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1.  Quality control and conduct of genome-wide association meta-analyses 
Nature protocols  2014;9(5):1192-1212.
Rigorous organization and quality control (QC) are necessary to facilitate successful genome-wide association meta-analyses (GWAMAs) of statistics aggregated across multiple genome-wide association studies. This protocol provides guidelines for [1] organizational aspects of GWAMAs, and for [2] QC at the study file level, the meta-level across studies, and the meta-analysis output level. Real–world examples highlight issues experienced and solutions developed by the GIANT Consortium that has conducted meta-analyses including data from 125 studies comprising more than 330,000 individuals. We provide a general protocol for conducting GWAMAs and carrying out QC to minimize errors and to guarantee maximum use of the data. We also include details for use of a powerful and flexible software package called EasyQC. For consortia of comparable size to the GIANT consortium, the present protocol takes a minimum of about 10 months to complete.
doi:10.1038/nprot.2014.071
PMCID: PMC4083217  PMID: 24762786
2.  Quality control and conduct of genome-wide association meta-analyses 
Nature protocols  2014;9(5):1192-1212.
Rigorous organization and quality control (QC) are necessary to facilitate successful genome-wide association meta-analyses (GWAMAs) of statistics aggregated across multiple genome-wide association studies. This protocol provides guidelines for [1] organizational aspects of GWAMAs, and for [2] QC at the study file level, the meta-level across studies, and the meta-analysis output level. Real–world examples highlight issues experienced and solutions developed by the GIANT Consortium that has conducted meta-analyses including data from 125 studies comprising more than 330,000 individuals. We provide a general protocol for conducting GWAMAs and carrying out QC to minimize errors and to guarantee maximum use of the data. We also include details for use of a powerful and flexible software package called EasyQC. For consortia of comparable size to the GIANT consortium, the present protocol takes a minimum of about 10 months to complete.
doi:10.1038/nprot.2014.071
PMCID: PMC4083217  PMID: 24762786
3.  Distribution and Medical Impact of Loss-of-Function Variants in the Finnish Founder Population 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(7):e1004494.
Exome sequencing studies in complex diseases are challenged by the allelic heterogeneity, large number and modest effect sizes of associated variants on disease risk and the presence of large numbers of neutral variants, even in phenotypically relevant genes. Isolated populations with recent bottlenecks offer advantages for studying rare variants in complex diseases as they have deleterious variants that are present at higher frequencies as well as a substantial reduction in rare neutral variation. To explore the potential of the Finnish founder population for studying low-frequency (0.5–5%) variants in complex diseases, we compared exome sequence data on 3,000 Finns to the same number of non-Finnish Europeans and discovered that, despite having fewer variable sites overall, the average Finn has more low-frequency loss-of-function variants and complete gene knockouts. We then used several well-characterized Finnish population cohorts to study the phenotypic effects of 83 enriched loss-of-function variants across 60 phenotypes in 36,262 Finns. Using a deep set of quantitative traits collected on these cohorts, we show 5 associations (p<5×10−8) including splice variants in LPA that lowered plasma lipoprotein(a) levels (P = 1.5×10−117). Through accessing the national medical records of these participants, we evaluate the LPA finding via Mendelian randomization and confirm that these splice variants confer protection from cardiovascular disease (OR = 0.84, P = 3×10−4), demonstrating for the first time the correlation between very low levels of LPA in humans with potential therapeutic implications for cardiovascular diseases. More generally, this study articulates substantial advantages for studying the role of rare variation in complex phenotypes in founder populations like the Finns and by combining a unique population genetic history with data from large population cohorts and centralized research access to National Health Registers.
Author Summary
We explored the coding regions of 3,000 Finnish individuals with 3,000 non-Finnish Europeans (NFEs) using whole-exome sequence data, in order to understand how an individual from a bottlenecked population might differ from an individual from an out-bred population. We provide empirical evidence that there are more rare and low-frequency deleterious alleles in Finns compared to NFEs, such that an average Finn has almost twice as many low-frequency complete knockouts of a gene. As such, we hypothesized that some of these low-frequency loss-of-function variants might have important medical consequences in humans and genotyped 83 of these variants in 36,000 Finns. In doing so, we discovered that completely knocking out the TSFM gene might result in inviability or a very severe phenotype in humans and that knocking out the LPA gene might confer protection against coronary heart diseases, suggesting that LPA is likely to be a good potential therapeutic target.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004494
PMCID: PMC4117444  PMID: 25078778
4.  Upper Palaeolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans 
Nature  2013;505(7481):87-91.
The origins of the First Americans remain contentious. Although Native Americans seem to be genetically most closely related to east Asians1–3, there is no consensus with regard to which specific Old World populations they are closest to4–8. Here we sequence the draft genome of an approximately 24,000-year-old individual (MA-1), from Mal’ta in south-central Siberia9, to an average depth of 13. To our knowledge this is the oldest anatomically modern human genome reported to date. The MA-1 mitochondrial genome belongs to haplogroup U, which has also been found at high frequency among Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic European hunter-gatherers10–12, and the Y chromosome of MA-1 is basal to modern-day western Eurasians and near the root of most Native American lineages5. Similarly, we find autosomal evidence that MA-1 is basal to modern-day western Eurasians and genetically closely related to modern-day Native Americans, with no close affinity to east Asians. This suggests that populations related to contemporary western Eurasians had a more north-easterly distribution 24,000 years ago than commonly thought. Furthermore, we estimate that 14 to 38% of Native American ancestry may originate through gene flow from this ancient population. This is likely to have occurred after the divergence of Native American ancestors from east Asian ancestors, but before the diversification of Native American populations in the New World. Gene flow from the MA-1 lineage into Native American ancestors could explain why several crania from the First Americans have been reported as bearing morphological characteristics that do not resemble those of east Asians2,13. Sequencing of another south-central Siberian, Afontova Gora-2 dating to approximately 17,000 years ago14, revealed similar autosomal genetic signatures as MA-1, suggesting that the region was continuously occupied by humans throughout the Last Glacial Maximum. Our findings reveal that western Eurasian genetic signatures in modern-day Native Americans derive not only from post-Columbian admixture, as commonly thought, but also from a mixed ancestry of the First Americans.
doi:10.1038/nature12736
PMCID: PMC4105016  PMID: 24256729
5.  Identification of seven loci affecting mean telomere length and their association with disease 
Codd, Veryan | Nelson, Christopher P. | Albrecht, Eva | Mangino, Massimo | Deelen, Joris | Buxton, Jessica L. | Jan Hottenga, Jouke | Fischer, Krista | Esko, Tõnu | Surakka, Ida | Broer, Linda | Nyholt, Dale R. | Mateo Leach, Irene | Salo, Perttu | Hägg, Sara | Matthews, Mary K. | Palmen, Jutta | Norata, Giuseppe D. | O’Reilly, Paul F. | Saleheen, Danish | Amin, Najaf | Balmforth, Anthony J. | Beekman, Marian | de Boer, Rudolf A. | Böhringer, Stefan | Braund, Peter S. | Burton, Paul R. | de Craen, Anton J. M. | Denniff, Matthew | Dong, Yanbin | Douroudis, Konstantinos | Dubinina, Elena | Eriksson, Johan G. | Garlaschelli, Katia | Guo, Dehuang | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Henders, Anjali K. | Houwing-Duistermaat, Jeanine J. | Kananen, Laura | Karssen, Lennart C. | Kettunen, Johannes | Klopp, Norman | Lagou, Vasiliki | van Leeuwen, Elisabeth M. | Madden, Pamela A. | Mägi, Reedik | Magnusson, Patrik K.E. | Männistö, Satu | McCarthy, Mark I. | Medland, Sarah E. | Mihailov, Evelin | Montgomery, Grant W. | Oostra, Ben A. | Palotie, Aarno | Peters, Annette | Pollard, Helen | Pouta, Anneli | Prokopenko, Inga | Ripatti, Samuli | Salomaa, Veikko | Suchiman, H. Eka D. | Valdes, Ana M. | Verweij, Niek | Viñuela, Ana | Wang, Xiaoling | Wichmann, H.-Erich | Widen, Elisabeth | Willemsen, Gonneke | Wright, Margaret J. | Xia, Kai | Xiao, Xiangjun | van Veldhuisen, Dirk J. | Catapano, Alberico L. | Tobin, Martin D. | Hall, Alistair S. | Blakemore, Alexandra I.F. | van Gilst, Wiek H. | Zhu, Haidong | Erdmann, Jeanette | Reilly, Muredach P. | Kathiresan, Sekar | Schunkert, Heribert | Talmud, Philippa J. | Pedersen, Nancy L. | Perola, Markus | Ouwehand, Willem | Kaprio, Jaakko | Martin, Nicholas G. | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Hovatta, Iiris | Gieger, Christian | Metspalu, Andres | Boomsma, Dorret I. | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Slagboom, P. Eline | Thompson, John R. | Spector, Tim D. | van der Harst, Pim | Samani, Nilesh J.
Nature genetics  2013;45(4):422-427e2.
Inter-individual variation in mean leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is associated with cancer and several age-associated diseases. Here, in a genome-wide meta-analysis of 37,684 individuals with replication of selected variants in a further 10,739 individuals, we identified seven loci, including five novel loci, associated with mean LTL (P<5x10−8). Five of the loci contain genes (TERC, TERT, NAF1, OBFC1, RTEL1) that are known to be involved in telomere biology. Lead SNPs at two loci (TERC and TERT) associate with several cancers and other diseases, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Moreover, a genetic risk score analysis combining lead variants at all seven loci in 22,233 coronary artery disease cases and 64,762 controls showed an association of the alleles associated with shorter LTL with increased risk of CAD (21% (95% CI: 5–35%) per standard deviation in LTL, p=0.014). Our findings support a causal role of telomere length variation in some age-related diseases.
doi:10.1038/ng.2528
PMCID: PMC4006270  PMID: 23535734
6.  Mapping the Genetic Architecture of Gene Regulation in Whole Blood 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93844.
Background
We aimed to assess whether whole blood expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) with effects in cis and trans are robust and can be used to identify regulatory pathways affecting disease susceptibility.
Materials and Methods
We performed whole-genome eQTL analyses in 890 participants of the KORA F4 study and in two independent replication samples (SHIP-TREND, N = 976 and EGCUT, N = 842) using linear regression models and Bonferroni correction.
Results
In the KORA F4 study, 4,116 cis-eQTLs (defined as SNP-probe pairs where the SNP is located within a 500 kb window around the transcription unit) and 94 trans-eQTLs reached genome-wide significance and overall 91% (92% of cis-, 84% of trans-eQTLs) were confirmed in at least one of the two replication studies. Different study designs including distinct laboratory reagents (PAXgene™ vs. Tempus™ tubes) did not affect reproducibility (separate overall replication overlap: 78% and 82%). Immune response pathways were enriched in cis- and trans-eQTLs and significant cis-eQTLs were partly coexistent in other tissues (cross-tissue similarity 40–70%). Furthermore, four chromosomal regions displayed simultaneous impact on multiple gene expression levels in trans, and 746 eQTL-SNPs have been previously reported to have clinical relevance. We demonstrated cross-associations between eQTL-SNPs, gene expression levels in trans, and clinical phenotypes as well as a link between eQTLs and human metabolic traits via modification of gene regulation in cis.
Conclusions
Our data suggest that whole blood is a robust tissue for eQTL analysis and may be used both for biomarker studies and to enhance our understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying gene-disease associations.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093844
PMCID: PMC3989189  PMID: 24740359
7.  A Central Role for GRB10 in Regulation of Islet Function in Man 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(4):e1004235.
Variants in the growth factor receptor-bound protein 10 (GRB10) gene were in a GWAS meta-analysis associated with reduced glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and increased risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) if inherited from the father, but inexplicably reduced fasting glucose when inherited from the mother. GRB10 is a negative regulator of insulin signaling and imprinted in a parent-of-origin fashion in different tissues. GRB10 knock-down in human pancreatic islets showed reduced insulin and glucagon secretion, which together with changes in insulin sensitivity may explain the paradoxical reduction of glucose despite a decrease in insulin secretion. Together, these findings suggest that tissue-specific methylation and possibly imprinting of GRB10 can influence glucose metabolism and contribute to T2D pathogenesis. The data also emphasize the need in genetic studies to consider whether risk alleles are inherited from the mother or the father.
Author Summary
In this paper, we report the first large genome-wide association study in man for glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) indices during an oral glucose tolerance test. We identify seven genetic loci and provide effects on GSIS for all previously reported glycemic traits and obesity genetic loci in a large-scale sample. We observe paradoxical effects of genetic variants in the growth factor receptor-bound protein 10 (GRB10) gene yielding both reduced GSIS and reduced fasting plasma glucose concentrations, specifically showing a parent-of-origin effect of GRB10 on lower fasting plasma glucose and enhanced insulin sensitivity for maternal and elevated glucose and decreased insulin sensitivity for paternal transmissions of the risk allele. We also observe tissue-specific differences in DNA methylation and allelic imbalance in expression of GRB10 in human pancreatic islets. We further disrupt GRB10 by shRNA in human islets, showing reduction of both insulin and glucagon expression and secretion. In conclusion, we provide evidence for complex regulation of GRB10 in human islets. Our data suggest that tissue-specific methylation and imprinting of GRB10 can influence glucose metabolism and contribute to T2D pathogenesis. The data also emphasize the need in genetic studies to consider whether risk alleles are inherited from the mother or the father.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004235
PMCID: PMC3974640  PMID: 24699409
8.  Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies 11 new loci for anthropometric traits and provides insights into genetic architecture 
Berndt, Sonja I. | Gustafsson, Stefan | Mägi, Reedik | Ganna, Andrea | Wheeler, Eleanor | Feitosa, Mary F. | Justice, Anne E. | Monda, Keri L. | Croteau-Chonka, Damien C. | Day, Felix R. | Esko, Tõnu | Fall, Tove | Ferreira, Teresa | Gentilini, Davide | Jackson, Anne U. | Luan, Jian’an | Randall, Joshua C. | Vedantam, Sailaja | Willer, Cristen J. | Winkler, Thomas W. | Wood, Andrew R. | Workalemahu, Tsegaselassie | Hu, Yi-Juan | Lee, Sang Hong | Liang, Liming | Lin, Dan-Yu | Min, Josine L. | Neale, Benjamin M. | Thorleifsson, Gudmar | Yang, Jian | Albrecht, Eva | Amin, Najaf | Bragg-Gresham, Jennifer L. | Cadby, Gemma | den Heijer, Martin | Eklund, Niina | Fischer, Krista | Goel, Anuj | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Huffman, Jennifer E. | Jarick, Ivonne | Johansson, Åsa | Johnson, Toby | Kanoni, Stavroula | Kleber, Marcus E. | König, Inke R. | Kristiansson, Kati | Kutalik, Zoltán | Lamina, Claudia | Lecoeur, Cecile | Li, Guo | Mangino, Massimo | McArdle, Wendy L. | Medina-Gomez, Carolina | Müller-Nurasyid, Martina | Ngwa, Julius S. | Nolte, Ilja M. | Paternoster, Lavinia | Pechlivanis, Sonali | Perola, Markus | Peters, Marjolein J. | Preuss, Michael | Rose, Lynda M. | Shi, Jianxin | Shungin, Dmitry | Smith, Albert Vernon | Strawbridge, Rona J. | Surakka, Ida | Teumer, Alexander | Trip, Mieke D. | Tyrer, Jonathan | Van Vliet-Ostaptchouk, Jana V. | Vandenput, Liesbeth | Waite, Lindsay L. | Zhao, Jing Hua | Absher, Devin | Asselbergs, Folkert W. | Atalay, Mustafa | Attwood, Antony P. | Balmforth, Anthony J. | Basart, Hanneke | Beilby, John | Bonnycastle, Lori L. | Brambilla, Paolo | Bruinenberg, Marcel | Campbell, Harry | Chasman, Daniel I. | Chines, Peter S. | Collins, Francis S. | Connell, John M. | Cookson, William | de Faire, Ulf | de Vegt, Femmie | Dei, Mariano | Dimitriou, Maria | Edkins, Sarah | Estrada, Karol | Evans, David M. | Farrall, Martin | Ferrario, Marco M. | Ferrières, Jean | Franke, Lude | Frau, Francesca | Gejman, Pablo V. | Grallert, Harald | Grönberg, Henrik | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Hall, Alistair S. | Hall, Per | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Hayward, Caroline | Heard-Costa, Nancy L. | Heath, Andrew C. | Hebebrand, Johannes | Homuth, Georg | Hu, Frank B. | Hunt, Sarah E. | Hyppönen, Elina | Iribarren, Carlos | Jacobs, Kevin B. | Jansson, John-Olov | Jula, Antti | Kähönen, Mika | Kathiresan, Sekar | Kee, Frank | Khaw, Kay-Tee | Kivimaki, Mika | Koenig, Wolfgang | Kraja, Aldi T. | Kumari, Meena | Kuulasmaa, Kari | Kuusisto, Johanna | Laitinen, Jaana H. | Lakka, Timo A. | Langenberg, Claudia | Launer, Lenore J. | Lind, Lars | Lindström, Jaana | Liu, Jianjun | Liuzzi, Antonio | Lokki, Marja-Liisa | Lorentzon, Mattias | Madden, Pamela A. | Magnusson, Patrik K. | Manunta, Paolo | Marek, Diana | März, Winfried | Mateo Leach, Irene | McKnight, Barbara | Medland, Sarah E. | Mihailov, Evelin | Milani, Lili | Montgomery, Grant W. | Mooser, Vincent | Mühleisen, Thomas W. | Munroe, Patricia B. | Musk, Arthur W. | Narisu, Narisu | Navis, Gerjan | Nicholson, George | Nohr, Ellen A. | Ong, Ken K. | Oostra, Ben A. | Palmer, Colin N.A. | Palotie, Aarno | Peden, John F. | Pedersen, Nancy | Peters, Annette | Polasek, Ozren | Pouta, Anneli | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Prokopenko, Inga | Pütter, Carolin | Radhakrishnan, Aparna | Raitakari, Olli | Rendon, Augusto | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Rudan, Igor | Saaristo, Timo E. | Sambrook, Jennifer G. | Sanders, Alan R. | Sanna, Serena | Saramies, Jouko | Schipf, Sabine | Schreiber, Stefan | Schunkert, Heribert | Shin, So-Youn | Signorini, Stefano | Sinisalo, Juha | Skrobek, Boris | Soranzo, Nicole | Stančáková, Alena | Stark, Klaus | Stephens, Jonathan C. | Stirrups, Kathleen | Stolk, Ronald P. | Stumvoll, Michael | Swift, Amy J. | Theodoraki, Eirini V. | Thorand, Barbara | Tregouet, David-Alexandre | Tremoli, Elena | Van der Klauw, Melanie M. | van Meurs, Joyce B.J. | Vermeulen, Sita H. | Viikari, Jorma | Virtamo, Jarmo | Vitart, Veronique | Waeber, Gérard | Wang, Zhaoming | Widén, Elisabeth | Wild, Sarah H. | Willemsen, Gonneke | Winkelmann, Bernhard R. | Witteman, Jacqueline C.M. | Wolffenbuttel, Bruce H.R. | Wong, Andrew | Wright, Alan F. | Zillikens, M. Carola | Amouyel, Philippe | Boehm, Bernhard O. | Boerwinkle, Eric | Boomsma, Dorret I. | Caulfield, Mark J. | Chanock, Stephen J. | Cupples, L. Adrienne | Cusi, Daniele | Dedoussis, George V. | Erdmann, Jeanette | Eriksson, Johan G. | Franks, Paul W. | Froguel, Philippe | Gieger, Christian | Gyllensten, Ulf | Hamsten, Anders | Harris, Tamara B. | Hengstenberg, Christian | Hicks, Andrew A. | Hingorani, Aroon | Hinney, Anke | Hofman, Albert | Hovingh, Kees G. | Hveem, Kristian | Illig, Thomas | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Jöckel, Karl-Heinz | Keinanen-Kiukaanniemi, Sirkka M. | Kiemeney, Lambertus A. | Kuh, Diana | Laakso, Markku | Lehtimäki, Terho | Levinson, Douglas F. | Martin, Nicholas G. | Metspalu, Andres | Morris, Andrew D. | Nieminen, Markku S. | Njølstad, Inger | Ohlsson, Claes | Oldehinkel, Albertine J. | Ouwehand, Willem H. | Palmer, Lyle J. | Penninx, Brenda | Power, Chris | Province, Michael A. | Psaty, Bruce M. | Qi, Lu | Rauramaa, Rainer | Ridker, Paul M. | Ripatti, Samuli | Salomaa, Veikko | Samani, Nilesh J. | Snieder, Harold | Sørensen, Thorkild I.A. | Spector, Timothy D. | Stefansson, Kari | Tönjes, Anke | Tuomilehto, Jaakko | Uitterlinden, André G. | Uusitupa, Matti | van der Harst, Pim | Vollenweider, Peter | Wallaschofski, Henri | Wareham, Nicholas J. | Watkins, Hugh | Wichmann, H.-Erich | Wilson, James F. | Abecasis, Goncalo R. | Assimes, Themistocles L. | Barroso, Inês | Boehnke, Michael | Borecki, Ingrid B. | Deloukas, Panos | Fox, Caroline S. | Frayling, Timothy | Groop, Leif C. | Haritunian, Talin | Heid, Iris M. | Hunter, David | Kaplan, Robert C. | Karpe, Fredrik | Moffatt, Miriam | Mohlke, Karen L. | O’Connell, Jeffrey R. | Pawitan, Yudi | Schadt, Eric E. | Schlessinger, David | Steinthorsdottir, Valgerdur | Strachan, David P. | Thorsteinsdottir, Unnur | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Visscher, Peter M. | Di Blasio, Anna Maria | Hirschhorn, Joel N. | Lindgren, Cecilia M. | Morris, Andrew P. | Meyre, David | Scherag, André | McCarthy, Mark I. | Speliotes, Elizabeth K. | North, Kari E. | Loos, Ruth J.F. | Ingelsson, Erik
Nature genetics  2013;45(5):501-512.
Approaches exploiting extremes of the trait distribution may reveal novel loci for common traits, but it is unknown whether such loci are generalizable to the general population. In a genome-wide search for loci associated with upper vs. lower 5th percentiles of body mass index, height and waist-hip ratio, as well as clinical classes of obesity including up to 263,407 European individuals, we identified four new loci (IGFBP4, H6PD, RSRC1, PPP2R2A) influencing height detected in the tails and seven new loci (HNF4G, RPTOR, GNAT2, MRPS33P4, ADCY9, HS6ST3, ZZZ3) for clinical classes of obesity. Further, we show that there is large overlap in terms of genetic structure and distribution of variants between traits based on extremes and the general population and little etiologic heterogeneity between obesity subgroups.
doi:10.1038/ng.2606
PMCID: PMC3973018  PMID: 23563607
9.  DNA methylome profiling of human tissues identifies global and tissue-specific methylation patterns 
Genome Biology  2014;15(4):r54.
Background
DNA epigenetic modifications, such as methylation, are important regulators of tissue differentiation, contributing to processes of both development and cancer. Profiling the tissue-specific DNA methylome patterns will provide novel insights into normal and pathogenic mechanisms, as well as help in future epigenetic therapies. In this study, 17 somatic tissues from four autopsied humans were subjected to functional genome analysis using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip, covering 486 428 CpG sites.
Results
Only 2% of the CpGs analyzed are hypermethylated in all 17 tissue specimens; these permanently methylated CpG sites are located predominantly in gene-body regions. In contrast, 15% of the CpGs are hypomethylated in all specimens and are primarily located in regions proximal to transcription start sites. A vast number of tissue-specific differentially methylated regions are identified and considered likely mediators of tissue-specific gene regulatory mechanisms since the hypomethylated regions are closely related to known functions of the corresponding tissue. Finally, a clear inverse correlation is observed between promoter methylation within CpG islands and gene expression data obtained from publicly available databases.
Conclusions
This genome-wide methylation profiling study identified tissue-specific differentially methylated regions in 17 human somatic tissues. Many of the genes corresponding to these differentially methylated regions contribute to tissue-specific functions. Future studies may use these data as a reference to identify markers of perturbed differentiation and disease-related pathogenic mechanisms.
doi:10.1186/gb-2014-15-4-r54
PMCID: PMC4053947  PMID: 24690455
10.  Biomarker Profiling by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy for the Prediction of All-Cause Mortality: An Observational Study of 17,345 Persons 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(2):e1001606.
In this study, Würtz and colleagues conducted high-throughput profiling of blood specimens in two large population-based cohorts in order to identify biomarkers for all-cause mortality and enhance risk prediction. The authors found that biomarker profiling improved prediction of the short-term risk of death from all causes above established risk factors. However, further investigations are needed to clarify the biological mechanisms and the utility of these biomarkers to guide screening and prevention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Early identification of ambulatory persons at high short-term risk of death could benefit targeted prevention. To identify biomarkers for all-cause mortality and enhance risk prediction, we conducted high-throughput profiling of blood specimens in two large population-based cohorts.
Methods and Findings
106 candidate biomarkers were quantified by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy of non-fasting plasma samples from a random subset of the Estonian Biobank (n = 9,842; age range 18–103 y; 508 deaths during a median of 5.4 y of follow-up). Biomarkers for all-cause mortality were examined using stepwise proportional hazards models. Significant biomarkers were validated and incremental predictive utility assessed in a population-based cohort from Finland (n = 7,503; 176 deaths during 5 y of follow-up). Four circulating biomarkers predicted the risk of all-cause mortality among participants from the Estonian Biobank after adjusting for conventional risk factors: alpha-1-acid glycoprotein (hazard ratio [HR] 1.67 per 1–standard deviation increment, 95% CI 1.53–1.82, p = 5×10−31), albumin (HR 0.70, 95% CI 0.65–0.76, p = 2×10−18), very-low-density lipoprotein particle size (HR 0.69, 95% CI 0.62–0.77, p = 3×10−12), and citrate (HR 1.33, 95% CI 1.21–1.45, p = 5×10−10). All four biomarkers were predictive of cardiovascular mortality, as well as death from cancer and other nonvascular diseases. One in five participants in the Estonian Biobank cohort with a biomarker summary score within the highest percentile died during the first year of follow-up, indicating prominent systemic reflections of frailty. The biomarker associations all replicated in the Finnish validation cohort. Including the four biomarkers in a risk prediction score improved risk assessment for 5-y mortality (increase in C-statistics 0.031, p = 0.01; continuous reclassification improvement 26.3%, p = 0.001).
Conclusions
Biomarker associations with cardiovascular, nonvascular, and cancer mortality suggest novel systemic connectivities across seemingly disparate morbidities. The biomarker profiling improved prediction of the short-term risk of death from all causes above established risk factors. Further investigations are needed to clarify the biological mechanisms and the utility of these biomarkers for guiding screening and prevention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
A biomarker is a biological molecule found in blood, body fluids, or tissues that may signal an abnormal process, a condition, or a disease. The level of a particular biomarker may indicate a patient's risk of disease, or likely response to a treatment. For example, cholesterol levels are measured to assess the risk of heart disease. Most current biomarkers are used to test an individual's risk of developing a specific condition. There are none that accurately assess whether a person is at risk of ill health generally, or likely to die soon from a disease. Early and accurate identification of people who appear healthy but in fact have an underlying serious illness would provide valuable opportunities for preventative treatment.
While most tests measure the levels of a specific biomarker, there are some technologies that allow blood samples to be screened for a wide range of biomarkers. These include nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. These tools have the potential to be used to screen the general population for a range of different biomarkers.
Why Was This Study Done?
Identifying new biomarkers that provide insight into the risk of death from all causes could be an important step in linking different diseases and assessing patient risk. The authors in this study screened patient samples using NMR spectroscopy for biomarkers that accurately predict the risk of death particularly amongst the general population, rather than amongst people already known to be ill.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers studied two large groups of people, one in Estonia and one in Finland. Both countries have set up health registries that collect and store blood samples and health records over many years. The registries include large numbers of people who are representative of the wider population.
The researchers first tested blood samples from a representative subset of the Estonian group, testing 9,842 samples in total. They looked at 106 different biomarkers in each sample using NMR spectroscopy. They also looked at the health records of this group and found that 508 people died during the follow-up period after the blood sample was taken, the majority from heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Using statistical analysis, they looked for any links between the levels of different biomarkers in the blood and people's short-term risk of dying. They found that the levels of four biomarkers—plasma albumin, alpha-1-acid glycoprotein, very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particle size, and citrate—appeared to accurately predict short-term risk of death. They repeated this study with the Finnish group, this time with 7,503 individuals (176 of whom died during the five-year follow-up period after giving a blood sample) and found similar results.
The researchers carried out further statistical analyses to take into account other known factors that might have contributed to the risk of life-threatening illness. These included factors such as age, weight, tobacco and alcohol use, cholesterol levels, and pre-existing illness, such as diabetes and cancer. The association between the four biomarkers and short-term risk of death remained the same even when controlling for these other factors.
The analysis also showed that combining the test results for all four biomarkers, to produce a biomarker score, provided a more accurate measure of risk than any of the biomarkers individually. This biomarker score also proved to be the strongest predictor of short-term risk of dying in the Estonian group. Individuals with a biomarker score in the top 20% had a risk of dying within five years that was 19 times greater than that of individuals with a score in the bottom 20% (288 versus 15 deaths).
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study suggests that there are four biomarkers in the blood—alpha-1-acid glycoprotein, albumin, VLDL particle size, and citrate—that can be measured by NMR spectroscopy to assess whether otherwise healthy people are at short-term risk of dying from heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses. However, further validation of these findings is still required, and additional studies should examine the biomarker specificity and associations in settings closer to clinical practice. The combined biomarker score appears to be a more accurate predictor of risk than tests for more commonly known risk factors. Identifying individuals who are at high risk using these biomarkers might help to target preventative medical treatments to those with the greatest need.
However, there are several limitations to this study. As an observational study, it provides evidence of only a correlation between a biomarker score and ill health. It does not identify any underlying causes. Other factors, not detectable by NMR spectroscopy, might be the true cause of serious health problems and would provide a more accurate assessment of risk. Nor does this study identify what kinds of treatment might prove successful in reducing the risks. Therefore, more research is needed to determine whether testing for these biomarkers would provide any clinical benefit.
There were also some technical limitations to the study. NMR spectroscopy does not detect as many biomarkers as mass spectrometry, which might therefore identify further biomarkers for a more accurate risk assessment. In addition, because both study groups were northern European, it is not yet known whether the results would be the same in other ethnic groups or populations with different lifestyles.
In spite of these limitations, the fact that the same four biomarkers are associated with a short-term risk of death from a variety of diseases does suggest that similar underlying mechanisms are taking place. This observation points to some potentially valuable areas of research to understand precisely what's contributing to the increased risk.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001606
The US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has information on biomarkers
The US Food and Drug Administration has a Biomarker Qualification Program to help researchers in identifying and evaluating new biomarkers
Further information on the Estonian Biobank is available
The Computational Medicine Research Team of the University of Oulu and the University of Bristol have a webpage that provides further information on high-throughput biomarker profiling by NMR spectroscopy
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001606
PMCID: PMC3934819  PMID: 24586121
11.  Integration of genome-wide association studies with biological knowledge identifies six novel genes related to kidney function 
Chasman, Daniel I. | Fuchsberger, Christian | Pattaro, Cristian | Teumer, Alexander | Böger, Carsten A. | Endlich, Karlhans | Olden, Matthias | Chen, Ming-Huei | Tin, Adrienne | Taliun, Daniel | Li, Man | Gao, Xiaoyi | Gorski, Mathias | Yang, Qiong | Hundertmark, Claudia | Foster, Meredith C. | O'Seaghdha, Conall M. | Glazer, Nicole | Isaacs, Aaron | Liu, Ching-Ti | Smith, Albert V. | O'Connell, Jeffrey R. | Struchalin, Maksim | Tanaka, Toshiko | Li, Guo | Johnson, Andrew D. | Gierman, Hinco J. | Feitosa, Mary F. | Hwang, Shih-Jen | Atkinson, Elizabeth J. | Lohman, Kurt | Cornelis, Marilyn C. | Johansson, Åsa | Tönjes, Anke | Dehghan, Abbas | Lambert, Jean-Charles | Holliday, Elizabeth G. | Sorice, Rossella | Kutalik, Zoltan | Lehtimäki, Terho | Esko, Tõnu | Deshmukh, Harshal | Ulivi, Sheila | Chu, Audrey Y. | Murgia, Federico | Trompet, Stella | Imboden, Medea | Coassin, Stefan | Pistis, Giorgio | Harris, Tamara B. | Launer, Lenore J. | Aspelund, Thor | Eiriksdottir, Gudny | Mitchell, Braxton D. | Boerwinkle, Eric | Schmidt, Helena | Cavalieri, Margherita | Rao, Madhumathi | Hu, Frank | Demirkan, Ayse | Oostra, Ben A. | de Andrade, Mariza | Turner, Stephen T. | Ding, Jingzhong | Andrews, Jeanette S. | Freedman, Barry I. | Giulianini, Franco | Koenig, Wolfgang | Illig, Thomas | Meisinger, Christa | Gieger, Christian | Zgaga, Lina | Zemunik, Tatijana | Boban, Mladen | Minelli, Cosetta | Wheeler, Heather E. | Igl, Wilmar | Zaboli, Ghazal | Wild, Sarah H. | Wright, Alan F. | Campbell, Harry | Ellinghaus, David | Nöthlings, Ute | Jacobs, Gunnar | Biffar, Reiner | Ernst, Florian | Homuth, Georg | Kroemer, Heyo K. | Nauck, Matthias | Stracke, Sylvia | Völker, Uwe | Völzke, Henry | Kovacs, Peter | Stumvoll, Michael | Mägi, Reedik | Hofman, Albert | Uitterlinden, Andre G. | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Aulchenko, Yurii S. | Polasek, Ozren | Hastie, Nick | Vitart, Veronique | Helmer, Catherine | Wang, Jie Jin | Stengel, Bénédicte | Ruggiero, Daniela | Bergmann, Sven | Kähönen, Mika | Viikari, Jorma | Nikopensius, Tiit | Province, Michael | Ketkar, Shamika | Colhoun, Helen | Doney, Alex | Robino, Antonietta | Krämer, Bernhard K. | Portas, Laura | Ford, Ian | Buckley, Brendan M. | Adam, Martin | Thun, Gian-Andri | Paulweber, Bernhard | Haun, Margot | Sala, Cinzia | Mitchell, Paul | Ciullo, Marina | Kim, Stuart K. | Vollenweider, Peter | Raitakari, Olli | Metspalu, Andres | Palmer, Colin | Gasparini, Paolo | Pirastu, Mario | Jukema, J. Wouter | Probst-Hensch, Nicole M. | Kronenberg, Florian | Toniolo, Daniela | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Shuldiner, Alan R. | Coresh, Josef | Schmidt, Reinhold | Ferrucci, Luigi | Siscovick, David S. | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Borecki, Ingrid B. | Kardia, Sharon L.R. | Liu, Yongmei | Curhan, Gary C. | Rudan, Igor | Gyllensten, Ulf | Wilson, James F. | Franke, Andre | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Rettig, Rainer | Prokopenko, Inga | Witteman, Jacqueline | Hayward, Caroline | Ridker, Paul M | Parsa, Afshin | Bochud, Murielle | Heid, Iris M. | Kao, W.H. Linda | Fox, Caroline S. | Köttgen, Anna
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(24):5329-5343.
In conducting genome-wide association studies (GWAS), analytical approaches leveraging biological information may further understanding of the pathophysiology of clinical traits. To discover novel associations with estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), a measure of kidney function, we developed a strategy for integrating prior biological knowledge into the existing GWAS data for eGFR from the CKDGen Consortium. Our strategy focuses on single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) in genes that are connected by functional evidence, determined by literature mining and gene ontology (GO) hierarchies, to genes near previously validated eGFR associations. It then requires association thresholds consistent with multiple testing, and finally evaluates novel candidates by independent replication. Among the samples of European ancestry, we identified a genome-wide significant SNP in FBXL20 (P = 5.6 × 10−9) in meta-analysis of all available data, and additional SNPs at the INHBC, LRP2, PLEKHA1, SLC3A2 and SLC7A6 genes meeting multiple-testing corrected significance for replication and overall P-values of 4.5 × 10−4–2.2 × 10−7. Neither the novel PLEKHA1 nor FBXL20 associations, both further supported by association with eGFR among African Americans and with transcript abundance, would have been implicated by eGFR candidate gene approaches. LRP2, encoding the megalin receptor, was identified through connection with the previously known eGFR gene DAB2 and extends understanding of the megalin system in kidney function. These findings highlight integration of existing genome-wide association data with independent biological knowledge to uncover novel candidate eGFR associations, including candidates lacking known connections to kidney-specific pathways. The strategy may also be applicable to other clinical phenotypes, although more testing will be needed to assess its potential for discovery in general.
doi:10.1093/hmg/dds369
PMCID: PMC3607468  PMID: 22962313
12.  RegScan: a GWAS tool for quick estimation of allele effects on continuous traits and their combinations 
Briefings in Bioinformatics  2013;16(1):39-44.
Genome-wide association studies are becoming computationally more demanding with the growing amounts of data. Combinatorial traits can increase the data dimensions beyond the computational capabilities of the current tools. We addressed this issue by creating an application for quick association analysis that is ten to hundreds of times faster than the leading fast methods. Our tool (RegScan) is designed for performing basic linear regression analysis with continuous traits maximally fast on large data sets. RegScan specifically targets association analysis of combinatorial traits in metabolomics. It can both generate and analyze the combinatorial traits efficiently. RegScan is capable of analyzing any number of traits together without the need to specify each trait individually. The main goal of the article is to show that RegScan can be the preferred analytical tool when large amounts of data need to be analyzed quickly using the allele frequency test.
Availability: Precompiled RegScan (all major platforms), source code, user guide and examples are freely available at www.biobank.ee/regscan.
Requirements: Qt 4.4.3 or newer for dynamic compilations.
doi:10.1093/bib/bbt066
PMCID: PMC4293375  PMID: 24008273
GWAS; genome-wide analysis; linear regression; continuous traits; combinatorial traits; metabolomics
13.  Contribution of 32 GWAS-Identified Common Variants to Severe Obesity in European Adults Referred for Bariatric Surgery 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70735.
The prevalence of severe obesity, defined as body mass index (BMI) ≥35.0 kg/m2, is rising rapidly. Given the disproportionately high health burden and healthcare costs associated with this condition, understanding the underlying aetiology, including predisposing genetic factors, is a biomedical research priority. Previous studies have suggested that severe obesity represents an extreme tail of the population BMI variation, reflecting shared genetic factors operating across the spectrum. Here, we sought to determine whether a panel of 32 known common obesity-susceptibility variants contribute to severe obesity in patients (n = 1,003, mean BMI 48.4±8.1 kg/m2) attending bariatric surgery clinics in two European centres. We examined the effects of these 32 common variants on obesity risk and BMI, both as individual markers and in combination as a genetic risk score, in a comparison with normal-weight controls (n = 1,809, BMI 18.0–24.9 kg/m2); an approach which, to our knowledge, has not been previously undertaken in the setting of a bariatric clinic. We found strong associations with severe obesity for SNP rs9939609 within the FTO gene (P = 9.3×10−8) and SNP rs2815752 near the NEGR1 gene (P = 3.6×10−4), and directionally consistent nominal associations (P<0.05) for 12 other SNPs. The genetic risk score associated with severe obesity (P = 8.3×10−11) but, within the bariatric cohort, this score did not associate with BMI itself (P = 0.264). Our results show significant effects of individual BMI-associated common variants within a relatively small sample size of bariatric patients. Furthermore, the burden of such low-penetrant risk alleles contributes to severe obesity in this population. Our findings support that severe obesity observed in bariatric patients represents an extreme tail of the population BMI variation. Moreover, future genetic studies focused on bariatric patients may provide valuable insights into the pathogenesis of obesity at a population level.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070735
PMCID: PMC3737377  PMID: 23950990
14.  The Role of Adiposity in Cardiometabolic Traits: A Mendelian Randomization Analysis 
Fall, Tove | Hägg, Sara | Mägi, Reedik | Ploner, Alexander | Fischer, Krista | Horikoshi, Momoko | Sarin, Antti-Pekka | Thorleifsson, Gudmar | Ladenvall, Claes | Kals, Mart | Kuningas, Maris | Draisma, Harmen H. M. | Ried, Janina S. | van Zuydam, Natalie R. | Huikari, Ville | Mangino, Massimo | Sonestedt, Emily | Benyamin, Beben | Nelson, Christopher P. | Rivera, Natalia V. | Kristiansson, Kati | Shen, Huei-yi | Havulinna, Aki S. | Dehghan, Abbas | Donnelly, Louise A. | Kaakinen, Marika | Nuotio, Marja-Liisa | Robertson, Neil | de Bruijn, Renée F. A. G. | Ikram, M. Arfan | Amin, Najaf | Balmforth, Anthony J. | Braund, Peter S. | Doney, Alexander S. F. | Döring, Angela | Elliott, Paul | Esko, Tõnu | Franco, Oscar H. | Gretarsdottir, Solveig | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Heikkilä, Kauko | Herzig, Karl-Heinz | Holm, Hilma | Hottenga, Jouke Jan | Hyppönen, Elina | Illig, Thomas | Isaacs, Aaron | Isomaa, Bo | Karssen, Lennart C. | Kettunen, Johannes | Koenig, Wolfgang | Kuulasmaa, Kari | Laatikainen, Tiina | Laitinen, Jaana | Lindgren, Cecilia | Lyssenko, Valeriya | Läärä, Esa | Rayner, Nigel W. | Männistö, Satu | Pouta, Anneli | Rathmann, Wolfgang | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Ruokonen, Aimo | Savolainen, Markku J. | Sijbrands, Eric J. G. | Small, Kerrin S. | Smit, Jan H. | Steinthorsdottir, Valgerdur | Syvänen, Ann-Christine | Taanila, Anja | Tobin, Martin D. | Uitterlinden, Andre G. | Willems, Sara M. | Willemsen, Gonneke | Witteman, Jacqueline | Perola, Markus | Evans, Alun | Ferrières, Jean | Virtamo, Jarmo | Kee, Frank | Tregouet, David-Alexandre | Arveiler, Dominique | Amouyel, Philippe | Ferrario, Marco M. | Brambilla, Paolo | Hall, Alistair S. | Heath, Andrew C. | Madden, Pamela A. F. | Martin, Nicholas G. | Montgomery, Grant W. | Whitfield, John B. | Jula, Antti | Knekt, Paul | Oostra, Ben | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Penninx, Brenda W. J. H. | Davey Smith, George | Kaprio, Jaakko | Samani, Nilesh J. | Gieger, Christian | Peters, Annette | Wichmann, H.-Erich | Boomsma, Dorret I. | de Geus, Eco J. C. | Tuomi, TiinaMaija | Power, Chris | Hammond, Christopher J. | Spector, Tim D. | Lind, Lars | Orho-Melander, Marju | Palmer, Colin Neil Alexander | Morris, Andrew D. | Groop, Leif | Järvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Salomaa, Veikko | Vartiainen, Erkki | Hofman, Albert | Ripatti, Samuli | Metspalu, Andres | Thorsteinsdottir, Unnur | Stefansson, Kari | Pedersen, Nancy L. | McCarthy, Mark I. | Ingelsson, Erik | Prokopenko, Inga
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001474.
In this study, Prokopenko and colleagues provide novel evidence for causal relationship between adiposity and heart failure and increased liver enzymes using a Mendelian randomization study design.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
The association between adiposity and cardiometabolic traits is well known from epidemiological studies. Whilst the causal relationship is clear for some of these traits, for others it is not. We aimed to determine whether adiposity is causally related to various cardiometabolic traits using the Mendelian randomization approach.
Methods and Findings
We used the adiposity-associated variant rs9939609 at the FTO locus as an instrumental variable (IV) for body mass index (BMI) in a Mendelian randomization design. Thirty-six population-based studies of individuals of European descent contributed to the analyses.
Age- and sex-adjusted regression models were fitted to test for association between (i) rs9939609 and BMI (n = 198,502), (ii) rs9939609 and 24 traits, and (iii) BMI and 24 traits. The causal effect of BMI on the outcome measures was quantified by IV estimators. The estimators were compared to the BMI–trait associations derived from the same individuals. In the IV analysis, we demonstrated novel evidence for a causal relationship between adiposity and incident heart failure (hazard ratio, 1.19 per BMI-unit increase; 95% CI, 1.03–1.39) and replicated earlier reports of a causal association with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, dyslipidemia, and hypertension (odds ratio for IV estimator, 1.1–1.4; all p<0.05). For quantitative traits, our results provide novel evidence for a causal effect of adiposity on the liver enzymes alanine aminotransferase and gamma-glutamyl transferase and confirm previous reports of a causal effect of adiposity on systolic and diastolic blood pressure, fasting insulin, 2-h post-load glucose from the oral glucose tolerance test, C-reactive protein, triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (all p<0.05). The estimated causal effects were in agreement with traditional observational measures in all instances except for type 2 diabetes, where the causal estimate was larger than the observational estimate (p = 0.001).
Conclusions
We provide novel evidence for a causal relationship between adiposity and heart failure as well as between adiposity and increased liver enzymes.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Cardiovascular disease (CVD)—disease that affects the heart and/or the blood vessels—is a major cause of illness and death worldwide. In the US, for example, coronary heart disease—a CVD in which narrowing of the heart's blood vessels by fatty deposits slows the blood supply to the heart and may eventually cause a heart attack—is the leading cause of death, and stroke—a CVD in which the brain's blood supply is interrupted—is the fourth leading cause of death. Globally, both the incidence of CVD (the number of new cases in a population every year) and its prevalence (the proportion of the population with CVD) are increasing, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. This increasing burden of CVD is occurring in parallel with a global increase in the incidence and prevalence of obesity—having an unhealthy amount of body fat (adiposity)—and of metabolic diseases—conditions such as diabetes in which metabolism (the processes that the body uses to make energy from food) is disrupted, with resulting high blood sugar and damage to the blood vessels.
Why Was This Study Done?
Epidemiological studies—investigations that record the patterns and causes of disease in populations—have reported an association between adiposity (indicated by an increased body mass index [BMI], which is calculated by dividing body weight in kilograms by height in meters squared) and cardiometabolic traits such as coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure (a condition in which the heart is incapable of pumping sufficient amounts of blood around the body), diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and high blood cholesterol (dyslipidemia). However, observational studies cannot prove that adiposity causes any particular cardiometabolic trait because overweight individuals may share other characteristics (confounding factors) that are the real causes of both obesity and the cardiometabolic disease. Moreover, it is possible that having CVD or a metabolic disease causes obesity (reverse causation). For example, individuals with heart failure cannot do much exercise, so heart failure may cause obesity rather than vice versa. Here, the researchers use “Mendelian randomization” to examine whether adiposity is causally related to various cardiometabolic traits. Because gene variants are inherited randomly, they are not prone to confounding and are free from reverse causation. It is known that a genetic variant (rs9939609) within the genome region that encodes the fat-mass- and obesity-associated gene (FTO) is associated with increased BMI. Thus, an investigation of the associations between rs9939609 and cardiometabolic traits can indicate whether obesity is causally related to these traits.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed the association between rs9939609 (the “instrumental variable,” or IV) and BMI, between rs9939609 and 24 cardiometabolic traits, and between BMI and the same traits using genetic and health data collected in 36 population-based studies of nearly 200,000 individuals of European descent. They then quantified the strength of the causal association between BMI and the cardiometabolic traits by calculating “IV estimators.” Higher BMI showed a causal relationship with heart failure, metabolic syndrome (a combination of medical disorders that increases the risk of developing CVD), type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension, increased blood levels of liver enzymes (an indicator of liver damage; some metabolic disorders involve liver damage), and several other cardiometabolic traits. All the IV estimators were similar to the BMI–cardiovascular trait associations (observational estimates) derived from the same individuals, with the exception of diabetes, where the causal estimate was higher than the observational estimate, probably because the observational estimate is based on a single BMI measurement, whereas the causal estimate considers lifetime changes in BMI.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Like all Mendelian randomization studies, the reliability of the causal associations reported here depends on several assumptions made by the researchers. Nevertheless, these findings provide support for many previously suspected and biologically plausible causal relationships, such as that between adiposity and hypertension. They also provide new insights into the causal effect of obesity on liver enzyme levels and on heart failure. In the latter case, these findings suggest that a one-unit increase in BMI might increase the incidence of heart failure by 17%. In the US, this corresponds to 113,000 additional cases of heart failure for every unit increase in BMI at the population level. Although additional studies are needed to confirm and extend these findings, these results suggest that global efforts to reduce the burden of obesity will likely also reduce the occurrence of CVD and metabolic disorders.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001474.
The American Heart Association provides information on all aspects of cardiovascular disease and tips on keeping the heart healthy, including weight management (in several languages); its website includes personal stories about stroke and heart attacks
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on heart disease, stroke, and all aspects of overweight and obesity (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about cardiovascular disease and obesity, including a personal story about losing weight
The World Health Organization provides information on obesity (in several languages)
The International Obesity Taskforce provides information about the global obesity epidemic
Wikipedia has a page on Mendelian randomization (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
MedlinePlus provides links to other sources of information on heart disease, on vascular disease, on obesity, and on metabolic disorders (in English and Spanish)
The International Association for the Study of Obesity provides maps and information about obesity worldwide
The International Diabetes Federation has a web page that describes types, complications, and risk factors of diabetes
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001474
PMCID: PMC3692470  PMID: 23824655
15.  Sex-stratified Genome-wide Association Studies Including 270,000 Individuals Show Sexual Dimorphism in Genetic Loci for Anthropometric Traits 
Randall, Joshua C. | Winkler, Thomas W. | Kutalik, Zoltán | Berndt, Sonja I. | Jackson, Anne U. | Monda, Keri L. | Kilpeläinen, Tuomas O. | Esko, Tõnu | Mägi, Reedik | Li, Shengxu | Workalemahu, Tsegaselassie | Feitosa, Mary F. | Croteau-Chonka, Damien C. | Day, Felix R. | Fall, Tove | Ferreira, Teresa | Gustafsson, Stefan | Locke, Adam E. | Mathieson, Iain | Scherag, Andre | Vedantam, Sailaja | Wood, Andrew R. | Liang, Liming | Steinthorsdottir, Valgerdur | Thorleifsson, Gudmar | Dermitzakis, Emmanouil T. | Dimas, Antigone S. | Karpe, Fredrik | Min, Josine L. | Nicholson, George | Clegg, Deborah J. | Person, Thomas | Krohn, Jon P. | Bauer, Sabrina | Buechler, Christa | Eisinger, Kristina | Bonnefond, Amélie | Froguel, Philippe | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Prokopenko, Inga | Waite, Lindsay L. | Harris, Tamara B. | Smith, Albert Vernon | Shuldiner, Alan R. | McArdle, Wendy L. | Caulfield, Mark J. | Munroe, Patricia B. | Grönberg, Henrik | Chen, Yii-Der Ida | Li, Guo | Beckmann, Jacques S. | Johnson, Toby | Thorsteinsdottir, Unnur | Teder-Laving, Maris | Khaw, Kay-Tee | Wareham, Nicholas J. | Zhao, Jing Hua | Amin, Najaf | Oostra, Ben A. | Kraja, Aldi T. | Province, Michael A. | Cupples, L. Adrienne | Heard-Costa, Nancy L. | Kaprio, Jaakko | Ripatti, Samuli | Surakka, Ida | Collins, Francis S. | Saramies, Jouko | Tuomilehto, Jaakko | Jula, Antti | Salomaa, Veikko | Erdmann, Jeanette | Hengstenberg, Christian | Loley, Christina | Schunkert, Heribert | Lamina, Claudia | Wichmann, H. Erich | Albrecht, Eva | Gieger, Christian | Hicks, Andrew A. | Johansson, Åsa | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Kathiresan, Sekar | Speliotes, Elizabeth K. | Penninx, Brenda | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Gyllensten, Ulf | Boomsma, Dorret I. | Campbell, Harry | Wilson, James F. | Chanock, Stephen J. | Farrall, Martin | Goel, Anuj | Medina-Gomez, Carolina | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Estrada, Karol | Uitterlinden, André G. | Hofman, Albert | Zillikens, M. Carola | den Heijer, Martin | Kiemeney, Lambertus A. | Maschio, Andrea | Hall, Per | Tyrer, Jonathan | Teumer, Alexander | Völzke, Henry | Kovacs, Peter | Tönjes, Anke | Mangino, Massimo | Spector, Tim D. | Hayward, Caroline | Rudan, Igor | Hall, Alistair S. | Samani, Nilesh J. | Attwood, Antony Paul | Sambrook, Jennifer G. | Hung, Joseph | Palmer, Lyle J. | Lokki, Marja-Liisa | Sinisalo, Juha | Boucher, Gabrielle | Huikuri, Heikki | Lorentzon, Mattias | Ohlsson, Claes | Eklund, Niina | Eriksson, Johan G. | Barlassina, Cristina | Rivolta, Carlo | Nolte, Ilja M. | Snieder, Harold | Van der Klauw, Melanie M. | Van Vliet-Ostaptchouk, Jana V. | Gejman, Pablo V. | Shi, Jianxin | Jacobs, Kevin B. | Wang, Zhaoming | Bakker, Stephan J. L. | Mateo Leach, Irene | Navis, Gerjan | van der Harst, Pim | Martin, Nicholas G. | Medland, Sarah E. | Montgomery, Grant W. | Yang, Jian | Chasman, Daniel I. | Ridker, Paul M. | Rose, Lynda M. | Lehtimäki, Terho | Raitakari, Olli | Absher, Devin | Iribarren, Carlos | Basart, Hanneke | Hovingh, Kees G. | Hyppönen, Elina | Power, Chris | Anderson, Denise | Beilby, John P. | Hui, Jennie | Jolley, Jennifer | Sager, Hendrik | Bornstein, Stefan R. | Schwarz, Peter E. H. | Kristiansson, Kati | Perola, Markus | Lindström, Jaana | Swift, Amy J. | Uusitupa, Matti | Atalay, Mustafa | Lakka, Timo A. | Rauramaa, Rainer | Bolton, Jennifer L. | Fowkes, Gerry | Fraser, Ross M. | Price, Jackie F. | Fischer, Krista | KrjutÅ¡kov, Kaarel | Metspalu, Andres | Mihailov, Evelin | Langenberg, Claudia | Luan, Jian'an | Ong, Ken K. | Chines, Peter S. | Keinanen-Kiukaanniemi, Sirkka M. | Saaristo, Timo E. | Edkins, Sarah | Franks, Paul W. | Hallmans, Göran | Shungin, Dmitry | Morris, Andrew David | Palmer, Colin N. A. | Erbel, Raimund | Moebus, Susanne | Nöthen, Markus M. | Pechlivanis, Sonali | Hveem, Kristian | Narisu, Narisu | Hamsten, Anders | Humphries, Steve E. | Strawbridge, Rona J. | Tremoli, Elena | Grallert, Harald | Thorand, Barbara | Illig, Thomas | Koenig, Wolfgang | Müller-Nurasyid, Martina | Peters, Annette | Boehm, Bernhard O. | Kleber, Marcus E. | März, Winfried | Winkelmann, Bernhard R. | Kuusisto, Johanna | Laakso, Markku | Arveiler, Dominique | Cesana, Giancarlo | Kuulasmaa, Kari | Virtamo, Jarmo | Yarnell, John W. G. | Kuh, Diana | Wong, Andrew | Lind, Lars | de Faire, Ulf | Gigante, Bruna | Magnusson, Patrik K. E. | Pedersen, Nancy L. | Dedoussis, George | Dimitriou, Maria | Kolovou, Genovefa | Kanoni, Stavroula | Stirrups, Kathleen | Bonnycastle, Lori L. | Njølstad, Inger | Wilsgaard, Tom | Ganna, Andrea | Rehnberg, Emil | Hingorani, Aroon | Kivimaki, Mika | Kumari, Meena | Assimes, Themistocles L. | Barroso, Inês | Boehnke, Michael | Borecki, Ingrid B. | Deloukas, Panos | Fox, Caroline S. | Frayling, Timothy | Groop, Leif C. | Haritunians, Talin | Hunter, David | Ingelsson, Erik | Kaplan, Robert | Mohlke, Karen L. | O'Connell, Jeffrey R. | Schlessinger, David | Strachan, David P. | Stefansson, Kari | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Abecasis, Gonçalo R. | McCarthy, Mark I. | Hirschhorn, Joel N. | Qi, Lu | Loos, Ruth J. F. | Lindgren, Cecilia M. | North, Kari E. | Heid, Iris M.
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(6):e1003500.
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.
Author Summary
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003500
PMCID: PMC3674993  PMID: 23754948
16.  FTO genotype is associated with phenotypic variability of body mass index 
Yang, Jian | Loos, Ruth J. F. | Powell, Joseph E. | Medland, Sarah E. | Speliotes, Elizabeth K. | Chasman, Daniel I. | Rose, Lynda M. | Thorleifsson, Gudmar | Steinthorsdottir, Valgerdur | Mägi, Reedik | Waite, Lindsay | Smith, Albert Vernon | Yerges-Armstrong, Laura M. | Monda, Keri L. | Hadley, David | Mahajan, Anubha | Li, Guo | Kapur, Karen | Vitart, Veronique | Huffman, Jennifer E. | Wang, Sophie R. | Palmer, Cameron | Esko, Tõnu | Fischer, Krista | Zhao, Jing Hua | Demirkan, Ayşe | Isaacs, Aaron | Feitosa, Mary F. | Luan, Jian’an | Heard-Costa, Nancy L. | White, Charles | Jackson, Anne U. | Preuss, Michael | Ziegler, Andreas | Eriksson, Joel | Kutalik, Zoltán | Frau, Francesca | Nolte, Ilja M. | Van Vliet-Ostaptchouk, Jana V. | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Jacobs, Kevin B. | Verweij, Niek | Goel, Anuj | Medina-Gomez, Carolina | Estrada, Karol | Bragg-Gresham, Jennifer Lynn | Sanna, Serena | Sidore, Carlo | Tyrer, Jonathan | Teumer, Alexander | Prokopenko, Inga | Mangino, Massimo | Lindgren, Cecilia M. | Assimes, Themistocles L. | Shuldiner, Alan R. | Hui, Jennie | Beilby, John P. | McArdle, Wendy L. | Hall, Per | Haritunians, Talin | Zgaga, Lina | Kolcic, Ivana | Polasek, Ozren | Zemunik, Tatijana | Oostra, Ben A. | Junttila, M. Juhani | Grönberg, Henrik | Schreiber, Stefan | Peters, Annette | Hicks, Andrew A. | Stephens, Jonathan | Foad, Nicola S. | Laitinen, Jaana | Pouta, Anneli | Kaakinen, Marika | Willemsen, Gonneke | Vink, Jacqueline M. | Wild, Sarah H. | Navis, Gerjan | Asselbergs, Folkert W. | Homuth, Georg | John, Ulrich | Iribarren, Carlos | Harris, Tamara | Launer, Lenore | Gudnason, Vilmundur | O’Connell, Jeffrey R. | Boerwinkle, Eric | Cadby, Gemma | Palmer, Lyle J. | James, Alan L. | Musk, Arthur W. | Ingelsson, Erik | Psaty, Bruce M. | Beckmann, Jacques S. | Waeber, Gerard | Vollenweider, Peter | Hayward, Caroline | Wright, Alan F. | Rudan, Igor | Groop, Leif C. | Metspalu, Andres | Khaw, Kay Tee | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Borecki, Ingrid B. | Province, Michael A. | Wareham, Nicholas J. | Tardif, Jean-Claude | Huikuri, Heikki V. | Cupples, L. Adrienne | Atwood, Larry D. | Fox, Caroline S. | Boehnke, Michael | Collins, Francis S. | Mohlke, Karen L. | Erdmann, Jeanette | Schunkert, Heribert | Hengstenberg, Christian | Stark, Klaus | Lorentzon, Mattias | Ohlsson, Claes | Cusi, Daniele | Staessen, Jan A. | Van der Klauw, Melanie M. | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Kathiresan, Sekar | Jolley, Jennifer D. | Ripatti, Samuli | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | de Geus, Eco J. C. | Boomsma, Dorret I. | Penninx, Brenda | Wilson, James F. | Campbell, Harry | Chanock, Stephen J. | van der Harst, Pim | Hamsten, Anders | Watkins, Hugh | Hofman, Albert | Witteman, Jacqueline C. | Zillikens, M. Carola | Uitterlinden, André G. | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Zillikens, M. Carola | Kiemeney, Lambertus A. | Vermeulen, Sita H. | Abecasis, Goncalo R. | Schlessinger, David | Schipf, Sabine | Stumvoll, Michael | Tönjes, Anke | Spector, Tim D. | North, Kari E. | Lettre, Guillaume | McCarthy, Mark I. | Berndt, Sonja I. | Heath, Andrew C. | Madden, Pamela A. F. | Nyholt, Dale R. | Montgomery, Grant W. | Martin, Nicholas G. | McKnight, Barbara | Strachan, David P. | Hill, William G. | Snieder, Harold | Ridker, Paul M. | Thorsteinsdottir, Unnur | Stefansson, Kari | Frayling, Timothy M. | Hirschhorn, Joel N. | Goddard, Michael E. | Visscher, Peter M.
Nature  2012;490(7419):267-272.
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.
doi:10.1038/nature11401
PMCID: PMC3564953  PMID: 22982992
17.  A genome-wide approach accounting for body mass index identifies genetic variants influencing fasting glycemic traits and insulin resistance 
Manning, Alisa K. | Hivert, Marie-France | Scott, Robert A. | Grimsby, Jonna L. | Bouatia-Naji, Nabila | Chen, Han | Rybin, Denis | Liu, Ching-Ti | Bielak, Lawrence F. | Prokopenko, Inga | Amin, Najaf | Barnes, Daniel | Cadby, Gemma | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Ingelsson, Erik | Jackson, Anne U. | Johnson, Toby | Kanoni, Stavroula | Ladenvall, Claes | Lagou, Vasiliki | Lahti, Jari | Lecoeur, Cecile | Liu, Yongmei | Martinez-Larrad, Maria Teresa | Montasser, May E. | Navarro, Pau | Perry, John R. B. | Rasmussen-Torvik, Laura J. | Salo, Perttu | Sattar, Naveed | Shungin, Dmitry | Strawbridge, Rona J. | Tanaka, Toshiko | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | An, Ping | de Andrade, Mariza | Andrews, Jeanette S. | Aspelund, Thor | Atalay, Mustafa | Aulchenko, Yurii | Balkau, Beverley | Bandinelli, Stefania | Beckmann, Jacques S. | Beilby, John P. | Bellis, Claire | Bergman, Richard N. | Blangero, John | Boban, Mladen | Boehnke, Michael | Boerwinkle, Eric | Bonnycastle, Lori L. | Boomsma, Dorret I. | Borecki, Ingrid B. | Böttcher, Yvonne | Bouchard, Claude | Brunner, Eric | Budimir, Danijela | Campbell, Harry | Carlson, Olga | Chines, Peter S. | Clarke, Robert | Collins, Francis S. | Corbatón-Anchuelo, Arturo | Couper, David | de Faire, Ulf | Dedoussis, George V | Deloukas, Panos | Dimitriou, Maria | Egan, Josephine M | Eiriksdottir, Gudny | Erdos, Michael R. | Eriksson, Johan G. | Eury, Elodie | Ferrucci, Luigi | Ford, Ian | Forouhi, Nita G. | Fox, Caroline S | Franzosi, Maria Grazia | Franks, Paul W | Frayling, Timothy M | Froguel, Philippe | Galan, Pilar | de Geus, Eco | Gigante, Bruna | Glazer, Nicole L. | Goel, Anuj | Groop, Leif | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Hallmans, Göran | Hamsten, Anders | Hansson, Ola | Harris, Tamara B. | Hayward, Caroline | Heath, Simon | Hercberg, Serge | Hicks, Andrew A. | Hingorani, Aroon | Hofman, Albert | Hui, Jennie | Hung, Joseph | Jarvelin, Marjo Riitta | Jhun, Min A. | Johnson, Paul C.D. | Jukema, J Wouter | Jula, Antti | Kao, W.H. | Kaprio, Jaakko | Kardia, Sharon L. R. | Keinanen-Kiukaanniemi, Sirkka | Kivimaki, Mika | Kolcic, Ivana | Kovacs, Peter | Kumari, Meena | Kuusisto, Johanna | Kyvik, Kirsten Ohm | Laakso, Markku | Lakka, Timo | Lannfelt, Lars | Lathrop, G Mark | Launer, Lenore J. | Leander, Karin | Li, Guo | Lind, Lars | Lindstrom, Jaana | Lobbens, Stéphane | Loos, Ruth J. F. | Luan, Jian’an | Lyssenko, Valeriya | Mägi, Reedik | Magnusson, Patrik K. E. | Marmot, Michael | Meneton, Pierre | Mohlke, Karen L. | Mooser, Vincent | Morken, Mario A. | Miljkovic, Iva | Narisu, Narisu | O’Connell, Jeff | Ong, Ken K. | Oostra, Ben A. | Palmer, Lyle J. | Palotie, Aarno | Pankow, James S. | Peden, John F. | Pedersen, Nancy L. | Pehlic, Marina | Peltonen, Leena | Penninx, Brenda | Pericic, Marijana | Perola, Markus | Perusse, Louis | Peyser, Patricia A | Polasek, Ozren | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Province, Michael A. | Räikkönen, Katri | Rauramaa, Rainer | Rehnberg, Emil | Rice, Ken | Rotter, Jerome I. | Rudan, Igor | Ruokonen, Aimo | Saaristo, Timo | Sabater-Lleal, Maria | Salomaa, Veikko | Savage, David B. | Saxena, Richa | Schwarz, Peter | Seedorf, Udo | Sennblad, Bengt | Serrano-Rios, Manuel | Shuldiner, Alan R. | Sijbrands, Eric J.G. | Siscovick, David S. | Smit, Johannes H. | Small, Kerrin S. | Smith, Nicholas L. | Smith, Albert Vernon | Stančáková, Alena | Stirrups, Kathleen | Stumvoll, Michael | Sun, Yan V. | Swift, Amy J. | Tönjes, Anke | Tuomilehto, Jaakko | Trompet, Stella | Uitterlinden, Andre G. | Uusitupa, Matti | Vikström, Max | Vitart, Veronique | Vohl, Marie-Claude | Voight, Benjamin F. | Vollenweider, Peter | Waeber, Gerard | Waterworth, Dawn M | Watkins, Hugh | Wheeler, Eleanor | Widen, Elisabeth | Wild, Sarah H. | Willems, Sara M. | Willemsen, Gonneke | Wilson, James F. | Witteman, Jacqueline C.M. | Wright, Alan F. | Yaghootkar, Hanieh | Zelenika, Diana | Zemunik, Tatijana | Zgaga, Lina | Wareham, Nicholas J. | McCarthy, Mark I. | Barroso, Ines | Watanabe, Richard M. | Florez, Jose C. | Dupuis, Josée | Meigs, James B. | Langenberg, Claudia
Nature genetics  2012;44(6):659-669.
Recent genome-wide association studies have described many loci implicated in type 2 diabetes (T2D) pathophysiology and beta-cell dysfunction, but contributed little to our understanding of the genetic basis of insulin resistance. We hypothesized that genes implicated in insulin resistance pathways may be uncovered by accounting for differences in body mass index (BMI) and potential interaction between BMI and genetic variants. We applied a novel joint meta-analytical approach to test associations with fasting insulin (FI) and glucose (FG) on a genome-wide scale. We present six previously unknown FI loci at P<5×10−8 in combined discovery and follow-up analyses of 52 studies comprising up to 96,496non-diabetic individuals. Risk variants were associated with higher triglyceride and lower HDL cholesterol levels, suggestive of a role for these FI loci in insulin resistance pathways. The localization of these additional loci will aid further characterization of the role of insulin resistance in T2D pathophysiology.
doi:10.1038/ng.2274
PMCID: PMC3613127  PMID: 22581228
18.  Large-scale association analyses identify new loci influencing glycemic traits and provide insight into the underlying biological pathways 
Scott, Robert A | Lagou, Vasiliki | Welch, Ryan P | Wheeler, Eleanor | Montasser, May E | Luan, Jian’an | Mägi, Reedik | Strawbridge, Rona J | Rehnberg, Emil | Gustafsson, Stefan | Kanoni, Stavroula | Rasmussen-Torvik, Laura J | Yengo, Loïc | Lecoeur, Cecile | Shungin, Dmitry | Sanna, Serena | Sidore, Carlo | Johnson, Paul C D | Jukema, J Wouter | Johnson, Toby | Mahajan, Anubha | Verweij, Niek | Thorleifsson, Gudmar | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Shah, Sonia | Smith, Albert V | Sennblad, Bengt | Gieger, Christian | Salo, Perttu | Perola, Markus | Timpson, Nicholas J | Evans, David M | Pourcain, Beate St | Wu, Ying | Andrews, Jeanette S | Hui, Jennie | Bielak, Lawrence F | Zhao, Wei | Horikoshi, Momoko | Navarro, Pau | Isaacs, Aaron | O’Connell, Jeffrey R | Stirrups, Kathleen | Vitart, Veronique | Hayward, Caroline | Esko, Tönu | Mihailov, Evelin | Fraser, Ross M | Fall, Tove | Voight, Benjamin F | Raychaudhuri, Soumya | Chen, Han | Lindgren, Cecilia M | Morris, Andrew P | Rayner, Nigel W | Robertson, Neil | Rybin, Denis | Liu, Ching-Ti | Beckmann, Jacques S | Willems, Sara M | Chines, Peter S | Jackson, Anne U | Kang, Hyun Min | Stringham, Heather M | Song, Kijoung | Tanaka, Toshiko | Peden, John F | Goel, Anuj | Hicks, Andrew A | An, Ping | Müller-Nurasyid, Martina | Franco-Cereceda, Anders | Folkersen, Lasse | Marullo, Letizia | Jansen, Hanneke | Oldehinkel, Albertine J | Bruinenberg, Marcel | Pankow, James S | North, Kari E | Forouhi, Nita G | Loos, Ruth J F | Edkins, Sarah | Varga, Tibor V | Hallmans, Göran | Oksa, Heikki | Antonella, Mulas | Nagaraja, Ramaiah | Trompet, Stella | Ford, Ian | Bakker, Stephan J L | Kong, Augustine | Kumari, Meena | Gigante, Bruna | Herder, Christian | Munroe, Patricia B | Caulfield, Mark | Antti, Jula | Mangino, Massimo | Small, Kerrin | Miljkovic, Iva | Liu, Yongmei | Atalay, Mustafa | Kiess, Wieland | James, Alan L | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Uitterlinden, Andre G | Palmer, Colin N A | Doney, Alex S F | Willemsen, Gonneke | Smit, Johannes H | Campbell, Susan | Polasek, Ozren | Bonnycastle, Lori L | Hercberg, Serge | Dimitriou, Maria | Bolton, Jennifer L | Fowkes, Gerard R | Kovacs, Peter | Lindström, Jaana | Zemunik, Tatijana | Bandinelli, Stefania | Wild, Sarah H | Basart, Hanneke V | Rathmann, Wolfgang | Grallert, Harald | Maerz, Winfried | Kleber, Marcus E | Boehm, Bernhard O | Peters, Annette | Pramstaller, Peter P | Province, Michael A | Borecki, Ingrid B | Hastie, Nicholas D | Rudan, Igor | Campbell, Harry | Watkins, Hugh | Farrall, Martin | Stumvoll, Michael | Ferrucci, Luigi | Waterworth, Dawn M | Bergman, Richard N | Collins, Francis S | Tuomilehto, Jaakko | Watanabe, Richard M | de Geus, Eco J C | Penninx, Brenda W | Hofman, Albert | Oostra, Ben A | Psaty, Bruce M | Vollenweider, Peter | Wilson, James F | Wright, Alan F | Hovingh, G Kees | Metspalu, Andres | Uusitupa, Matti | Magnusson, Patrik K E | Kyvik, Kirsten O | Kaprio, Jaakko | Price, Jackie F | Dedoussis, George V | Deloukas, Panos | Meneton, Pierre | Lind, Lars | Boehnke, Michael | Shuldiner, Alan R | van Duijn, Cornelia M | Morris, Andrew D | Toenjes, Anke | Peyser, Patricia A | Beilby, John P | Körner, Antje | Kuusisto, Johanna | Laakso, Markku | Bornstein, Stefan R | Schwarz, Peter E H | Lakka, Timo A | Rauramaa, Rainer | Adair, Linda S | Smith, George Davey | Spector, Tim D | Illig, Thomas | de Faire, Ulf | Hamsten, Anders | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Kivimaki, Mika | Hingorani, Aroon | Keinanen-Kiukaanniemi, Sirkka M | Saaristo, Timo E | Boomsma, Dorret I | Stefansson, Kari | van der Harst, Pim | Dupuis, Josée | Pedersen, Nancy L | Sattar, Naveed | Harris, Tamara B | Cucca, Francesco | Ripatti, Samuli | Salomaa, Veikko | Mohlke, Karen L | Balkau, Beverley | Froguel, Philippe | Pouta, Anneli | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Wareham, Nicholas J | Bouatia-Naji, Nabila | McCarthy, Mark I | Franks, Paul W | Meigs, James B | Teslovich, Tanya M | Florez, Jose C | Langenberg, Claudia | Ingelsson, Erik | Prokopenko, Inga | Barroso, Inês
Nature genetics  2012;44(9):991-1005.
Through genome-wide association meta-analyses of up to 133,010 individuals of European ancestry without diabetes, including individuals newly genotyped using the Metabochip, we have raised the number of confirmed loci influencing glycemic traits to 53, of which 33 also increase type 2 diabetes risk (q < 0.05). Loci influencing fasting insulin showed association with lipid levels and fat distribution, suggesting impact on insulin resistance. Gene-based analyses identified further biologically plausible loci, suggesting that additional loci beyond those reaching genome-wide significance are likely to represent real associations. This conclusion is supported by an excess of directionally consistent and nominally significant signals between discovery and follow-up studies. Functional follow-up of these newly discovered loci will further improve our understanding of glycemic control.
doi:10.1038/ng.2385
PMCID: PMC3433394  PMID: 22885924
19.  Genomic inflation factors under polygenic inheritance 
Population structure, including population stratification and cryptic relatedness, can cause spurious associations in genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Usually, the scaled median or mean test statistic for association calculated from multiple single-nucleotide-polymorphisms across the genome is used to assess such effects, and ‘genomic control' can be applied subsequently to adjust test statistics at individual loci by a genomic inflation factor. Published GWAS have clearly shown that there are many loci underlying genetic variation for a wide range of complex diseases and traits, implying that a substantial proportion of the genome should show inflation of the test statistic. Here, we show by theory, simulation and analysis of data that in the absence of population structure and other technical artefacts, but in the presence of polygenic inheritance, substantial genomic inflation is expected. Its magnitude depends on sample size, heritability, linkage disequilibrium structure and the number of causal variants. Our predictions are consistent with empirical observations on height in independent samples of ∼4000 and ∼133 000 individuals.
doi:10.1038/ejhg.2011.39
PMCID: PMC3137506  PMID: 21407268
genome-wide association study; genomic inflation factor; polygenic inheritance
20.  A genome-wide association meta-analysis identifies new childhood obesity loci 
Bradfield, Jonathan P. | Taal, H. Rob | Timpson, Nicholas J. | Scherag, André | Lecoeur, Cecile | Warrington, Nicole M. | Hypponen, Elina | Holst, Claus | Valcarcel, Beatriz | Thiering, Elisabeth | Salem, Rany M. | Schumacher, Fredrick R. | Cousminer, Diana L. | Sleiman, Patrick M.A. | Zhao, Jianhua | Berkowitz, Robert I. | Vimaleswaran, Karani S. | Jarick, Ivonne | Pennell, Craig E. | Evans, David M. | St. Pourcain, Beate | Berry, Diane J. | Mook-Kanamori, Dennis O | Hofman, Albert | Rivadeinera, Fernando | Uitterlinden, André G. | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | van der Valk, Ralf J.P. | de Jongste, Johan C. | Postma, Dirkje S. | Boomsma, Dorret I. | Gauderman, William J. | Hassanein, Mohamed T. | Lindgren, Cecilia M. | Mägi, Reedik | Boreham, Colin A.G. | Neville, Charlotte E. | Moreno, Luis A. | Elliott, Paul | Pouta, Anneli | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Li, Mingyao | Raitakari, Olli | Lehtimäki, Terho | Eriksson, Johan G. | Palotie, Aarno | Dallongeville, Jean | Das, Shikta | Deloukas, Panos | McMahon, George | Ring, Susan M. | Kemp, John P. | Buxton, Jessica L. | Blakemore, Alexandra I.F. | Bustamante, Mariona | Guxens, Mònica | Hirschhorn, Joel N. | Gillman, Matthew W. | Kreiner-Møller, Eskil | Bisgaard, Hans | Gilliland, Frank D. | Heinrich, Joachim | Wheeler, Eleanor | Barroso, Inês | O'Rahilly, Stephen | Meirhaeghe, Aline | Sørensen, Thorkild I.A. | Power, Chris | Palmer, Lyle J. | Hinney, Anke | Widen, Elisabeth | Farooqi, I. Sadaf | McCarthy, Mark I. | Froguel, Philippe | Meyre, David | Hebebrand, Johannes | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Jaddoe, Vincent W.V. | Smith, George Davey | Hakonarson, Hakon | Grant, Struan F.A.
Nature Genetics  2012;44(5):526-531.
Multiple genetic variants have been associated with adult obesity and a few with severe obesity in childhood; however, less progress has been made to establish genetic influences on common early-onset obesity. We performed a North American-Australian-European collaborative meta-analysis of fourteen studies consisting of 5,530 cases (≥95th percentile of body mass index (BMI)) and 8,318 controls (<50th percentile of BMI) of European ancestry. Taking forward the eight novel signals yielding association with P < 5×10−6 in to nine independent datasets (n = 2,818 cases and 4,083 controls) we observed two loci that yielded a genome wide significant combined P-value, namely near OLFM4 on 13q14 (rs9568856; P=1.82×10−9; OR=1.22) and within HOXB5 on 17q21 (rs9299; P=3.54×10−9; OR=1.14). Both loci continued to show association when including two extreme childhood obesity cohorts (n = 2,214 cases and 2,674 controls). Finally, these two loci yielded directionally consistent associations in the GIANT meta-analysis of adult BMI1.
doi:10.1038/ng.2247
PMCID: PMC3370100  PMID: 22484627
21.  Large scale international replication and meta-analysis study confirms association of the 15q14 locus with myopia. The CREAM consortium 
Verhoeven, Virginie J. M. | Hysi, Pirro G. | Saw, Seang-Mei | Vitart, Veronique | Mirshahi, Alireza | Guggenheim, Jeremy A. | Cotch, Mary Frances | Yamashiro, Kenji | Baird, Paul N. | Mackey, David A. | Wojciechowski, Robert |  Ikram, M. Kamran | Hewitt, Alex W. | Duggal, Priya | Janmahasatian, Sarayut | Khor, Chiea-Chuen | Fan, Qiao | Zhou, Xin | Young, Terri L. | Tai, E-Shyong | Goh, Liang-Kee | Li, Yi-Ju | Aung, Tin | Vithana, Eranga | Teo, Yik-Ying | Tay, Wanting | Sim, Xueling | Rudan, Igor | Hayward, Caroline | Wright, Alan F. | Polasek, Ozren | Campbell, Harry | Wilson, James F. | Fleck, Brian W. | Nakata, Isao | Yoshimura, Nagahisa | Yamada, Ryo | Matsuda, Fumihiko | Ohno-Matsui, Kyoko | Nag, Abhishek | McMahon, George | Pourcain, Beate St. | Lu, Yi | Rahi, Jugnoo S. | Cumberland, Phillippa M. | Bhattacharya, Shomi | Simpson, Claire L. | Atwood, Larry D. | Li, Xiaohui | Raffel, Leslie J. | Murgia, Federico | Portas, Laura | Despriet, Dominiek D. G. | van Koolwijk, Leonieke M. E. | Wolfram, Christian | Lackner, Karl J. | Tönjes, Anke | Mägi, Reedik | Lehtimäki, Terho | Kähönen, Mika | Esko, Tõnu | Metspalu, Andres | Rantanen, Taina | Pärssinen, Olavi | Klein, Barbara E. | Meitinger, Thomas | Spector, Timothy D. | Oostra, Ben A. | Smith, Albert V. | de Jong, Paulus T. V. M. | Hofman, Albert | Amin, Najaf | Karssen, Lennart C. | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Vingerling, Johannes R. | Eiríksdóttir, Guðný | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Döring, Angela | Bettecken, Thomas | Uitterlinden, André G. | Williams, Cathy | Zeller, Tanja | Castagné, Raphaële | Oexle, Konrad | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Iyengar, Sudha K. | Mitchell, Paul | Wang, Jie Jin | Höhn, René | Pfeiffer, Norbert | Bailey-Wilson, Joan E. | Stambolian, Dwight | Wong, Tien-Yin | Hammond, Christopher J. | Klaver, Caroline C. W.
Human Genetics  2012;131(9):1467-1480.
Myopia is a complex genetic disorder and a common cause of visual impairment among working age adults. Genome-wide association studies have identified susceptibility loci on chromosomes 15q14 and 15q25 in Caucasian populations of European ancestry. Here, we present a confirmation and meta-analysis study in which we assessed whether these two loci are also associated with myopia in other populations. The study population comprised 31 cohorts from the Consortium of Refractive Error and Myopia (CREAM) representing 4 different continents with 55,177 individuals; 42,845 Caucasians and 12,332 Asians. We performed a meta-analysis of 14 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on 15q14 and 5 SNPs on 15q25 using linear regression analysis with spherical equivalent as a quantitative outcome, adjusted for age and sex. We calculated the odds ratio (OR) of myopia versus hyperopia for carriers of the top-SNP alleles using a fixed effects meta-analysis. At locus 15q14, all SNPs were significantly replicated, with the lowest P value 3.87 × 10−12 for SNP rs634990 in Caucasians, and 9.65 × 10−4 for rs8032019 in Asians. The overall meta-analysis provided P value 9.20 × 10−23 for the top SNP rs634990. The risk of myopia versus hyperopia was OR 1.88 (95 % CI 1.64, 2.16, P < 0.001) for homozygous carriers of the risk allele at the top SNP rs634990, and OR 1.33 (95 % CI 1.19, 1.49, P < 0.001) for heterozygous carriers. SNPs at locus 15q25 did not replicate significantly (P value 5.81 × 10−2 for top SNP rs939661). We conclude that common variants at chromosome 15q14 influence susceptibility for myopia in Caucasian and Asian populations world-wide.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00439-012-1176-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s00439-012-1176-0
PMCID: PMC3418496  PMID: 22665138
22.  Regression and Data Mining Methods for Analyses of Multiple Rare Variants in the Genetic Analysis Workshop 17 Mini-Exome Data 
Genetic Epidemiology  2011;35(Suppl 1):S92-100.
Group 14 of Genetic Analysis Workshop 17 examined several issues related to analysis of complex traits using DNA sequence data. These issues included novel methods for analyzing rare genetic variants in an aggregated manner (often termed collapsing rare variants), evaluation of various study designs to increase power to detect effects of rare variants, and the use of machine learning approaches to model highly complex heterogeneous traits. Various published and novel methods for analyzing traits with extreme locus and allelic heterogeneity were applied to the simulated quantitative and disease phenotypes. Overall, we conclude that power is (as expected) dependent on locus-specific heritability or contribution to disease risk, large samples will be required to detect rare causal variants with small effect sizes, extreme phenotype sampling designs may increase power for smaller laboratory costs, methods that allow joint analysis of multiple variants per gene or pathway are more powerful in general than analyses of individual rare variants, population-specific analyses can be optimal when different subpopulations harbor private causal mutations, and machine learning methods may be useful for selecting subsets of predictors for follow-up in the presence of extreme locus heterogeneity and large numbers of potential predictors.
doi:10.1002/gepi.20657
PMCID: PMC3360949  PMID: 22128066
rare variants; LASSO; machine learning; random forests; logic regression; binary trees; Poisson regression; ISIS; classification trees; meta-analysis; extreme sampling
23.  Population Genetic Structure in Indian Austroasiatic Speakers: The Role of Landscape Barriers and Sex-Specific Admixture 
Molecular biology and evolution  2010;28(2):1013-1024.
The geographic origin and time of dispersal of Austroasiatic (AA) speakers, presently settled in south and southeast Asia, remains disputed. Two rival hypotheses, both assuming a demic component to the language dispersal, have been proposed. The first of these places the origin of Austroasiatic speakers in southeast Asia with a later dispersal to south Asia during the Neolithic, whereas the second hypothesis advocates pre-Neolithic origins and dispersal of this language family from south Asia. To test the two alternative models, this study combines the analysis of uniparentally inherited markers with 610,000 common single nucleotide polymorphism loci from the nuclear genome. Indian AA speakers have high frequencies of Y chromosome haplogroup O2a; our results show that this haplogroup has significantly higher diversity and coalescent time (17–28 thousand years ago) in southeast Asia, strongly supporting the first of the two hypotheses. Nevertheless, the results of principal component and “structure-like” analyses on autosomal loci also show that the population history of AA speakers in India is more complex, being characterized by two ancestral components—one represented in the pattern of Y chromosomal and EDAR results and the other by mitochondrial DNA diversity and genomic structure. We propose that AA speakers in India today are derived from dispersal from southeast Asia, followed by extensive sex-specific admixture with local Indian populations.
doi:10.1093/molbev/msq288
PMCID: PMC3355372  PMID: 20978040
Austroasiatic; mtDNA; Y chromosome; autosomes; admixture
24.  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.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddr086
PMCID: PMC3080612  PMID: 21357676
25.  Extent, Causes, and Consequences of Small RNA Expression Variation in Human Adipose Tissue 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(5):e1002704.
Small RNAs are functional molecules that modulate mRNA transcripts and have been implicated in the aetiology of several common diseases. However, little is known about the extent of their variability within the human population. Here, we characterise the extent, causes, and effects of naturally occurring variation in expression and sequence of small RNAs from adipose tissue in relation to genotype, gene expression, and metabolic traits in the MuTHER reference cohort. We profiled the expression of 15 to 30 base pair RNA molecules in subcutaneous adipose tissue from 131 individuals using high-throughput sequencing, and quantified levels of 591 microRNAs and small nucleolar RNAs. We identified three genetic variants and three RNA editing events. Highly expressed small RNAs are more conserved within mammals than average, as are those with highly variable expression. We identified 14 genetic loci significantly associated with nearby small RNA expression levels, seven of which also regulate an mRNA transcript level in the same region. In addition, these loci are enriched for variants significant in genome-wide association studies for body mass index. Contrary to expectation, we found no evidence for negative correlation between expression level of a microRNA and its target mRNAs. Trunk fat mass, body mass index, and fasting insulin were associated with more than twenty small RNA expression levels each, while fasting glucose had no significant associations. This study highlights the similar genetic complexity and shared genetic control of small RNA and mRNA transcripts, and gives a quantitative picture of small RNA expression variation in the human population.
Author Summary
Genetic information is transmitted to the cell only through RNA molecules. A special class of RNAs is comprised of the small (up to 30 nucleotide) ones, known to be potent regulators of various cellular processes. At the same time, they have not been as widely studied as messenger RNAs—we do not know how much variation in their sequence and expression level occurs naturally in human populations or how this variability influences other traits. We measured small RNA levels and genetic variability in fat tissue from 131 individuals by high-throughput sequencing. We could associate the expression levels with genetic background of the individuals, as well as changes in metabolic traits. Surprisingly, we found no large scale influence of small RNA variation on mRNA levels, their main regulatory target. Overall, our study is the first to give a quantitative picture of the naturally occurring variation in these important regulatory molecules in human fat tissue.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002704
PMCID: PMC3349731  PMID: 22589741

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