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1.  Mapping cis- and trans-regulatory effects across multiple tissues in twins 
Nature genetics  2012;44(10):1084-1089.
Sequence-based variation in gene expression is a key driver of disease risk. Common variants regulating expression in cis have been mapped in many eQTL studies typically in single tissues from unrelated individuals. Here, we present a comprehensive analysis of gene expression across multiple tissues conducted in a large set of mono- and dizygotic twins that allows systematic dissection of genetic (cis and trans) and non-genetic effects on gene expression. Using identity-by-descent estimates, we show that at least 40% of the total heritable cis-effect on expression cannot be accounted for by common cis-variants, a finding which exposes the contribution of low frequency and rare regulatory variants with respect to both transcriptional regulation and complex trait susceptibility. We show that a substantial proportion of gene expression heritability is trans to the structural gene and identify several replicating trans-variants which act predominantly in a tissue-restricted manner and may regulate the transcription of many genes.
PMCID: PMC3784328  PMID: 22941192
2.  Parental origin of sequence variants associated with complex diseases 
Nature  2009;462(7275):868-874.
Effects of susceptibility variants may depend on from which parent they are inherited. While many associations between sequence variants and human traits have been discovered through genome-wide associations, the impact of parental origin has largely been ignored. Combining genealogy with long range phasing, we demonstrate that for 38,167 Icelanders genotyped using SNP chips, the parental origin of most alleles can be determined. We then focused on SNPs that associate with diseases and are within 500kb of known imprinted genes. Seven independent SNP associations were examined. Five, one each with breast cancer and basal cell carcinoma, and three with type 2 diabetes (T2D), exhibit parental-origin specific associations. These variants are located in two genomic regions, 11p15 and 7q32, each harbouring a cluster of imprinted genes. Furthermore, a novel variant rs2334499 at 11p15 was seen to associate with T2D where the allele that confers risk when paternally inherited is protective when maternally transmitted. We identified a differentially methylated CTCF binding site at 11p15 and demonstrated correlation of rs2334499 with decreased methylation of that site.
PMCID: PMC3746295  PMID: 20016592
3.  Variant in the sequence of the LINGO1 gene confers risk of essential tremor 
Nature genetics  2009;41(3):277-279.
We identified a marker in LINGO1 showing genome-wide significant association (P = 1.2 × 10−9, odds ratio = 1.55) with essential tremor. LINGO1 has potent, negative regulatory influences on neuronal survival and is also important in regulating both central-nervous-system axon regeneration and oligodendrocyte maturation. An increase in the number of fusiform swellings of Purkinje cell axons in LINGO1 knockout models highlights the potential role of LINGO1 in essential tremor pathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC3740956  PMID: 19182806
4.  Variant of TREM2 Associated with the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease 
The New England journal of medicine  2012;368(2):107-116.
Sequence variants, including the ε4 allele of apolipoprotein E, have been associated with the risk of the common late-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease. Few rare variants affecting the risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease have been found.
We obtained the genome sequences of 2261 Icelanders and identified sequence variants that were likely to affect protein function. We imputed these variants into the genomes of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and control participants and then tested for an association with Alzheimer’s disease. We performed replication tests using case–control series from the United States, Norway, the Netherlands, and Germany. We also tested for a genetic association with cognitive function in a population of unaffected elderly persons.
A rare missense mutation (rs75932628-T) in the gene encoding the triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 (TREM2), which was predicted to result in an R47H substitution, was found to confer a significant risk of Alzheimer’s disease in Iceland (odds ratio, 2.92; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.09 to 4.09; P = 3.42×10−10). The mutation had a frequency of 0.46% in controls 85 years of age or older. We observed the association in additional sample sets (odds ratio, 2.90; 95% CI, 2.16 to 3.91; P = 2.1×10−12 in combined discovery and replication samples). We also found that carriers of rs75932628-T between the ages of 80 and 100 years without Alzheimer’s disease had poorer cognitive function than noncarriers (P = 0.003).
Our findings strongly implicate variant TREM2 in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Given the reported antiinflammatory role of TREM2 in the brain, the R47H substitution may lead to an increased predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease through impaired containment of inflammatory processes. (Funded by the National Institute on Aging and others.)
PMCID: PMC3677583  PMID: 23150908
5.  Genetic Architecture of Vitamin B12 and Folate Levels Uncovered Applying Deeply Sequenced Large Datasets 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(6):e1003530.
Genome-wide association studies have mainly relied on common HapMap sequence variations. Recently, sequencing approaches have allowed analysis of low frequency and rare variants in conjunction with common variants, thereby improving the search for functional variants and thus the understanding of the underlying biology of human traits and diseases. Here, we used a large Icelandic whole genome sequence dataset combined with Danish exome sequence data to gain insight into the genetic architecture of serum levels of vitamin B12 (B12) and folate. Up to 22.9 million sequence variants were analyzed in combined samples of 45,576 and 37,341 individuals with serum B12 and folate measurements, respectively. We found six novel loci associating with serum B12 (CD320, TCN2, ABCD4, MMAA, MMACHC) or folate levels (FOLR3) and confirmed seven loci for these traits (TCN1, FUT6, FUT2, CUBN, CLYBL, MUT, MTHFR). Conditional analyses established that four loci contain additional independent signals. Interestingly, 13 of the 18 identified variants were coding and 11 of the 13 target genes have known functions related to B12 and folate pathways. Contrary to epidemiological studies we did not find consistent association of the variants with cardiovascular diseases, cancers or Alzheimer's disease although some variants demonstrated pleiotropic effects. Although to some degree impeded by low statistical power for some of these conditions, these data suggest that sequence variants that contribute to the population diversity in serum B12 or folate levels do not modify the risk of developing these conditions. Yet, the study demonstrates the value of combining whole genome and exome sequencing approaches to ascertain the genetic and molecular architectures underlying quantitative trait associations.
Author Summary
Genome-wide association studies have in recent years revealed a wealth of common variants associated with common diseases and phenotypes. We took advantage of the advances in sequencing technologies to study the association of low frequency and rare variants in conjunction with common variants with serum levels of vitamin B12 (B12) and folate in Icelanders and Danes. We found 18 independent signals in 13 loci associated with serum B12 or folate levels. Interestingly, 13 of the 18 identified variants are coding and 11 of the 13 target genes have known functions related to B12 and folate pathways. These data indicate that the target genes at all of the loci have been identified. Epidemiological studies have shown a relationship between serum B12 and folate levels and the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and Alzheimer's disease. We investigated association between the identified variants and these diseases but did not find consistent association.
PMCID: PMC3674994  PMID: 23754956
6.  A study based on whole-genome sequencing yields a rare variant at 8q24 associated with prostate cancer 
Nature genetics  2012;44(12):1326-1329.
Western countries, prostate cancer is the most prevalent cancer of men, and one of the leading causes of cancer-related death in men. Several genome-wide association studies have yielded numerous common variants conferring risk of prostate cancer. In the present study we analyzed 32.5 million variants discovered by whole-genome sequencing 1,795 Icelanders. One variant was found to be associated with prostate cancer in European populations: rs188140481[A] (OR = 2.90, Pcomb = 6.2×10−34) located on 8q24, with an average risk allele control frequency of 0.54%. This variant is only very weakly correlated (r2 ≤ 0.06) with previously reported risk variants on 8q24, and remains significant after adjustment for all of them. Carriers of rs188140481[A] were diagnosed with prostate cancer 1.26 years younger than non-carriers (P = 0.0059). We also report results for the previously described HOXB13 mutation (rs138213197[T]), confirming it as prostate cancer risk variant in populations from all over Europe.
PMCID: PMC3562711  PMID: 23104005
7.  Common variants on 9q22.33 and 14q13.3 predispose to thyroid cancer in European populations 
Nature genetics  2009;41(4):460-464.
In order to search for sequence variants conferring risk of thyroid cancer we conducted a genome-wide association study in 192 and 37,196 Icelandic cases and controls, respectively, followed by a replication study in individuals of European descent. Here we show that two common variants, located on 9q22.33 and 14q13.3, are associated with the disease. Overall, the strongest association signals were observed for rs965513 on 9q22.33 (OR = 1.75; P = 1.7 × 10−27) and rs944289 on 14q13.3 (OR = 1.37; P = 2.0 × 10−9). The gene nearest to the 9q22.33 locus is FOXE1 (TTF2) and NKX2-1 (TTF1) is among the genes located at the 14q13.3 locus. Both variants contribute to an increased risk of both papillary and follicular thyroid cancer. Approximately 3.7% of individuals are homozygous for both variants, and their estimated risk of thyroid cancer is 5.7-fold greater than that of noncarriers. In a study on a large sample set from the general population, both risk alleles are associated with low concentrations of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and the 9q22.33 allele is associated with low concentration of thyroxin (T4) and high concentration of triiodothyronine (T3).
PMCID: PMC3664837  PMID: 19198613
8.  Discovery of common variants associated with low TSH levels and thyroid cancer risk 
Nature genetics  2012;44(3):319-322.
To search for sequence variants conferring risk of nonmedullary thyroid cancer, we focused our analysis on 22 SNPs with a P < 5 × 10−8 in a genome-wide association study on levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in 27,758 Icelanders. Of those, rs965513 has previously been shown to associate with thyroid cancer. The remaining 21 SNPs were genotyped in 561 Icelandic individuals with thyroid cancer (cases) and up to 40,013 controls. Variants suggestively associated with thyroid cancer (P < 0.05) were genotyped in an additional 595 non-Icelandic cases and 2,604 controls. After combining the results, three variants were shown to associate with thyroid cancer: rs966423 on 2q35 (OR = 1.34; Pcombined = 1.3 × 10−9), rs2439302 on 8p12 (OR = 1.36; Pcombined = 2.0 × 10−9) and rs116909374 on 14q13.3 (OR = 2.09; Pcombined = 4.6 × 10−11), a region previously reported to contain an uncorrelated variant conferring risk of thyroid cancer. A strong association (P = 9.1 × 10−91) was observed between rs2439302 on 8p12 and expression of NRG1, which encodes the signaling protein neuregulin 1, in blood.
PMCID: PMC3655412  PMID: 22267200
9.  A direct characterization of human mutation based on microsatellites 
Nature genetics  2012;44(10):1161-1165.
Mutations are the raw material of evolution, but have been difficult to study directly. We report the largest study of new mutations to date: 2,058 germline changes discovered by analyzing 85,289 Icelanders at 2,477 microsatellites. The paternal-to-maternal mutation rate ratio is 3.3, and the rate in fathers doubles from age 20 to 58 whereas there is no association with age in mothers. Longer microsatellite alleles are more mutagenic and tend to decrease in length, whereas the opposite is seen for shorter alleles. We use these empirical observations to build a model that we apply to individuals for whom we have both genome sequence and microsatellite data, allowing us to estimate key parameters of evolution without calibration to the fossil record. We infer that the sequence mutation rate is 1.4–2.3×10−8 per base pair per generation (90% credible interval), and that human-chimpanzee speciation occurred 3.7–6.6 million years ago.
PMCID: PMC3459271  PMID: 22922873
10.  Rate of de novo mutations, father’s age, and disease risk 
Nature  2012;488(7412):471-475.
Mutations generate sequence diversity and provide a substrate for selection. The rate of de novo mutations is therefore of major importance to evolution. We conducted a study of genomewide mutation rate by sequencing the entire genomes of 78 Icelandic parent-offspring trios at high coverage. Here we show that in our samples, with an average father’s age of 29.7, the average de novo mutation rate is 1.20×10−8 per nucleotide per generation. Most strikingly, the diversity in mutation rate of single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) is dominated by the age of the father at conception of the child. The effect is an increase of about 2 mutations per year. After accounting for random Poisson variation, father’s age is estimated to explain nearly all of the remaining variation in the de novo mutation counts. These observations shed light on the importance of the father’s age on the risk of diseases such as schizophrenia and autism.
PMCID: PMC3548427  PMID: 22914163
11.  Genetic correction of PSA values using sequence variants associated with PSA levels 
Science translational medicine  2010;2(62):62ra92.
Measuring serum levels of the prostate specific antigen (PSA) is the most common screening method for prostate cancer. However, PSA levels are affected by a number of factors apart from neoplasia. Notably, around 40% of the variability of PSA levels in the general population is accounted for by inherited factors, suggesting that it may be possible to improve both sensitivity and specificity by adjusting test results for genetic effects. In order to search for sequence variants that associate with PSA levels, we performed a genome-wide association study and follow-up analysis using PSA information from 15,757 Icelandic and 454 British men not diagnosed with prostate cancer. Overall, we detected a genome-wide significant association between PSA levels and SNPs at six loci: 5p15.33 (rs2736098), 10q11 (rs10993994), 10q26 (rs10788160), 12q24 (rs11067228), 17q12 (rs4430796), and 19q13.33 (rs17632542 (KLK3: I179T), each with Pcombined < 3×10−10. Among 3,834 men who underwent a biopsy of the prostate, the 10q26, 12q24, and 19q13.33 alleles that associate with high PSA levels are associated with higher probability of a negative biopsy (OR between 1.15 and 1.27). Assessment of association between the 6 loci and prostate cancer risk in 5,325 cases and 41,417 controls from Iceland, the Netherlands, Spain, Romania, and the US showed that the SNPs at 10q26 and 12q24 were exclusively associated with PSA levels, whereas the other 4 loci also were associated with prostate cancer risk. We propose that a personalized PSA cutoff value, based on genotype, should be used when deciding to perform a prostate biopsy.
PMCID: PMC3564581  PMID: 21160077
12.  Genome-wide association and replication studies identify four variants associated with prostate cancer susceptibility 
Nature genetics  2009;41(10):1122-1126.
We report a genome-wide association follow up study on prostate cancer. We identify four variants associated with the disease in European populations: rs10934853-A (OR = 1.12, P = 2.9×10−10) on 3q21.3, two moderately correlated (r2 = 0.07) variants on 8q24.21; rs16902094-G (OR = 1.21, P = 6.2×10−15) and rs445114-T (OR = 1.14, P = 4.7×10−10) and rs8102476-C (OR = 1.12, P = 1.6×10−11) on 19q13.2. We also refine a previous association signal on 11q13 with the SNP rs11228565-A (OR =1.23, P = 6.7 × 10−12). In a multi-variant analysis, using 22 prostate cancer risk variants typed in the Icelandic population, we estimate that carriers belonging to the top 1.3% of the risk distribution have a risk of developing the disease that is more than 2.5 times greater than the population average risk estimates.
PMCID: PMC3562712  PMID: 19767754
13.  Sequence variants at CYP1A1–CYP1A2 and AHR associate with coffee consumption 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(10):2071-2077.
Coffee is the most commonly used stimulant and caffeine is its main psychoactive ingredient. The heritability of coffee consumption has been estimated at around 50%. We performed a meta-analysis of four genome-wide association studies of coffee consumption among coffee drinkers from Iceland (n = 2680), the Netherlands (n = 2791), the Sorbs Slavonic population isolate in Germany (n = 771) and the USA (n = 369) using both directly genotyped and imputed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (2.5 million SNPs). SNPs at the two most significant loci were also genotyped in a sample set from Iceland (n = 2430) and a Danish sample set consisting of pregnant women (n = 1620). Combining all data, two sequence variants significantly associated with increased coffee consumption: rs2472297-T located between CYP1A1 and CYP1A2 at 15q24 (P = 5.4 · 10−14) and rs6968865-T near aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) at 7p21 (P = 2.3 · 10−11). An effect of ∼0.2 cups a day per allele was observed for both SNPs. CYP1A2 is the main caffeine metabolizing enzyme and is also involved in drug metabolism. AHR detects xenobiotics, such as polycyclic aryl hydrocarbons found in roasted coffee, and induces transcription of CYP1A1 and CYP1A2. The association of these SNPs with coffee consumption was present in both smokers and non-smokers.
PMCID: PMC3080612  PMID: 21357676
14.  Genome-wide significant association between a sequence variant at 15q15.2 and lung cancer risk 
Cancer research  2011;71(4):1356-1361.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified three genomic regions, at 15q24-25.1, 5p15.33 and 6p21.33, which associate with risk of lung cancer. Large meta-analyses of GWA data have failed to find additional associations of genome-wide significance. In this study, we sought to confirm 7 variants with suggestive association to lung cancer (P<10−5) in a recently published meta-analysis. In a GWA dataset of 1,447 lung cancer cases and 36,256 controls in Iceland, three correlated variants on 15q15.2 (rs504417, rs11853991 and rs748404) showed a significant association with lung cancer whereas rs4254535 on 2p14, rs1530057 on 3p24.1, rs6438347 on 3q13.31 and rs1926203 on 10q23.31 did not. The most significant variant, rs748404, was genotyped in additional 1,299 lung cancer cases and 4,102 controls from the Netherlands, Spain and the USA and the results combined with published GWAS data. In this analysis, the T allele of rs748404 reached genome-wide significance (OR=1.15, P=1.1×10−9). Another variant at the same locus, rs12050604, showed association with lung cancer (OR=1.09, 3.6×10−6) and remained significant after adjustment for rs748404 and vice versa. rs748404 is located 140 kb centromeric of the TP53BP1 gene that has been implicated in lung cancer risk. Two fully correlated, non-synonymous coding variants in TP53BP1, rs2602141 (Q1136K) and rs560191 (E353D), showed association with lung cancer in our sample set; however, this association did not remain significant after adjustment for rs748404. Our data show that one or more lung cancer risk variants of genome-wide significance and distinct from the coding variants in TP53BP1 are located at 15q15.2.
PMCID: PMC3077097  PMID: 21303977
Lung cancer; genome-wide association studies; GWAS; 15q15.2; TP53BP1
15.  CDKN2A Mutations and Melanoma Risk in the Icelandic Population 
Journal of medical genetics  2008;45(5):284-289.
Germline CDKN2A mutations have been observed in 20-40% of high-risk melanoma-prone families, however little is known about their prevalence in population-based series of melanoma cases and controls.
We resequenced the CDKN2A gene, including the p14ARF variant and promoter regions, in approximately 703 registry-ascertained melanoma cases and 691 population-based controls from Iceland, a country in which the incidence of melanoma has increased rapidly.
We identified a novel germline variant, G89D that was strongly associated with increased melanoma risk and appeared to be an Icelandic founder mutation. The G89D variant was present in about 2% of Icelandic invasive cutaneous malignant melanoma cases. Relatives of affected G89D carriers were at significantly increased risk of melanoma, head & neck cancers, and pancreatic carcinoma compared to relatives of other melanoma patients. Nineteen other germline variants were identified, but none conferred an unequivocal risk of melanoma.
This population-based study of Icelandic melanoma cases and controls showed a frequency of disease-related CDKN2A mutant alleles ranging from 0.7% to 1.0%, thus expanding our knowledge about the frequency of CDKN2A mutations in different populations. In contrast to North America and Australia where a broad spectrum of mutations was observed at a similar frequency, in Iceland, functional CDKN2A mutations consists of only one or two different variants. Additional genetic and/or environmental factors are likely critical for explaining the high incidence rates for melanoma in Iceland. This study adds to the geographic regions for which population-based estimates of CDKN2A mutation frequencies are available.
PMCID: PMC3236640  PMID: 18178632
melanoma; CDKN2A; G89D; pancreatic cancer; population-based
16.  Identification of an imprinted master trans-regulator at the KLF14 locus related to multiple metabolic phenotypes 
Nature genetics  2011;43(6):561-564.
Genome-wide association studies have identified many genetic variants associated with complex traits. However, at only a minority of loci have the molecular mechanisms mediating these associations been characterized. In parallel, whilst cis-regulatory patterns of gene expression have been extensively explored, the identification of trans-regulatory effects in humans has attracted less attention. We demonstrate that the Type 2 diabetes and HDL-cholesterol associated cis-acting eQTL of the maternally-expressed transcription factor KLF14 acts as a master trans-regulator of adipose gene expression. Expression levels of genes regulated by this trans-eQTL are highly-correlated with concurrently-measured metabolic traits, and a subset of the trans-genes harbor variants directly-associated with metabolic phenotypes. This trans-eQTL network provides a mechanistic understanding of the effect of the KLF14 locus on metabolic disease risk, providing a potential model for other complex traits.
PMCID: PMC3192952  PMID: 21572415
17.  A sequence variant on 17q21 is associated with age at onset and severity of asthma 
A sequence variant (rs7216389-T) near the ORMDL3 gene on chromosome 17q21 was recently found to be associated with childhood asthma. We sought to evaluate the effect of rs7216389-T on asthma subphenotypes and its correlation with expression levels of neighboring genes. The association of rs7216389-T with asthma was replicated in six European and one Asian study cohort (N=4917 cases N=34 589 controls). In addition, we found that the association of rs7216389-T was confined to cases with early onset of asthma, particularly in early childhood (age: 0–5 years OR=1.51, P=6.89·10−9) and adolescence (age: 14–17 years OR=1.71, P=5.47·10−9). A weaker association was observed for onset between 6 and 13 years of age (OR=1.17, P=0.035), but none for adult-onset asthma (OR=1.07, P=0.12). Cases were further stratified by sex, asthma severity and atopy status. An association with greater asthma severity was observed among early-onset asthma cases (P=0.0012), but no association with sex or atopy status was observed among the asthma cases. An association between sequence variants and the expression of genes in the 17q21 region was assessed in white blood cell RNA samples collected from Icelandic individuals (n=743). rs7216389 associated with the expression of GSDMB and ORMDL3 genes. However, other sequence variants showing a weaker association with asthma compared with that of rs7216389 were more strongly associated with the expression of both genes. Thus, the contribution of rs7216389-T to the development of asthma is unlikely to operate only through an impact on the expression of ORMDL3 or GSDMB genes.
PMCID: PMC2987388  PMID: 20372189
childhood asthma; single-nucleotide polymorphism; expression; ORMDL3; GSDMB
18.  A rare variant in MYH6 is associated with high risk of sick sinus syndrome 
Nature genetics  2011;43(4):316-320.
Through complementary application of SNP genotyping, whole-genome sequencing and imputation in 38,384 Icelanders, we have discovered a previously unidentified sick sinus syndrome susceptibility gene, MYH6, encoding the alpha heavy chain subunit of cardiac myosin. A missense variant in this gene, c.2161C>T, results in the conceptual amino acid substitution p.Arg721Trp, has an allelic frequency of 0.38% in Icelanders and associates with sick sinus syndrome with an odds ratio = 1 2.53 and P = 1.5 × 10−29. We show that the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with sick sinus syndrome is around 6% for non-carriers of c.2161C>T but is approximately 50% for carriers of the c.2161C>T variant.
PMCID: PMC3066272  PMID: 21378987
19.  Single-Tissue and Cross-Tissue Heritability of Gene Expression Via Identity-by-Descent in Related or Unrelated Individuals 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(2):e1001317.
Family studies of individual tissues have shown that gene expression traits are genetically heritable. Here, we investigate cis and trans components of heritability both within and across tissues by applying variance-components methods to 722 Icelanders from family cohorts, using identity-by-descent (IBD) estimates from long-range phased genome-wide SNP data and gene expression measurements for ∼19,000 genes in blood and adipose tissue. We estimate the proportion of gene expression heritability attributable to cis regulation as 37% in blood and 24% in adipose tissue. Our results indicate that the correlation in gene expression measurements across these tissues is primarily due to heritability at cis loci, whereas there is little sharing of trans regulation across tissues. One implication of this finding is that heritability in tissues composed of heterogeneous cell types is expected to be more dominated by cis regulation than in tissues composed of more homogeneous cell types, consistent with our blood versus adipose results as well as results of previous studies in lymphoblastoid cell lines. Finally, we obtained similar estimates of the cis components of heritability using IBD between unrelated individuals, indicating that transgenerational epigenetic inheritance does not contribute substantially to the “missing heritability” of gene expression in these tissue types.
Author Summary
An important goal in biology is to understand how genotype affects gene expression. Because gene expression varies across tissues, the relationship between genotype and gene expression may be tissue-specific. In this study, we used heritability approaches to study the regulation of gene expression in two tissue types, blood and adipose tissue, as well as the regulation of gene expression that is shared across these tissues. Heritability can be partitioned into cis and trans effects by assessing identity-by-descent (IBD) at the genomic location close to the expressed gene or genome-wide, respectively, and applying variance-components methods to partition the heritability of each gene. We estimated the proportion of gene expression heritability explained by cis regulation as 37% in blood and 24% in adipose tissue. Notably, the heritability shared across tissue types was primarily due to cis regulation. Thus, the relative contribution of cis versus trans regulation is expected to increase with the number of cell types present in the tissue being assayed, just as observed in our study and in a comparison to previous work on lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL). We specifically ruled out a substantial contribution of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance to heritability of gene expression in these cohorts by repeating our heritability analyses using segments shared IBD in distantly related Icelanders.
PMCID: PMC3044684  PMID: 21383966
20.  Missing heritability and strategies for finding the underlying causes of complex disease 
Nature reviews. Genetics  2010;11(6):446-450.
Although recent genome-wide studies have provided valuable insights into the genetic basis of human disease, they have explained relatively little of the heritability of most complex traits, and the variants identified through these studies have small effect sizes. This has led to the important and hotly debated issue of where the ‘missing heritability’ of complex diseases might be found. Here, seven leading geneticists offer their opinion about where this heritability is likely to lie, what this could tell us about the underlying genetic architecture of common diseases and how this could inform research strategies for uncovering genetic risk factors.
PMCID: PMC2942068  PMID: 20479774
22.  European Bone Mineral Density Loci Are Also Associated with BMD in East-Asian Populations 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13217.
Most genome-wide association (GWA) studies have focused on populations of European ancestry with limited assessment of the influence of the sequence variants on populations of other ethnicities. To determine whether markers that we have recently shown to associate with Bone Mineral Density (BMD) in Europeans also associate with BMD in East-Asians we analysed 50 markers from 23 genomic loci in samples from Korea (n = 1,397) and two Chinese Hong Kong sample sets (n = 3,869 and n = 785). Through this effort we identified fourteen loci that associated with BMD in East-Asian samples using a false discovery rate (FDR) of 0.05; 1p36 (ZBTB40, P = 4.3×10−9), 1p31 (GPR177, P = 0.00012), 3p22 (CTNNB1, P = 0.00013), 4q22 (MEPE, P = 0.0026), 5q14 (MEF2C, P = 1.3×10−5), 6q25 (ESR1, P = 0.0011), 7p14 (STARD3NL, P = 0.00025), 7q21 (FLJ42280, P = 0.00017), 8q24 (TNFRSF11B, P = 3.4×10−5), 11p15 (SOX6, P = 0.00033), 11q13 (LRP5, P = 0.0033), 13q14 (TNFSF11, P = 7.5×10−5), 16q24 (FOXL1, P = 0.0010) and 17q21 (SOST, P = 0.015). Our study marks an early effort towards the challenge of cataloguing bone density variants shared by many ethnicities by testing BMD variants that have been established in Europeans, in East-Asians.
PMCID: PMC2951352  PMID: 20949110
23.  Association of Variants at UMOD with Chronic Kidney Disease and Kidney Stones—Role of Age and Comorbid Diseases 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(7):e1001039.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a worldwide public health problem that is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. To search for sequence variants that associate with CKD, we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) that included a total of 3,203 Icelandic cases and 38,782 controls. We observed an association between CKD and a variant with 80% population frequency, rs4293393-T, positioned next to the UMOD gene (GeneID: 7369) on chromosome 16p12 (OR = 1.25, P = 4.1×10−10). This gene encodes uromodulin (Tamm-Horsfall protein), the most abundant protein in mammalian urine. The variant also associates significantly with serum creatinine concentration (SCr) in Icelandic subjects (N = 24,635, P = 1.3×10−23) but not in a smaller set of healthy Dutch controls (N = 1,819, P = 0.39). Our findings validate the association between the UMOD variant and both CKD and SCr recently discovered in a large GWAS. In the Icelandic dataset, we demonstrate that the effect on SCr increases substantially with both age (P = 3.0×10−17) and number of comorbid diseases (P = 0.008). The association with CKD is also stronger in the older age groups. These results suggest that the UMOD variant may influence the adaptation of the kidney to age-related risk factors of kidney disease such as hypertension and diabetes. The variant also associates with serum urea (P = 1.0×10−6), uric acid (P = 0.0064), and suggestively with gout. In contrast to CKD, the UMOD variant confers protection against kidney stones when studied in 3,617 Icelandic and Dutch kidney stone cases and 43,201 controls (OR = 0.88, P = 5.7×10−5).
Author Summary
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a common condition that is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality and has been recognized as a major public health problem worldwide. Common causes of CKD include hypertension, diabetes, and inflammatory disorders. Previous studies have shown a significant genetic contribution to kidney disease and a recent genome-wide association study yielded a variant in the UMOD gene that affects the risk of CKD. Here, we replicate the association between UMOD and CKD in an independent analysis. We also demonstrate for the first time an interaction between the UMOD variant and age that suggests that this variant may adversely affect the aging kidney and its adaptation to age-related risk factors of kidney disease, such as hypertension and diabetes. Furthermore, we show that the UMOD variant that affects risk of CKD also provides protection against kidney stone disease.
PMCID: PMC2912386  PMID: 20686651
24.  Twenty bone mineral density loci identified by large-scale meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies 
Nature genetics  2009;41(11):1199-1206.
Bone mineral density (BMD) is a heritable complex trait used in the clinical diagnosis of osteoporosis and the assessment of fracture risk. We performed meta-analysis of five genome-wide association studies of femoral neck and lumbar spine BMD in 19,195 subjects of Northern European descent. We identified 20 loci reaching genome-wide significance (GWS; P<5×10−8), of which 13 map to new regions including 1p31.3 (GPR177), 2p21 (SPTBN1), 3p22 (CTNNB1), 4q21.1 (MEPE), 5q14 (MEF2C), 7p14 (STARD3NL), 7q21.3 (FLJ42280), 11p11.2 (LRP4; ARHGAP1; F2), 11p14.1 (DCDC5), 11p15 (SOX6), 16q24 (FOXL1), 17q21 (HDAC5) and 17q12 (CRHR1). The metaanalysis also confirmed at GWS level, seven known BMD loci on 1p36 (ZBTB40), 6q25 (ESR1), 8q24 (TNFRSF11B), 11q13.4 (LRP5), 12q13 (SP7), 13q14 (TNFSF11), and 18q21 (TNFRSF11A). The numerous SNPs associated with BMD map to genes in signaling pathways with relevance to bone metabolism, and highlight the complex genetic architecture underlying osteoporosis and BMD variation.
PMCID: PMC2783489  PMID: 19801982
25.  Collaborative Meta-analysis: Associations of 150 Candidate Genes With Osteoporosis and Osteoporotic Fracture 
Annals of internal medicine  2009;151(8):528-537.
Osteoporosis is a highly heritable trait. Many candidate genes have been proposed as being involved in regulating bone mineral density (BMD). Few of these findings have been replicated in independent studies.
To assess the relationship between BMD and fracture and all common single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in previously proposed osteoporosis candidate genes.
Large-scale meta-analysis of genome-wide association data.
5 international, multicenter, population-based studies.
Data on BMD were obtained from 19 195 participants (14 277 women) from 5 populations of European origin. Data on fracture were obtained from a prospective cohort (n = 5974) from the Netherlands.
Systematic literature review using the Human Genome Epidemiology Navigator identified autosomal genes previously evaluated for association with osteoporosis. We explored the common SNPs arising from the haplotype map of the human genome (HapMap) across all these genes. BMD at the femoral neck and lumbar spine was measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Fractures were defined as clinically apparent, site-specific, validated nonvertebral and vertebral low-energy fractures.
150 candidate genes were identified and 36 016 SNPs in these loci were assessed. SNPs from 9 gene loci (ESR1, LRP4, ITGA1, LRP5, SOST, SPP1, TNFRSF11A, TNFRSF11B, and TN-FSF11) were associated with BMD at either site. For most genes, no SNP was statistically significant. For statistically significant SNPs (n = 241), effect sizes ranged from 0.04 to 0.18 SD per allele. SNPs from the LRP5, SOST, SPP1, and TNFRSF11A loci were significantly associated with fracture risk; odds ratios ranged from 1.13 to 1.43 per allele. These effects on fracture were partially independent of BMD at SPP1 and SOST.
Only common polymorphisms in linkage disequilibrium with SNPs in HapMap could be assessed, and previously reported associations for SNPs in some candidate genes could not be excluded.
In this large-scale collaborative genome-wide meta-analysis, 9 of 150 candidate genes were associated with regulation of BMD, 4 of which also significantly affected risk for fracture. However, most candidate genes had no consistent association with BMD.
Primary Funding Source
European Union, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, Research Institute for Diseases in the Elderly, Netherlands Genomics Initiative, Wellcome Trust, National Institutes of Health, deCODE Genetics, and Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
PMCID: PMC2842981  PMID: 19841454

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