of overall adiposity, and reveal powerful gene-by-sex interactions.
genome-wide association; waist-hip-ratio; body fat distribution; central obesity; meta-analysis; genetics; visceral adipose tissue; metabolism; body composition; Expression Quantitative Trait Loci; sex difference