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1.  Novel Insights Into the Etiology of Diabetes From Genome-Wide Association Studies 
Diabetes  2009;58(11):2444-2447.
PMCID: PMC2768184  PMID: 19875620
2.  Tmem79/Matt is the matted mouse gene and is a predisposing gene for atopic dermatitis in human subjects 
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a major inflammatory condition of the skin caused by inherited skin barrier deficiency, with mutations in the filaggrin gene predisposing to development of AD. Support for barrier deficiency initiating AD came from flaky tail mice, which have a frameshift mutation in Flg and also carry an unknown gene, matted, causing a matted hair phenotype.
We sought to identify the matted mutant gene in mice and further define whether mutations in the human gene were associated with AD.
A mouse genetics approach was used to separate the matted and Flg mutations to produce congenic single-mutant strains for genetic and immunologic analysis. Next-generation sequencing was used to identify the matted gene. Five independently recruited AD case collections were analyzed to define associations between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the human gene and AD.
The matted phenotype in flaky tail mice is due to a mutation in the Tmem79/Matt gene, with no expression of the encoded protein mattrin in the skin of mutant mice. Mattft mice spontaneously have dermatitis and atopy caused by a defective skin barrier, with mutant mice having systemic sensitization after cutaneous challenge with house dust mite allergens. Meta-analysis of 4,245 AD cases and 10,558 population-matched control subjects showed that a missense SNP, rs6694514, in the human MATT gene has a small but significant association with AD.
In mice mutations in Matt cause a defective skin barrier and spontaneous dermatitis and atopy. A common SNP in MATT has an association with AD in human subjects.
PMCID: PMC3834151  PMID: 24084074
Allergy; association; atopic dermatitis; atopy; eczema; filaggrin; flaky tail; Matt; mattrin; mouse; mutation; Tmem79; AD, Atopic dermatitis; DM, Double mutant; FLG, Filaggrin; HDM, House dust mite; hpf, High-power field; MAPEG, Membrane-associated proteins in eicosanoid and glutathione metabolism; OR, Odds ratio; SNP, Single nucleotide polymorphism; TEWL, Transepidermal water loss; WT, Wild-type
3.  Conditional Expression of Human PPARδ and a Dominant Negative Variant of hPPARδ In Vivo 
PPAR Research  2012;2012:216817.
The nuclear receptor, NR1C2 or peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-δ, is ubiquitously expressed and important for placental development, fatty acid metabolism, wound healing, inflammation, and tumour development. PPARδ has been hypothesized to function as both a ligand activated transcription factor and a repressor of transcription in the absence of agonist. In this paper, treatment of mice conditionally expressing human PPARδ with GW501516 resulted in a marked loss in body weight that was not evident in nontransgenic animals or animals expressing a dominant negative derivative of PPARδ. Expression of either functional or dominant negative hPPARδ blocked bezafibrate-induced PPARα-dependent hepatomegaly and blocked the effect of bezafibrate on the transcription of PPARα target genes. These data demonstrate, for the first time, that PPARδ could inhibit the activation of PPARα in vivo and provide novel models for the investigation of the role of PPARδ in pathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC3324915  PMID: 22550474
4.  Clinical validity of plasma and urinary desmosine as biomarkers for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Thorax  2012;67(6):502-508.
Although an increased concentration of degraded elastin products in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been reported for many years, its clinical validity and utility remain uncertain due to technical difficulties, small study groups and the unknown relationship between exacerbation and elastin degradation. The objectives of this study were to determine the validity of urinary and blood total desmosine/isodesmosine in patients with COPD and asthma and to evaluate their relationship to exacerbation status and lung function.
Urinary and blood desmosine levels were measured using validated isotopic dilution liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry methods.
390 study participants were recruited from the following groups: healthy volunteers, stable asthma, stable and ‘during an exacerbation’ COPD. Compared with healthy non-smokers, we found increased urinary or blood desmosine levels in patients with COPD, but no differences in patients with asthma or healthy smokers. The elevation of urinary desmosine levels was associated with the exacerbation status in patients with COPD. Approximately 40% of patients with stable and ‘during an exacerbation’ COPD showed elevated blood desmosine levels. Blood desmosine levels were strongly associated with age and were negatively correlated with lung diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide.
The results suggest that urinary desmosine levels are raised by exacerbations of COPD whereas blood desmosine levels are elevated in a subgroup of patients with stable COPD and reduced lung diffusing capacity. The authors speculate that a raised blood desmosine level may identify patients with increased elastin degradation suitable for targeted therapy. Future prospective studies are required to investigate this hypothesis.
PMCID: PMC3358730  PMID: 22250098
Desmosine; emphysema; COPD; biomarker; COPD exacerbations; lung physiology; lung proteases; asthma pharmacology; COPD pharmacology; respiratory infection; COPD mechanisms; COPD pathology; asthma; asthma epidemiology; asthma mechanisms; allergic alveolitis; allergic lung disease; occupational lung disease; tobacco and the lung; asthma guidelines
5.  Combined Effect of Inflammatory Gene Polymorphisms and the Risk of Ischemic Stroke in a Prospective Cohort of Subjects With Type 2 Diabetes: A Go-DARTS Study 
Diabetes  2010;59(11):2945-2948.
We have previously observed that genetic profiles determined by the combination of five functionally significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (rs1800795, rs5498, rs5361, rs1024611, and rs679620) of genes encoding prototypical inflammatory molecules are associated with history of ischemic stroke. Here we tested the ability of this multigenic model to predict stroke risk in a large population-based prospective cohort of subjects with type 2 diabetes.
This study was conducted using a prospective cohort of individuals with type 2 diabetes participating in the Go-DARTS (Genetics of Diabetes Audit and Research in Tayside Scotland) study, which includes genetic and clinical information of patients with diabetes within the Tayside region of Scotland, U.K. The above-mentioned inflammatory SNPs were investigated in 2,182 Go-DARTS participants. We created an inflammatory risk score (IRS), ranging from 0 to 5, according to the number of “at-risk” genotypes concomitantly carried by a given individual. The primary outcome was the occurrence of fatal or nonfatal stroke of any kind. Mean follow-up time was 6.2 ± 1.1 years.
The incidence of stroke increased according to the IRS. The IRS was significantly and independently associated with increased stroke risk after adjustment for other conventional risk factors (hazard ratio 1.34 [95% CI 1.1–1.7]; P = 0.009). The highest hazard ratio for stroke was found in subjects concomitantly carrying >3 proinflammatory variations and in subjects without previous cardiovascular diseases.
This large prospective cohort study provides evidence that SNPs of genes encoding prototypical inflammatory molecules may be used to create multigenic models that predict stroke risk in subjects with type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2963555  PMID: 20622166
6.  Common Variation in the FTO Gene Alters Diabetes-Related Metabolic Traits to the Extent Expected Given Its Effect on BMI 
Diabetes  2008;57(5):1419-1426.
Common variation in the FTO gene is associated with BMI and type 2 diabetes. Increased BMI is associated with diabetes risk factors, including raised insulin, glucose, and triglycerides. We aimed to test whether FTO genotype is associated with variation in these metabolic traits.
We tested the association between FTO genotype and 10 metabolic traits using data from 17,037 white European individuals. We compared the observed effect of FTO genotype on each trait to that expected given the FTO-BMI and BMI-trait associations.
Each copy of the FTO rs9939609 A allele was associated with higher fasting insulin (0.039 SD [95% CI 0.013–0.064]; P = 0.003), glucose (0.024 [0.001– 0.048]; P = 0.044), and triglycerides (0.028 [0.003– 0.052]; P = 0.025) and lower HDL cholesterol (0.032 [0.008 – 0.057]; P = 0.009). There was no evidence of these associations when adjusting for BMI. Associations with fasting alanine aminotransferase, γ-glutamyl-transferase, LDL cholesterol, A1C, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure were in the expected direction but did not reach P < 0.05. For all metabolic traits, effect sizes were consistent with those expected for the per allele change in BMI. FTO genotype was associated with a higher odds of metabolic syndrome (odds ratio 1.17 [95% CI 1.10 –1.25]; P = 3 × 10−6).
FTO genotype is associated with metabolic traits to an extent entirely consistent with its effect on BMI. Sample sizes of >12,000 individuals were needed to detect associations at P < 0.05. Our findings highlight the importance of using appropriately powered studies to assess the effects of a known diabetes or obesity variant on secondary traits correlated with these conditions.
PMCID: PMC3073395  PMID: 18346983
7.  FGFR2 protein expression in breast cancer: nuclear localisation and correlation with patient genotype 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:72.
Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in intron 2 of the Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor Type 2 (FGFR2) gene, including rs2981582, contribute to multifactorial breast cancer susceptibility. The high risk polymorphism haplotype in the FGFR2 gene has been associated with increased mRNA transcription and altered transcription factor binding but the effect on FGFR2 protein expression is unknown. 40 breast tumours were identified from individuals with known rs2981582 genotype. Tumour sections were stained for FGFR2 protein expression, and scored for nuclear and cytoplasmic staining in tumour and surrounding normal tissue.
FGFR2 immunohistochemistry demonstrated variable nuclear staining in normal tissue and tumour tissue, as well as consistent cytoplasmic staining. We did not find an association between nuclear staining for FGFR2 and genotype, and there was no association between FGFR2 staining and estrogen or progestogen receptor status. There was an association between presence of nuclear staining for FGFR2 in normal tissue and presence of nuclear staining in the adjacent tumour (Fishers exact test, p = 0.002).
Variable nuclear staining for FGFR2 in breast cancer, but an absence of correlation with rs2981582 genotype suggests that the mechanism of action of polymorphisms at the FGFR2 locus may be more complex than a direct effect on mRNA expression levels in the final cancer. The effect may relate to FGFR2 function or localisation during breast development or tumourigenesis. Nuclear localisation of FGFR2 suggests an important additional role for this protein in breast development and breast cancer, in addition to its function as a classical cell surface receptor.
PMCID: PMC3073906  PMID: 21418638
8.  Association between Common Variation at the FTO Locus and Changes in Body Mass Index from Infancy to Late Childhood: The Complex Nature of Genetic Association through Growth and Development 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(2):e1001307.
An age-dependent association between variation at the FTO locus and BMI in children has been suggested. We meta-analyzed associations between the FTO locus (rs9939609) and BMI in samples, aged from early infancy to 13 years, from 8 cohorts of European ancestry. We found a positive association between additional minor (A) alleles and BMI from 5.5 years onwards, but an inverse association below age 2.5 years. Modelling median BMI curves for each genotype using the LMS method, we found that carriers of minor alleles showed lower BMI in infancy, earlier adiposity rebound (AR), and higher BMI later in childhood. Differences by allele were consistent with two independent processes: earlier AR equivalent to accelerating developmental age by 2.37% (95% CI 1.87, 2.87, p = 10−20) per A allele and a positive age by genotype interaction such that BMI increased faster with age (p = 10−23). We also fitted a linear mixed effects model to relate genotype to the BMI curve inflection points adiposity peak (AP) in infancy and AR. Carriage of two minor alleles at rs9939609 was associated with lower BMI at AP (−0.40% (95% CI: −0.74, −0.06), p = 0.02), higher BMI at AR (0.93% (95% CI: 0.22, 1.64), p = 0.01), and earlier AR (−4.72% (−5.81, −3.63), p = 10−17), supporting cross-sectional results. Overall, we confirm the expected association between variation at rs9939609 and BMI in childhood, but only after an inverse association between the same variant and BMI in infancy. Patterns are consistent with a shift on the developmental scale, which is reflected in association with the timing of AR rather than just a global increase in BMI. Results provide important information about longitudinal gene effects and about the role of FTO in adiposity. The associated shifts in developmental timing have clinical importance with respect to known relationships between AR and both later-life BMI and metabolic disease risk.
Author Summary
Variation at the FTO locus is reliably associated with BMI and adiposity-related traits, but little is still known about the effects of variation at this gene, particularly in children. We have examined a large collection of samples for which both genotypes at rs9939609 and multiple measurements of BMI are available. We observe a positive association between the minor allele (A) at rs9939609 and BMI emerging in childhood that has the characteristics of a shift in the age scale leading simultaneously to lower BMI during infancy and higher BMI in childhood. Assessed in cross section and longitudinally, we find evidence of variation at rs9939609 being associated with the timing of AR and the concert of events expected with such a change to the BMI curve. Importantly, the apparently negative association between the minor allele (A) and BMI in early life, which is then followed by an earlier AR and greater BMI in childhood, is a pattern known to be associated with both the risk of adult BMI and metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes (T2D). These findings are important in our understanding of the contribution of FTO to adiposity, but also in light of efforts to appreciate genetic effects in a lifecourse context.
PMCID: PMC3040655  PMID: 21379325
9.  A methodology to establish a database to study gene environment interactions for childhood asthma 
Gene-environment interactions are likely to explain some of the heterogeneity in childhood asthma. Here, we describe the methodology and experiences in establishing a database for childhood asthma designed to study gene-environment interactions (PAGES - Paediatric Asthma Gene Environment Study).
Children with asthma and under the care of a respiratory paediatrician are being recruited from 15 hospitals between 2008 and 2011. An asthma questionnaire is completed and returned by post. At a routine clinic visit saliva is collected for DNA extraction. Detailed phenotyping in a proportion of children includes spirometry, bronchodilator response (BDR), skin prick reactivity, exhaled nitric oxide and salivary cotinine. Dietary and quality of life questionnaires are completed. Data are entered onto a purpose-built database.
To date 1045 children have been invited to participate and data collected in 501 (48%). The mean age (SD) of participants is 8.6 (3.9) years, 57% male. DNA has been collected in 436 children. Spirometry has been obtained in 172 children, mean % predicted (SD) FEV1 97% (15) and median (IQR) BDR is 5% (2, 9). There were differences in age, socioeconomic status, severity and %FEV1 between the different centres (p≤0.024). Reasons for non-participation included parents not having time to take part, children not attending clinics and, in a small proportion, refusal to take part.
It is feasible to establish a national database to study gene-environment interactions within an asthmatic paediatric population; there are barriers to participation and some different characteristics in individuals recruited from different centres. Recruitment to our study continues and is anticipated to extend current understanding of asthma heterogeneity.
PMCID: PMC3019209  PMID: 21134251
10.  Underlying Genetic Models of Inheritance in Established Type 2 Diabetes Associations 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2009;170(5):537-545.
For most associations of common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with common diseases, the genetic model of inheritance is unknown. The authors extended and applied a Bayesian meta-analysis approach to data from 19 studies on 17 replicated associations with type 2 diabetes. For 13 SNPs, the data fitted very well to an additive model of inheritance for the diabetes risk allele; for 4 SNPs, the data were consistent with either an additive model or a dominant model; and for 2 SNPs, the data were consistent with an additive or recessive model. Results were robust to the use of different priors and after exclusion of data for which index SNPs had been examined indirectly through proxy markers. The Bayesian meta-analysis model yielded point estimates for the genetic effects that were very similar to those previously reported based on fixed- or random-effects models, but uncertainty about several of the effects was substantially larger. The authors also examined the extent of between-study heterogeneity in the genetic model and found generally small between-study deviation values for the genetic model parameter. Heterosis could not be excluded for 4 SNPs. Information on the genetic model of robustly replicated association signals derived from genome-wide association studies may be useful for predictive modeling and for designing biologic and functional experiments.
PMCID: PMC2732984  PMID: 19602701
Bayes theorem; diabetes mellitus, type 2; meta-analysis; models, genetic; polymorphism, genetic; population characteristics
11.  Reduced-Function SLC22A1 Polymorphisms Encoding Organic Cation Transporter 1 and Glycemic Response to Metformin: A GoDARTS Study 
Diabetes  2009;58(6):1434-1439.
Metformin is actively transported into the liver by the organic cation transporter (OCT)1 (encoded by SLC22A1). In 12 normoglycemic individuals, reduced-function variants in SLC22A1 were shown to decrease the ability of metformin to reduce glucose excursion in response to oral glucose. We assessed the effect of two common loss-of-function polymorphisms in SLC22A1 on metformin response in a large cohort of patients with type 2 diabetes.
The Diabetes Audit and Research in Tayside Scotland (DARTS) database includes prescribing and biochemistry information and clinical phenotypes of all patients with diabetes within Tayside, Scotland, from 1992 onwards. R61C and 420del variants of SLC22A1 were genotyped in 3,450 patients with type 2 diabetes who were incident users of metformin. We assessed metformin response by modeling the maximum A1C reduction in 18 months after starting metformin and investigated whether a treatment target of A1C <7% was achieved. Sustained metformin effect on A1C between 6 and 42 months was also assessed, as was the time to metformin monotherapy failure. Covariates were SLC22A1 genotype, BMI, average drug dose, adherence, and creatinine clearance.
A total of 1,531 patients were identified with a definable metformin response. R61C and 420del variants did not affect the initial A1C reduction (P = 0.47 and P = 0.92, respectively), the chance of achieving a treatment target (P = 0.83 and P = 0.36), the average A1C on monotherapy up to 42 months (P = 0.44 and P = 0.75), or the hazard of monotherapy failure (P = 0.85 and P = 0.56).
The SLC22A1 loss-of-function variants, R61C and 420del, do not attenuate the A1C reduction achieved by metformin in patients with type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2682689  PMID: 19336679
12.  Activation of PPARβ/δ Causes a Psoriasis-Like Skin Disease In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9701.
Psoriasis is one of the most frequent skin diseases world-wide. The disease impacts enormously on affected patients and poses a huge financial burden on health care providers. Several lines of evidence suggest that the nuclear hormone receptor peroxisome proliferator activator (PPAR) β/δ, known to regulate epithelial differentiation and wound healing, contributes to psoriasis pathogenesis. It is unclear, however, whether activation of PPARβ/δ is sufficient to trigger psoriasis-like changes in vivo.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using immunohistochemistry, we define the distribution of PPARβ/δ in the skin lesions of psoriasis. By expression profiling, we confirm that PPARβ/δ is overexpressed in the vast majority of psoriasis patients. We further establish a transgenic model allowing inducible activation of PPARβ/δ in murine epidermis mimicking its distribution in psoriasis lesions. Upon activation of PPARβ/δ, transgenic mice sustain an inflammatory skin disease strikingly similar to psoriasis, featuring hyperproliferation of keratinocytes, dendritic cell accumulation, and endothelial activation. Development of this phenotype requires the activation of the Th17 subset of T cells, shown previously to be central to psoriasis. Moreover, gene dysregulation in the transgenic mice is highly similar to that in psoriasis. Key transcriptional programs activated in psoriasis, including IL1-related signalling and cholesterol biosynthesis, are replicated in the mouse model, suggesting that PPARβ/δ regulates these transcriptional changes in psoriasis. Finally, we identify phosphorylation of STAT3 as a novel pathway activated by PPARβ/δ and show that inhibition of STAT3 phosphorylation blocks disease development.
Activation of PPARβ/δ in the epidermis is sufficient to trigger inflammatory changes, immune activation, and signalling, and gene dysregulation characteristic of psoriasis.
PMCID: PMC2838790  PMID: 20300524
13.  Adiposity-Related Heterogeneity in Patterns of Type 2 Diabetes Susceptibility Observed in Genome-Wide Association Data 
Diabetes  2009;58(2):505-510.
OBJECTIVE—This study examined how differences in the BMI distribution of type 2 diabetic case subjects affected genome-wide patterns of type 2 diabetes association and considered the implications for the etiological heterogeneity of type 2 diabetes.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—We reanalyzed data from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium genome-wide association scan (1,924 case subjects, 2,938 control subjects: 393,453 single-nucleotide polymorphisms [SNPs]) after stratifying case subjects (into “obese” and “nonobese”) according to median BMI (30.2 kg/m2). Replication of signals in which alternative case-ascertainment strategies generated marked effect size heterogeneity in type 2 diabetes association signal was sought in additional samples.
RESULTS—In the “obese-type 2 diabetes” scan, FTO variants had the strongest type 2 diabetes effect (rs8050136: relative risk [RR] 1.49 [95% CI 1.34–1.66], P = 1.3 × 10−13), with only weak evidence for TCF7L2 (rs7901695 RR 1.21 [1.09–1.35], P = 0.001). This situation was reversed in the “nonobese” scan, with FTO association undetectable (RR 1.07 [0.97–1.19], P = 0.19) and TCF7L2 predominant (RR 1.53 [1.37–1.71], P = 1.3 × 10−14). These patterns, confirmed by replication, generated strong combined evidence for between-stratum effect size heterogeneity (FTO: PDIFF = 1.4 × 10−7; TCF7L2: PDIFF = 4.0 × 10−6). Other signals displaying evidence of effect size heterogeneity in the genome-wide analyses (on chromosomes 3, 12, 15, and 18) did not replicate. Analysis of the current list of type 2 diabetes susceptibility variants revealed nominal evidence for effect size heterogeneity for the SLC30A8 locus alone (RRobese 1.08 [1.01–1.15]; RRnonobese 1.18 [1.10–1.27]: PDIFF = 0.04).
CONCLUSIONS—This study demonstrates the impact of differences in case ascertainment on the power to detect and replicate genetic associations in genome-wide association studies. These data reinforce the notion that there is substantial etiological heterogeneity within type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2628627  PMID: 19056611
14.  Genetic evidence that raised sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) levels reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;19(3):535-544.
Epidemiological studies consistently show that circulating sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) levels are lower in type 2 diabetes patients than non-diabetic individuals, but the causal nature of this association is controversial. Genetic studies can help dissect causal directions of epidemiological associations because genotypes are much less likely to be confounded, biased or influenced by disease processes. Using this Mendelian randomization principle, we selected a common single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) near the SHBG gene, rs1799941, that is strongly associated with SHBG levels. We used data from this SNP, or closely correlated SNPs, in 27 657 type 2 diabetes patients and 58 481 controls from 15 studies. We then used data from additional studies to estimate the difference in SHBG levels between type 2 diabetes patients and controls. The SHBG SNP rs1799941 was associated with type 2 diabetes [odds ratio (OR) 0.94, 95% CI: 0.91, 0.97; P = 2 × 10−5], with the SHBG raising allele associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. This effect was very similar to that expected (OR 0.92, 95% CI: 0.88, 0.96), given the SHBG-SNP versus SHBG levels association (SHBG levels are 0.2 standard deviations higher per copy of the A allele) and the SHBG levels versus type 2 diabetes association (SHBG levels are 0.23 standard deviations lower in type 2 diabetic patients compared to controls). Results were very similar in men and women. There was no evidence that this variant is associated with diabetes-related intermediate traits, including several measures of insulin secretion and resistance. Our results, together with those from another recent genetic study, strengthen evidence that SHBG and sex hormones are involved in the aetiology of type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2798726  PMID: 19933169
15.  Assessing the Combined Impact of 18 Common Genetic Variants of Modest Effect Sizes on Type 2 Diabetes Risk 
Diabetes  2008;57(11):3129-3135.
OBJECTIVES—Genome-wide association studies have dramatically increased the number of common genetic variants that are robustly associated with type 2 diabetes. A possible clinical use of this information is to identify individuals at high risk of developing the disease, so that preventative measures may be more effectively targeted. Here, we assess the ability of 18 confirmed type 2 diabetes variants to differentiate between type 2 diabetic case and control subjects.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—We assessed index single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for the 18 independent loci in 2,598 control subjects and 2,309 case subjects from the Genetics of Diabetes Audit and Research Tayside Study. The discriminatory ability of the combined SNP information was assessed by grouping individuals based on number of risk alleles carried and determining relative odds of type 2 diabetes and by calculating the area under the receiver-operator characteristic curve (AUC).
RESULTS—Individuals carrying more risk alleles had a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. For example, 1.2% of individuals with >24 risk alleles had an odds ratio of 4.2 (95% CI 2.11–8.56) against the 1.8% with 10–12 risk alleles. The AUC (a measure of discriminative accuracy) for these variants was 0.60. The AUC for age, BMI, and sex was 0.78, and adding the genetic risk variants only marginally increased this to 0.80.
CONCLUSIONS—Currently, common risk variants for type 2 diabetes do not provide strong predictive value at a population level. However, the joint effect of risk variants identified subgroups of the population at substantially different risk of disease. Further studies are needed to assess whether individuals with extreme numbers of risk alleles may benefit from genetic testing.
PMCID: PMC2570411  PMID: 18591388
16.  Ligand Modulated Antagonism of PPARγ by Genomic and Non-Genomic Actions of PPARδ 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e7046.
Members of the Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptor, PPAR, subfamily of nuclear receptors display complex opposing and overlapping functions and a wide range of pharmacological and molecular genetic tools have been used to dissect their specific functions. Non-agonist bound PPARδ has been shown to repress PPAR Response Element, PPRE, signalling and several lines of evidence point to the importance of PPARδ repressive actions in both cardiovascular and cancer biology.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In this report we have employed transient transfections and luciferase reporter gene technology to study the repressing effects of PPARδ and two derivatives thereof. We demonstrate for the first time that the classical dominant negative deletion of the Activation Function 2, AF2, domain of PPARδ show enhanced repression of PPRE signalling in the presence of a PPARδ agonist. We propose that the mechanism for the phenomenon is increased RXR heterodimerisation and DNA binding upon ligand binding concomitant with transcriptional co-repressor binding. We also demonstrated ligand-dependent dominant negative action of a DNA non-binding derivative of PPARδ on PPARγ1 signalling. This activity was abolished upon over-expression of RXRα suggesting a role for PPAR/cofactor competition in the absence of DNA binding.
These findings are important in understanding the wide spectrum of molecular interactions in which PPARδ and PPARγ have opposing biological roles and suggest novel paradigms for the design of different functional classes of nuclear receptor antagonist drugs.
PMCID: PMC2737640  PMID: 19756148
17.  Carrier Status for the Common R501X and 2282del4 Filaggrin Mutations Is Not Associated with Hearing Phenotypes in 5377 Children from the ALSPAC Cohort 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(6):e5784.
Filaggrin is a major protein in the epidermis. Several mutations in the filaggrin gene (FLG) have been associated with a number of conditions. Filaggrin is expressed in the tympanic membrane and could alter its mechanical properties, but the relationship between genetic variation in FLG and hearing has not yet been tested.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We examined whether loss-of function mutations R501X and 2282del4 in the FLG gene affected hearing in children. Twenty eight hearing variables representing five different aspects of hearing at age nine years in 5,377 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort were tested for association with these mutations. No evidence of association was found between R501X or 2282del4 (or overall FLG mutation carrier status) and any of the hearing phenotypes analysed.
In conclusion, carrier status for common filaggrin mutations does not affect hearing in children.
PMCID: PMC2685991  PMID: 19492053
18.  Common variants in WFS1 confer risk of type 2 diabetes 
Nature genetics  2007;39(8):951-953.
We studied genes involved in pancreatic β cell function and survival, identifying associations between SNPs in WFS1 and diabetes risk in UK populations that we replicated in an Ashkenazi population and in additional UK studies. In a pooled analysis comprising 9,533 cases and 11,389 controls, SNPs in WFS1 were strongly associated with diabetes risk. Rare mutations in WFS1 cause Wolfram syndrome; using a gene-centric approach, we show that variation in WFS1 also predisposes to common type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2672152  PMID: 17603484
19.  Gene-Environment Interaction in the Onset of Eczema in Infancy: Filaggrin Loss-of-Function Mutations Enhanced by Neonatal Cat Exposure  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(6):e131.
Loss-of-function variants in the gene encoding filaggrin (FLG) are major determinants of eczema. We hypothesized that weakening of the physical barrier in FLG-deficient individuals may potentiate the effect of environmental exposures. Therefore, we investigated whether there is an interaction between FLG loss-of-function mutations with environmental exposures (pets and dust mites) in relation to the development of eczema.
Methods and Findings
We used data obtained in early life in a high-risk birth cohort in Denmark and replicated the findings in an unselected birth cohort in the United Kingdom. Primary outcome was age of onset of eczema; environmental exposures included pet ownership and mite and pet allergen levels. In Copenhagen (n = 379), FLG mutation increased the risk of eczema during the first year of life (hazard ratio [HR] 2.26, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.27–4.00, p = 0.005), with a further increase in risk related to cat exposure at birth amongst children with FLG mutation (HR 11.11, 95% CI 3.79–32.60, p < 0.0001); dog exposure was moderately protective (HR 0.49, 95% CI 0.24–1.01, p = 0.05), but not related to FLG genotype. In Manchester (n = 503) an independent and significant association of the development of eczema by age 12 mo with FLG genotype was confirmed (HR 1.95, 95% CI 1.13–3.36, p = 0.02). In addition, the risk increased because of the interaction of cat ownership at birth and FLG genotype (HR 3.82, 95% CI 1.35–10.81, p = 0.01), with no significant effect of the interaction with dog ownership (HR 0.59, 95% CI 0.16–2.20, p = 0.43). Mite-allergen had no effects in either cohort. The observed effects were independent of sensitisation.
We have demonstrated a significant interaction between FLG loss-of-function main mutations (501x and 2282del4) and cat ownership at birth on the development of early-life eczema in two independent birth cohorts. Our data suggest that cat but not dog ownership substantially increases the risk of eczema within the first year of life in children with FLG loss-of-function variants, but not amongst those without. FLG-deficient individuals may need to avoid cats but not dogs in early life.
In two independent cohorts of children, Hans Bisgaard and colleagues show an association between mutations in the filaggrin gene (FLG) and ownership of cats, but not dogs, with development of eczema.
Editors' Summary
Eczema is a skin condition characterized by dry, red, and itchy patches on the skin. Eczema is associated with asthma and allergy, though allergy rarely plays a role in development or severity of eczema. Eczema usually begins during infancy, typically on the face, scalp, neck, extensor sides of the forearms, and legs. Up to one in five infants develops eczema, but in more than half of them, the condition improves or disappears completely before they are 15 years old. If eczema persists into adulthood, it usually affects the face and the skin inside the knees and elbows. There is no cure for eczema but it can be controlled by avoiding anything that makes its symptoms worse. These triggers include irritants such as wool, strong soaps, perfumes, and dry environments. A good skin-care routine and frequent moisturizing can also help to keep eczema under control, but in many cases, corticosteroid creams and ointments may be necessary to reduce inflammation.
Why Was This Study Done?
Eczema tends to run in families. This suggests that eczema is caused by genetic factors as well as by environmental factors. Recently, researchers discovered that two common “loss-of-function” variants in the gene encoding filaggrin (FLG) predispose people to eczema. People who inherit one or two defective genes make no filaggrin, a protein that normally forms a physical barrier in the skin that protects the body from potentially harmful substances in the environment. Might the weakening of this barrier in filaggrin-deficient individuals affect their responses to environmental substances to which the skin is exposed? In this study, the researchers test this potential explanation for how genetic and environmental factors (in particular, exposure to pets) might interact to determine an individual's chances of developing eczema.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To test their hypothesis, the researchers studied two independent groups of infants during their first year of life—a high-risk group consisting of infants born in Copenhagen, Denmark to mothers with asthma and a group of infants born to women from the general population in Manchester, United Kingdom. The researchers determined which FLG variants each child had inherited and classified those with either one or two defective copies of FLG as having an FLG mutation. They determined pet exposure in early life by asking whether a dog or a cat was living in the parental home when the child was born (“pet ownership”) and then analyzed how these genetic and environmental factors affected the age of onset of eczema. In both groups, children with FLG mutations were twice as likely to develop eczema during the first year of life as children without FLG mutations. For children without FLG mutations, cat ownership at birth had no effect on eczema risk but for children with FLG mutations, cat ownership at birth (but not dog ownership) further increased the risk of developing eczema.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that FLG mutations and cat ownership at birth interact to determine the chances of a child developing eczema during the first year of life. They provide support, therefore, for the researchers' suggestion that the weakening of the skin's protective barrier that is caused by filaggrin deficiency increases the child's susceptibility to factors associated with cat exposure. Only a small number of children in this study carried FLG mutations and were exposed to cats from birth, so these findings need confirming in independent studies. In addition, it is still not clear how exposure to cats drives the development of eczema. Allergy was not the mechanism as the FLG-deficient children exposed to cat and who developed eczema did not develop cat-specific immunoglobin E antibodies. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that, to reduce their risk of developing eczema, filaggrin-deficient individuals should avoid cats (but not dogs) during the first few months of life.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a page on eczema (in English and Spanish); links to further information are provided by MedlinePlus
EczemaNet is a comprehensive online information resource about eczema provided by the American Academy of Dermatologists
The US National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases provides information on eczema
The UK National Health Service Direct health encyclopedia provides information for patients on eczema (in several languages)
The Copenhagen Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) and Manchester Asthma and Allergy Study (MAAS) Web sites provide more information about the children involved in this research
PMCID: PMC2504043  PMID: 18578563
20.  Heritability of variation in glycaemic response to metformin: a genome-wide complex trait analysis 
Metformin is a first-line oral agent used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but glycaemic response to this drug is highly variable. Understanding the genetic contribution to metformin response might increase the possibility of personalising metformin treatment. We aimed to establish the heritability of glycaemic response to metformin using the genome-wide complex trait analysis (GCTA) method.
In this GCTA study, we obtained data about HbA1c concentrations before and during metformin treatment from patients in the Genetics of Diabetes Audit and Research in Tayside Scotland (GoDARTS) study, which includes a cohort of patients with type 2 diabetes and is linked to comprehensive clinical databases and genome-wide association study data. We applied the GCTA method to estimate heritability for four definitions of glycaemic response to metformin: absolute reduction in HbA1c; proportional reduction in HbA1c; adjusted reduction in HbA1c; and whether or not the target on-treatment HbA1c of less than 7% (53 mmol/mol) was achieved, with adjustment for baseline HbA1c and known clinical covariates. Chromosome-wise heritability estimation was used to obtain further information about the genetic architecture.
5386 individuals were included in the final dataset, of whom 2085 had enough clinical data to define glycaemic response to metformin. The heritability of glycaemic response to metformin varied by response phenotype, with a heritability of 34% (95% CI 1–68; p=0·022) for the absolute reduction in HbA1c, adjusted for pretreatment HbA1c. Chromosome-wise heritability estimates suggest that the genetic contribution is probably from individual variants scattered across the genome, which each have a small to moderate effect, rather than from a few loci that each have a large effect.
Glycaemic response to metformin is heritable, thus glycaemic response to metformin is, in part, intrinsic to individual biological variation. Further genetic analysis might enable us to make better predictions for stratified medicine and to unravel new mechanisms of metformin action.
Wellcome Trust.
PMCID: PMC4038749  PMID: 24731673
21.  Common variants in the HLA-DRB1-HLA-DQA1 Class II region are associated with susceptibility to visceral leishmaniasis 
Nature genetics  2013;45(2):208-213.
To identify susceptibility loci for visceral leishmaniasis we undertook genome-wide association studies in two populations; 989 cases and 1089 controls from India, and 357 cases in 308 Brazilian families (1970 individuals). The HLA-DRB1-HLA-DQA1 locus was the only region to show strong evidence of association in both populations. Replication at this region was undertaken in a second Indian population comprising 941 cases and 990 controls, resulting in Pcombined=2.76×10−17 and OR(95%CI)=1.41(1.30-1.52) across the three cohorts at rs9271858. A conditional analysis provided evidence for multiple associations within the HLA-DRB1-HLA-DQA1 region, and a model in which risk differed between three groups of haplotypes better explained the signal and was significant in the Indian discovery and replication cohorts. In conclusion the HLA-DRB1-HLA-DQA1 HLA class II region contributes to visceral leishmaniasis susceptibility in India and Brazil, suggesting shared genetic risk factors for visceral leishmaniasis that cross the epidemiological divides of geography and parasite species.
PMCID: PMC3664012  PMID: 23291585
22.  Genome-wide association study of intraocular pressure identifies the GLCCI1/ICA1 region as a glaucoma susceptibility locus 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(22):4653-4660.
To discover quantitative trait loci for intraocular pressure, a major risk factor for glaucoma and the only modifiable one, we performed a genome-wide association study on a discovery cohort of 2175 individuals from Sydney, Australia. We found a novel association between intraocular pressure and a common variant at 7p21 near to GLCCI1 and ICA1. The findings in this region were confirmed through two UK replication cohorts totalling 4866 individuals (rs59072263, Pcombined = 1.10 × 10−8). A copy of the G allele at this SNP is associated with an increase in mean IOP of 0.45 mmHg (95%CI = 0.30–0.61 mmHg). These results lend support to the implication of vesicle trafficking and glucocorticoid inducibility pathways in the determination of intraocular pressure and in the pathogenesis of primary open-angle glaucoma.
PMCID: PMC3904806  PMID: 23836780
23.  Deep Resequencing Unveils Genetic Architecture of ADIPOQ and Identifies a Novel Low-Frequency Variant Strongly Associated With Adiponectin Variation 
Diabetes  2012;61(5):1297-1301.
Increased adiponectin levels have been shown to be associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. To understand the relations between genetic variation at the adiponectin-encoding gene, ADIPOQ, and adiponectin levels, and subsequently its role in disease, we conducted a deep resequencing experiment of ADIPOQ in 14,002 subjects, including 12,514 Europeans, 594 African Americans, and 567 Indian Asians. We identified 296 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), including 30 amino acid changes, and carried out association analyses in a subset of 3,665 subjects from two independent studies. We confirmed multiple genome-wide association study findings and identified a novel association between a low-frequency SNP (rs17366653) and adiponectin levels (P = 2.2E–17). We show that seven SNPs exert independent effects on adiponectin levels. Together, they explained 6% of adiponectin variation in our samples. We subsequently assessed association between these SNPs and type 2 diabetes in the Genetics of Diabetes Audit and Research in Tayside Scotland (GO-DARTS) study, comprised of 5,145 case and 6,374 control subjects. No evidence of association with type 2 diabetes was found, but we were also unable to exclude the possibility of substantial effects (e.g., odds ratio 95% CI for rs7366653 [0.91–1.58]). Further investigation by large-scale and well-powered Mendelian randomization studies is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3331741  PMID: 22403302
24.  Paradoxical Lower Serum Triglyceride Levels and Higher Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Susceptibility in Obese Individuals with the PNPLA3 148M Variant 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39362.
Obesity is highly associated with elevated serum triglycerides, hepatic steatosis and type 2 diabetes (T2D). The I148M (rs738409) genetic variant of patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3 gene (PNPLA3) is known to modulate hepatic triglyceride accumulation, leading to steatosis. No association between PNPLA3 I148M genotype and T2D in Europeans has been reported. Aim of this study is to examine the relationship between PNPLA3 I148M genotypes and serum triglycerides, insulin resistance and T2D susceptibility by testing a gene-environment interaction model with severe obesity.
Methods and Findings
PNPLA3 I148M was genotyped in a large obese cohort, the SOS study (n = 3,473) and in the Go-DARTS (n = 15,448), a T2D case-control study. Metabolic parameters were examined across the PNPLA3 I148M genotypes in participants of the SOS study at baseline and at 2- and 10-year follow up after bariatric surgery or conventional therapy. The associations with metabolic parameters were validated in the Go-DARTS study. Serum triglycerides were found to be lower in the PNPLA3 148M carriers from the SOS study at baseline and from the Go-DARTS T2D cohort. An increased risk for T2D conferred by the 148M allele was found in the SOS study (O.R. 1.09, 95% C.I. 1.01-1.39, P = 0.040) and in severely obese individuals in the Go-DARTS study (O.R. 1.37, 95% C.I. 1.13-1.66, P = 0.001). The 148M allele was no longer associated with insulin resistance or T2D after bariatric surgery in the SOS study and no association with the 148M allele was observed in the less obese (BMI<35) individuals in the Go-DARTS study (P for interaction  = 0.002). This provides evidence for the obesity interaction with I48M allele and T2D risk in a large-scale cross-sectional and a prospective interventional study.
Severely obese individuals carrying the PNPLA3 148M allele have lower serum triglyceride levels, are more insulin resistant and more susceptible to T2D. This study supports the hypothesis that obesity-driven hepatic lipid accumulation may contribute to T2D susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3377675  PMID: 22724004
25.  Mendelian Randomization Studies Do Not Support a Role for Raised Circulating Triglyceride Levels Influencing Type 2 Diabetes, Glucose Levels, or Insulin Resistance 
Diabetes  2011;60(3):1008-1018.
The causal nature of associations between circulating triglycerides, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes is unclear. We aimed to use Mendelian randomization to test the hypothesis that raised circulating triglyceride levels causally influence the risk of type 2 diabetes and raise normal fasting glucose levels and hepatic insulin resistance.
We tested 10 common genetic variants robustly associated with circulating triglyceride levels against the type 2 diabetes status in 5,637 case and 6,860 control subjects and four continuous outcomes (reflecting glycemia and hepatic insulin resistance) in 8,271 nondiabetic individuals from four studies.
Individuals carrying greater numbers of triglyceride-raising alleles had increased circulating triglyceride levels (SD 0.59 [95% CI 0.52–0.65] difference between the 20% of individuals with the most alleles and the 20% with the fewest alleles). There was no evidence that the carriers of greater numbers of triglyceride-raising alleles were at increased risk of type 2 diabetes (per weighted allele odds ratio [OR] 0.99 [95% CI 0.97–1.01]; P = 0.26). In nondiabetic individuals, there was no evidence that carriers of greater numbers of triglyceride-raising alleles had increased fasting insulin levels (SD 0.00 per weighted allele [95% CI −0.01 to 0.02]; P = 0.72) or increased fasting glucose levels (0.00 [−0.01 to 0.01]; P = 0.88). Instrumental variable analyses confirmed that genetically raised circulating triglyceride levels were not associated with increased diabetes risk, fasting glucose, or fasting insulin and, for diabetes, showed a trend toward a protective association (OR per 1-SD increase in log10 triglycerides: 0.61 [95% CI 0.45–0.83]; P = 0.002).
Genetically raised circulating triglyceride levels do not increase the risk of type 2 diabetes or raise fasting glucose or fasting insulin levels in nondiabetic individuals. One explanation for our results is that raised circulating triglycerides are predominantly secondary to the diabetes disease process rather than causal.
PMCID: PMC3046819  PMID: 21282362

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