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1.  Genetic Epidemiology and Genome-Wide Linkage Analysis of Carotid Artery Ultrasound Traits in Multigenerational African Ancestry Families 
Atherosclerosis  2013;231(1):10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2013.09.005.
Intima-media thickness, adventitial diameter and lumen diameter are indicators of cardiovascular disease risk. The influence of genetic factors on these measures in African ancestry populations is not well defined. Therefore, we estimated heritability and performed genome-wide linkage analysis of carotid ultrasound traits in 7 multigenerational families of African ancestry.
A total of 395 individuals (7 pedigrees; mean family size = 56; 2,392 relative pairs) aged ≥18 years had a common carotid artery ultrasound scan. Statistical analyses were conducted using pedigree-based maximum likelihood methods.
Significant covariates included age, sex, body mass index or height and waist, and systolic blood pressure. Residual heritabilities ranged from 0.35±0.10 to 0.64±0.12 (P<0.0001). We identified a novel quantitative trait locus for adventitial and lumen diameters on chromosome 11 (max LOD=4.09, 133cM).
Further fine mapping of this region may identify specific mutations predisposing to subclinical vascular disease among African ancestry individuals.
PMCID: PMC3837479  PMID: 24125421
carotid ultrasound; intima-media thickness; arterial diameter; genome-wide linkage; African ancestry
2.  Evidence for a Genetic Link Between Bone and Vascular Measures in African Ancestry Families 
Bone mineral density (BMD) has been inversely associated with subclinical and clinical cardiovascular disease (CVD) in population studies, but the potential mechanisms underlying this relationship are unclear. To test if there is a genetic basis underlying this association, we determined the phenotypic and genetic correlations between BMD and carotid artery ultrasound measures in families. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and peripheral quantitative computed tomography were used to measure BMD in 461 African ancestry individuals belonging to 7 large, multigenerational families (mean family size 66; 3,414 total relative pairs). Carotid artery ultrasound was used to measure adventitial diameter (AD) and intima-media thickness (IMT). Phenotypic and genetic correlations between BMD and carotid measures were determined using pedigree-based maximum likelihood methods. We adjusted for potential confounding factors, including age, sex, body weight, height, menopausal status, smoking, alcohol intake, walking for exercise, diabetes, hypertension, serum lipid and lipoprotein levels, inflammation markers and kidney function. We found statistically significant phenotypic (ρ = −0.19) and genetic (ρG = −0.70) correlations (P < 0.05 for both) between lumbar spine BMD and AD in fully adjusted models. There was also a significant genetic correlation between trabecular BMD at the radius and IMT in fully adjusted models (ρG = −0.398; P < 0.05). Our findings indicate that the previously observed association between osteoporosis and CVD in population-based studies may be partly mediated by genetic factors and that the pleiotropic effects of these genes may operate independently of traditional risk pathways.
PMCID: PMC3720825  PMID: 23505032
bone mineral density; adventitial diameter; intima-media thickness; genetic correlation; African ancestry
3.  Genetic Analysis of Serum Osteocalcin and Bone Mineral in Multigenerational Afro-Caribbean Families 
Osteocalcin (OC) is a protein constituent of bone matrix and a marker of bone formation. We characterized the heritability of serum OC measures and identified genomic regions potentially involved in the regulation of OC via high-density genome-wide linkage analysis in African ancestry individuals.
African ancestry individuals (n=459) were recruited, without regard to health status, from seven probands (mean family size = 66; 4,373 relative pairs). Residual heritability of serum OC measures was estimated and multipoint quantitative trait linkage analysis was performed using pedigree-based maximum likelihood methods.
Residual heritabilities of total OC, uncarboxylated OC, carboxylated OC and percent uncarboxylated OC were: 0.74±0.10, 0.89±0.08, 0.46±0.10 and 0.41±0.09, respectively. All OC measures were genetically correlated with whole body bone mineral content (BMC). We obtained strong evidence of bivariate linkage for percent uncarboxylated OC and whole body BMC on chromosome 17 (LOD=3.15, 99cM).
All forms of OC were highly heritable and genetically correlated with total body BMC in these African ancestry families. The identified linkage region contains several candidate genes for bone and energy metabolism including COL1A1 and TNFRSF11A. Further studies of this genomic region may reveal novel insight into the genetic regulation of OC and bone mineralization.
PMCID: PMC3768139  PMID: 21935688
osteocalcin; genome-wide linkage; African ancestry; bone mineral
4.  Effects of weight loss and insulin reduction on arterial stiffness in the SAVE trial 
Chronic arterial stiffness contributes to the negative health effects of obesity and insulin resistance, which include hypertension, stroke, and increased cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. Weight loss and improved insulin sensitivity are individually associated with improved central arterial stiffness; however, their combined effects on arterial stiffness are poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to determine how insulin levels modify the improvements in arterial stiffness seen with weight loss in overweight and obese young adults.
To assess the effects of weight loss and decreased fasting insulin on vascular stiffness, we studied 339 participants in the Slow the Adverse Effects of Vascular Aging (SAVE) trial. At study entry, the participants were aged 20–45, normotensive, non-diabetic, and had a body-mass index of 25–39.9 kg/m2. Measures of pulse wave velocity (PWV) in the central (carotid-femoral (cfPWV)), peripheral (femoral-ankle (faPWV)), and mixed (brachial-ankle (baPWV)) vascular beds were collected at baseline and 6 months. The effects of 6-month change in weight and insulin on measures of PWV were estimated using multivariate regression.
After adjustment for baseline risk factors and change in systolic blood pressure, 6-month weight loss and 6-month change in fasting insulin independently predicted improvement in baPWV but not faPWV or cfPWV. There was a significant interaction between 6-month weight change and change in fasting insulin when predicting changes in baPWV (p < 0.001). Individuals experiencing both weight loss and insulin reductions showed the greatest improvement in baPWV.
Young adults with excess weight who both lower their insulin levels and lose weight see the greatest improvement in vascular stiffness. This improvement in vascular stiffness with weight loss and insulin declines may occur throughout the vasculature and may not be limited to individual vascular beds.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3468408  PMID: 22998737
Pulse wave velocity; Insulin; Weight loss and arterial stiffness
5.  Markers of Inflammation Are Heritable and Associated with Subcutaneous and Ectopic Skeletal Muscle Adiposity in African Ancestry Families 
Skeletal muscle adipose tissue (AT) infiltration, or myosteatosis, appears to be greater in African compared with European ancestry individuals and may play a role in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), a disease that disproportionally affects African ancestry populations. Inflammation is one mechanism that may link myosteatosis with increased T2DM risk, but studies examining the relationship between inflammation and myosteatosis are lacking.
To examine these associations, we measured skeletal muscle subcutaneous AT, intermuscular AT, and skeletal muscle density using quantitative computed tomography and serum markers of inflammation in 471 individuals from 8 Afro-Caribbean multigenerational families [mean family size 67; mean age 43 years; mean body mass index (BMI) 28 kg/m2].
After removing the variation attributable to significant covariates, heritabilities of inflammation markers [C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α)] ranged from 33% (TNFα) to 40% (CRP); all P<0.01. Higher CRP, IL-6, and TNF-α were associated with lower subcutaneous AT around skeletal muscle (r=−0.13 to −0.19, P<0.05). Higher CRP was additionally associated with lower skeletal muscle density, indicative of greater intramuscular AT (r=−0.10, P<0.05), hyperinsulinemia (r=0.12, P<0.05), and increased homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) (r=0.17, P<0.01).
Our findings suggest that heredity may play a significant role in the determination of several markers of inflammation in African ancestry individuals. Higher concentrations of CRP appear to be associated with greater skeletal muscle AT infiltration, lower subcutaneous AT, hyperinsulinemia, and insulin resistance. Longitudinal studies are needed to further evaluate the relationship between inflammation with changes in skeletal muscle AT distribution with aging and the incidence of T2DM.
PMCID: PMC3142634  PMID: 21501070
Bone  2010;46(4):1131-1137.
Frizzleds are receptors for Wnt signaling and are involved in skeletal morphogenesis. Little is known about the transcriptional regulation of frizzleds in bone cells. In the current study, we determined if two common and potentially functional genetic variants (rs2232157, rs2232158) in the frizzled-1 (FZD1) promoter region and their haplotypes influence FZD1 promoter activity in human osteoblast-like cells. We also determined if these variants are associated with femoral neck bone mineral density (BMD) and geometry in 1319 African ancestry men aged ≥40 years. Real-time quantitative PCR and western blot analysis demonstrated FZD1 mRNA and protein expression in the human osteoblast-like cell lines, MG63 and SaOS-2. Promoter activity was next assessed by transient expression of haplotype specific FZD1 promoter reporter plasmids in these cells. In comparison to the common GG haplotype, promoter activity was 3-fold higher for the TC haplotype in both cell lines (p<0.05). We previously demonstrated that rs2232158 is associated with differential FZD1 promoter activity and Egr1 binding and thus focused further functional analyses on the rs2232157 G-to-T polymorphism. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay demonstrated that distinct nuclear protein complexes were associated with rs2232157 in an allele specific manner. Bioinformatics analysis predicted that the G to T transversion creates an E2F1 binding site, further supporting the functional significance of rs2232157 in FZD1 promoter regulation. Individual SNPs and haplotypes were not associated with femoral neck BMD. The TC haplotype was associated with larger subperiosteal width and greater CSMI (p<0.05). These results suggest that FZD1 expression is regulated in a haplotype dependent manner in osteoblasts and that these same haplotypes may be associated with biomechanical indices of bone strength.
PMCID: PMC2842476  PMID: 20051274
frizzled-1; haplotype; osteoblast; WNT; osteoporosis

Results 1-6 (6)