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1.  Subclinical Cardiovascular Damage and Fat Utilization in Overweight/Obese Individuals Receiving the Same Dietary and Pharmacological Interventions 
Nutrients  2014;6(12):5560-5571.
Subclinical organ damage precedes the occurrence of cardiovascular events in individuals with obesity and hypertension. The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between fuel utilization and subclinical cardiovascular damage in overweight/obese individuals free of established cardiovascular disease receiving the same diet and pharmacological intervention. In this retrospective study a total of 35 subjects following a balanced diet were enrolled. They underwent a complete nutritional and cardiovascular assessment. Echocardiography and ultrasonography of the carotid arteries was performed. The respiratory quotient (fuel utilization index) was assessed by indirect calorimetry. A total of 18 had left ventricular concentric remodeling, 17 were normal. Between these two groups, a significant difference of intima-media thickness was showed (p = 0.015). Also a difference of respiratory quotient was shown with the highest value in those with remodeling (p = 0.038). At univariate and multivariate analysis, cardiac remodeling was associated with respiratory quotient (RQ) (p = 0.04; beta = 0.38; SE = 0.021; B = 0.044). The area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve for respiratory quotient to predict remodeling was 0.72 (SE = 0.093; p = 0.031; RQ = 0.87; 72% sensitivity, 84% specificity). The respiratory quotient is significantly different between those participants with and without cardiac remodeling. Its measurement may help for interpreting the (patho)physiological mechanisms in the nutrients utilization of obese people with different response to dietary or pharmacological interventions.
PMCID: PMC4276983  PMID: 25470378
cardiac remodeling; obesity; nutrient utilization; echocardiography; carotid; fat utilization
2.  Hepatocellular carcinoma in nonalcoholic fatty liver: Role of environmental and genetic factors 
World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG  2014;20(36):12945-12955.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fourth cause of cancer related mortality, and its incidence is rapidly increasing. Viral hepatitis, alcohol abuse, and exposure to hepatotoxins are major risk factors, but nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) associated with obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes, is an increasingly recognized trigger, especially in developed countries. Older age, severity of insulin resistance and diabetes, and iron overload have been reported to predispose to HCC in this context. Remarkably, HCCs have been reported in non-cirrhotic livers in a higher proportion of cases in NAFLD patients than in other etiologies. Inherited factors have also been implicated to explain the different individual susceptibility to develop HCC, and their role seems magnified in fatty liver, where only a minority of affected subjects progresses to cancer. In particular, the common I148M variant of the PNPLA3 gene influencing hepatic lipid metabolism influences HCC risk independently of its effect on the progression of liver fibrosis. Recently, rare loss-of-function mutations in Apolipoprotein B resulting in very low density lipoproteins hepatic retention and in Telomerase reverse transcriptase influencing cellular senescence have also been linked to HCC in NAFLD. Indeed, hepatic stellate cells senescence has been suggested to bridge tissue aging with alterations of the intestinal microbiota in the pathogenesis of obesity-related HCC. A deeper understanding of the mechanisms mediating hepatic carcinogenesis during insulin resistance, and the identification of its genetic determinants will hopefully provide new diagnostic and therapeutic tools.
PMCID: PMC4177475  PMID: 25278690
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; Steatosis; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Cirrhosis; Fibrogenesis; Liver disease; Genetics; Single nucleotide polymorphism; Patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3
3.  Evaluation of Current Eligibility Criteria for Bariatric Surgery 
Diabetes Care  2013;36(5):1335-1340.
Patients with a BMI <35 kg/m2 and patients with a BMI between 35 and 40 kg/m2 without comorbidities are noneligible by current eligibility criteria for bariatric surgery. We used Swedish obese subjects (SOS) to explore long-term outcomes in noneligible versus eligible patients.
The SOS study involved 2,010 obese patients who underwent bariatric surgery (68% vertical-banded gastroplasty, 19% banding, and 13% gastric bypass) and 2,037 contemporaneously matched obese controls receiving usual care. At inclusion, the participant age was 37–60 years and BMI was ≥34 kg/m2 in men and ≥38 kg/m2 in women. The effect of surgery was assessed in patients that do (n = 3,814) and do not (n = 233) meet current eligibility criteria. The date of analysis was 1 January 2012. The follow-up time was up to 20 years, with a median of 10 years.
Cardiovascular risk factors were significantly improved both in noneligible and eligible individuals after 10 years of follow-up. Surgery reduced the diabetes incidence in both the noneligible (adjusted hazard ratio 0.33 [95% CI 0.13–0.82], P = 0.017) and eligible (0.27 [0.22–0.33], P < 0.001) groups. We could not detect a difference in the effect of surgery between the groups (adjusted interaction P value = 0.713).
Bariatric surgery drastically reduced the incidence of type 2 diabetes both in noneligible and eligible patients and improved cardiovascular risk factors in both groups. Our results show that strict BMI cutoffs are of limited use for bariatric surgery prioritization if the aim is to prevent diabetes and improve cardiovascular risk factors.
PMCID: PMC3631844  PMID: 23359358
4.  PNPLA3 has retinyl-palmitate lipase activity in human hepatic stellate cells 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(15):4077-4085.
Retinoids are micronutrients that are stored as retinyl esters in the retina and hepatic stellate cells (HSCs). HSCs are key players in fibrogenesis in chronic liver diseases. The enzyme responsible for hydrolysis and release of retinyl esters from HSCs is unknown and the relationship between retinoid metabolism and liver disease remains unclear. We hypothesize that the patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3 (PNPLA3) protein is involved in retinol metabolism in HSCs. We tested our hypothesis both in primary human HSCs and in a human cohort of subjects with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (N = 146). Here we show that PNPLA3 is highly expressed in human HSCs. Its expression is regulated by retinol availability and insulin, and increased PNPLA3 expression results in reduced lipid droplet content. PNPLA3 promotes extracellular release of retinol from HSCs in response to insulin. We also show that purified wild-type PNPLA3 hydrolyzes retinyl palmitate into retinol and palmitic acid. Conversely, this enzymatic activity is markedly reduced with purified PNPLA3 148M, a common mutation robustly associated with liver fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma development. We also find the PNPLA3 I148M genotype to be an independent (P = 0.009 in a multivariate analysis) determinant of circulating retinol-binding protein 4, a reliable proxy for retinol levels in humans. This study identifies PNPLA3 as a lipase responsible for retinyl-palmitate hydrolysis in HSCs in humans. Importantly, this indicates a potential novel link between HSCs, retinoid metabolism and PNPLA3 in determining the susceptibility to chronic liver disease.
PMCID: PMC4082369  PMID: 24670599
5.  The PNPLA3 Ile148Met interacts with overweight and dietary intakes on fasting triglyceride levels 
Genes & Nutrition  2014;9(2):388.
The Ile148Met (rs738409, G-allele) in the patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing protein 3 gene (PNPLA3) associates with liver fat content and may lead to loss-of-function (hydrolysis) or gain-of-function (CoA-dependent lysophosphatidic acid acyltransferase) defects. PNPLA3 is up-regulated by dietary carbohydrates, and interactions between rs738409 and carbohydrates, and sugar and ω6:ω3-polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) ratio on hepatic fat accumulation have been reported. We examined interaction between rs738409 and overweight, and between rs738409 and dietary intakes (carbohydrates, sucrose and ω6:ω3-PUFA ratio), on fasting triglyceride levels. From the Malmo Diet and Cancer Study-Cardiovascular Cohort, 4,827 individuals without diabetes aged 58 ± 6 years, 2,346 with BMI ≤ 25 kg/m2 and 2,478 with BMI > 25 kg/m2, were included in cross-sectional analyses. Dietary data were collected by a modified diet history method. Overweight modified the association between rs738409 and fasting triglyceride levels (Pinteraction = 0.003). G-allele associated with lower triglycerides only among overweight individuals (P = 0.01). Nominally, significant interaction on triglyceride levels was observed between rs738409 and sucrose among normal-weight individuals (Pinteraction = 0.03). G-allele associated with lower triglycerides among overweight individuals in the lowest tertiles of carbohydrate and ω6:ω3-PUFA ratio (P = 0.04 and P = 0.001) and with higher triglycerides among normal-weight individuals in the highest tertile of sucrose (P = 0.001). We conclude that overweight and dietary sucrose may modify the association between rs738409 and fasting triglyceride levels.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12263-014-0388-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3968290  PMID: 24563329
PNPLA3; Diet; Fasting triglycerides; NAFLD; Sucrose; Polyunsaturated fatty acids
6.  The link between nutritional parameters and bone mineral density in women: results of a screening programme for osteoporosis 
A positive association between handgrip strength and bone mineral density was demonstrated, but not all the investigations confirmed these results. We conducted a screening programme for osteoporosis in a large cohort of postmenopausal women to investigate the relationship between handgrip strength, other nutritional parameters and bone density.
This investigation involved 1,300 white volunteers. All participants underwent a bone mineral density evaluation at the heel and a handgrip strength measurement.
The mean T-score value was -1.15 ± 1; a total of 181 participants reported at least one osteoporotic fracture. In the univariate analysis, both handgrip strength and body mass index were associated with the T-score value. Adjustment for confounding factors confirmed this relationship showing, in the multivariate analysis, that the body mass index was positively correlated to the T-score (B = 0.034; p = 0.001) and, in the logistic regression analysis, that handgrip strength was associated with the presence of osteoporosis (P = 0.005).
Both body mass index and handgrip strength were strongly correlated to bone mineral density, assessed with ultrasound, suggesting a possible key role as bone disease predictors.
PMCID: PMC3930305  PMID: 24548517
7.  Nutrients Utilization in Obese Individuals with and without Hypertriglyceridemia 
Nutrients  2014;6(2):790-798.
Background: Low fat utilization is linked to weight gain and to the presence of certain atherosclerosis markers. It is not clear whether the presence of hyperlipidemia can further affect nutrients utilization. The main objective of this study was to investigate the fasting fuel utilization of obese subjects suffering from hypertriglyceridemia, and to compare it with that of individuals that are solely obese. Method: We recruited 20 obese individuals with hypertriglyceridemia and 20 matched individuals not affected by hypertriglyceridemia. The fuel utilization (respiratory quotient) was measured by respiratory gas exchange, by Indirect Calorimetry. Results: There was a significant difference in fuel utilization and HDL-cholesterol between cases and controls (respiratory quotient 0.89 ± 0.07 vs. 0.84 ± 0.06; p = 0.020 respectively). The univariate and multivariate linear regression analysis confirmed that hypertrygliceridemia was positively correlated to the respiratory quotient (p = 0.035). Conclusion: obese subjects with hypertriglyceridemia had a higher respiratory quotient in comparison to unaffected subjects. This could suggest a limitation in the beta-oxidation mechanisms; this could actually imply that fatty acids may be redirected from oxidation to reesterification into triglycerides. The study could suggest the presence of different mechanisms unrelated to obesity and also a potential new therapeutic target for hypertriglyceridemia management.
PMCID: PMC3942732  PMID: 24566437
triglyceride; fatty acid; obesity; fatty acid oxidation; lipids; nutrients; indirect calorimetry; carboidrates; respiratory quotient
8.  Cardiovascular Events After Bariatric Surgery in Obese Subjects With Type 2 Diabetes 
Diabetes Care  2012;35(12):2613-2617.
Obese individuals with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The effect of bariatric surgery on cardiovascular events in obese individuals with type 2 diabetes remains to be determined. The Swedish Obese Subjects (SOS) study is a prospective, controlled intervention study that examines the effects of bariatric surgery on hard end points. The aim of the present study was to examine the effect of bariatric surgery on cardiovascular events in the SOS study participants with type 2 diabetes.
All SOS study participants with type 2 diabetes at baseline were included in the analyses (n = 345 in the surgery group and n = 262 in the control group). Mean follow-up was 13.3 years (interquartile range 10.2–16.4) for all cardiovascular events.
Bariatric surgery was associated with a reduced myocardial infarction incidence (38 events among the 345 subjects in the surgery group vs. 43 events among the 262 subjects in the control group; log-rank P = 0.017; adjusted hazard ratio [HR] 0.56 [95% CI 0.34–0.93]; P = 0.025). No effect of bariatric surgery was observed on stroke incidence (34 events among the 345 subjects in the surgery group vs. 24 events among the 262 subjects in the control group; log-rank P = 0.852; adjusted HR 0.73 [0.41–1.30]; P = 0.29). The effect of surgery in reducing myocardial infarction incidence was stronger in individuals with higher serum total cholesterol and triglycerides at baseline (interaction P value = 0.02 for both traits). BMI (interaction P value = 0.12) was not related to the surgery outcome.
Bariatric surgery reduces the incidence of myocardial infarction in obese individuals with type 2 diabetes. Preoperative BMI should be integrated with metabolic parameters to maximize the benefits of bariatric surgery.
PMCID: PMC3507566  PMID: 22855732
9.  Genetic Variation in SULF2 Is Associated with Postprandial Clearance of Triglyceride-Rich Remnant Particles and Triglyceride Levels in Healthy Subjects 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79473.
Nonfasting (postprandial) triglyceride concentrations have emerged as a clinically significant cardiovascular disease risk factor that results from accumulation of remnant triglyceride-rich lipoproteins (TRLs) in the circulation. The remnant TRLs are cleared from the circulation by hepatic uptake, but the specific mechanisms involved are unclear. The syndecan-1 heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG) pathway is important for the hepatic clearance of remnant TRLs in mice, but its relevance in humans is unclear.
We sought to determine whether polymorphisms of the genes responsible for HSPG assembly and disassembly contribute to atherogenic dyslipoproteinemias in humans.
Patients And Design
We performed an oral fat load in 68 healthy subjects. Lipoproteins (chylomicrons and very low density lipoproteins 1 and 2) were isolated from blood, and the area under curve and incremental area under curve for postprandial variables were calculated. Single nucleotide polymorphisms in genes encoding syndecan-1 and enzymes involved in the synthesis or degradation of HSPG were genotyped in the study subjects.
Our results indicate that the genetic variation rs2281279 in SULF2 associates with postprandial clearance of remnant TRLs and triglyceride levels in healthy subjects. Furthermore, the SNP rs2281279 in SULF2 associates with hepatic SULF2 mRNA levels.
In humans, mild but clinically relevant postprandial hyperlipidemia due to reduced hepatic clearance of remnant TRLs may result from genetic polymorphisms that affect hepatic HSPG.
PMCID: PMC3835823  PMID: 24278138
10.  PNPLA3 I148M polymorphism and progressive liver disease 
The 148 Isoleucine to Methionine protein variant (I148M) of patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3 (PNPLA3), a protein is expressed in the liver and is involved in lipid metabolism, has recently been identified as a major determinant of liver fat content. Several studies confirmed that the I148M variant predisposes towards the full spectrum of liver damage associated with fatty liver: from simple steatosis to steatohepatitis and progressive fibrosis. Furthermore, the I148M variant represents a major determinant of progression of alcohol related steatohepatitis to cirrhosis, and to influence fibrogenesis and related clinical outcomes in chronic hepatitis C virus hepatitis, and possibly chronic hepatitis B virus hepatitis, hereditary hemochromatosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis. All in all, studies suggest that the I148M polymorphism may represent a general modifier of fibrogenesis in liver diseases. Remarkably, the effect of the I148M variant on fibrosis was independent of that on hepatic steatosis and inflammation, suggesting that it may affect both the quantity and quality of hepatic lipids and the biology of non-parenchymal liver cells besides hepatocytes, directly promoting fibrogenesis. Therefore, PNPLA3 is a key player in liver disease progression. Assessment of the I148M polymorphism will possibly inform clinical practice in the future, whereas the determination of the effect of the 148M variant will reveal mechanisms involved in hepatic fibrogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3819533  PMID: 24222941
Alcoholic liver disease; Chronic hepatitis C virus hepatitis; Fibrogenesis; Genetics; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Liver disease; Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; Patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3; Single nucleotide polymorphism; Steatosis
11.  Association of RXR-Gamma Gene Variants with Familial Combined Hyperlipidemia: Genotype and Haplotype Analysis 
Journal of Lipids  2013;2013:517943.
Background. Familial combined hyperlipidemia (FCHL), the most common genetic form of hyperlipdemia, is characterized by a strong familial clustering and by premature coronary heart disease. The FCHL locus has been mapped to human chromosome 1q21-q23. This region includes the retinoid X receptor gamma (RXRG), a nuclear factor member of the RXR superfamily, which plays important roles in lipid homeostasis. Objective. To investigate the possible role of the RXRG gene in the genetic susceptibility to FCHL. Methods. Variations in RXRG gene were searched by direct sequencing, and the identified SNPs were genotyped by PCR-RFLP in 192 FCHL individuals from 74 families and in 119 controls. Results. We identified 5 polymorphisms in the RXRG gene (rs1128977, rs2651860, rs2134095, rs283696, and rs10918169). Genotyping showed that the A-allele of rs283696 SNP was significantly associated with FCHL (corrected P, Pc < 0.01). Also the alleles of the rs10918169 and of the rs2651860 SNP were more frequent in FCHL subjects compared to those in controls, although not significantly after correction. When the clinical characteristics of the FCHL subjects were stratified by allele carrier status for each SNP, the rs2651860 SNP was significantly associated with increased levels of LDL-cholesterol and of Apo-B in T-allele carriers (P < 0.04). Finally, haplotypes analysis with all 5 SNPs confirmed the significant association of RXRG gene with FCHL. Specifically, the haplotype containing all 3 “at-risk” alleles, significantly associated with FCHL (A-allele of rs283696, G-allele of rs10918169, and T-allele of rs2651860), showed an OR (Odds Ratio) of 2.02, Pc < 0.048. Conversely, the haplotype without all these 3 alleles was associated with a reduced risk for FCHL (OR = 0.39, Pc < 0.023). The “at-risk” haplotype CTTAG was also associated with higher LDL-C (P < 0.015). In conclusion, variation in the RXRG gene may contribute to the genetic dyslipidemia in FCHL subjects.
PMCID: PMC3810489  PMID: 24222859
12.  Monitoring of Lipids, Enzymes, and Creatine Kinase in Patients on Lipid-Lowering Drug Therapy 
Current Cardiology Reports  2013;15(9):397.
A number of plasma lipid parameters have been used to estimate cardiovascular risk and to be targets for treatment to reduce risk. Most risk algorithms are based on total cholesterol (T-C) or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and most intervention trials have targeted the LDL-C levels. Emerging measures, which in some cases may be better for risk calculation and as alternative treatment targets, are apolipoprotein B and non-HDL-C. Other lipid measures that may contribute in risk analysis are triglycerides (TG), lipoprotein(a), and lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2. The primary treatment target in cardiovascular prevention is LDL-C, and potential alternative targets are apoB and non-HDL-C. In selected individuals at high cardiovascular (CV) risk, TG should be targeted, but HDL-C, Lp(a), and ratios such as LDL-C/HDL-C or apoB/apoAI are not recommended as treatment targets. Lipids should be monitored during titration to targets. Thereafter, lipids should be checked at least once a year or more frequently to improve treatment adherence if indicated. Monitoring of muscle and liver enzymes should be done before the start of treatment. In stable conditions during treatment, the focus should be on clinical symptoms that may alert muscle or liver complications. Routine measurement of CK or ALT is not necessary during treatment with statins.
PMCID: PMC3751280  PMID: 23888382
Dyslipidemia; Cardiovascular prevention; Statin; Lipoprotein; Myalgia; Treatment; Lipids; Enzymes; Creatine kinase; Lipid-lowering drug therapy
13.  Fat utilization and arterial hypertension in overweight/obese subjects 
The Respiratory Quotient is a parameter reflecting the utilization of the nutrients by a subject. It is associated with an high rate of subsequent weight gain and with the atherosclerosis. Subjects tending to burn less fat have an increased Respiratory Quotient. Aim of this study was to investigate on the relationship between the Respiratory Quotient and the cardiovascular risk factors.
In this cross-sectional study we enrolled 223 individuals of both sexes aged 45–75 ys that were weight stable, receiving a balanced diet, and not affected by debilitating disease or cardiovascular disease. The Respiratory Quotient was measured by Indirect Calorimetry. The measurement of the Blood Pressure was obtained by a mercury sphygmomanometer.
We enrolled 133 female and 90 male. Systolic blood pressure only was positively correlated to the Respiratory Quotient in univariate and multivariate regression analysis (p=0,017). The prevalence of hypertension was significatively different between the quartiles of the Respiratory Quotient, with the highest prevalence in the IV quartile (p=0,024).
High value of the Respiratory Quotient, an index of nutrients utilization, is associated to an high prevalence of Hypertension. It is possible that in the subjects with high Respiratory Quotient and high body mass index, the activation of the renin angiotensin system, in concert to the reduction of the utilization of the endogenous fat stores, could increase the risk of hypertension.
PMCID: PMC3708740  PMID: 23815947
Obesity; Indirect calorimetry; Respiratory Quotient; Hypertension
14.  Long-Term Effect of Bariatric Surgery on Liver Enzymes in the Swedish Obese Subjects (SOS) Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e60495.
Background and Aim
Obesity is associated with elevated serum transaminase levels and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and weight loss is a recommended therapeutic strategy. Bariatric surgery is effective in obtaining and maintaining weight loss. Aim of the present study was to examine the long-term effects of bariatric surgery on transaminase levels in obese individuals.
The Swedish Obese Subjects (SOS) study is a prospective controlled intervention study designed to compare the long-term effects of bariatric surgery and usual care in obese subjects. A total of 3,570 obese participants with no excess of alcohol consumption at baseline (1,795 and 1,775 in the control and surgery group, respectively) were included in the analyses. Changes in transaminase levels during follow-up were compared in the surgery and control groups.
Compared to usual care, bariatric surgery was associated with lower serum ALT and AST levels at 2- and 10- year follow up. The reduction in ALT levels was proportional to the degree of weight loss. Both the incidence of and the remission from high transaminase levels were more favorable in the surgery group compared to the control group. Similarly, the prevalence of ALT/AST ratio <1 was lower in the surgery compared to the control group at both 2- and 10-year follow up.
Bariatric surgery results in a sustained reduction in transaminase levels and a long-term benefit in obese individuals.
PMCID: PMC3608624  PMID: 23555982
15.  Altered Glucose Homeostasis Is Associated with Increased Serum Apelin Levels in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51236.
Apelin is an adipokine that plays a role in the regulation of glucose homeostasis and in obesity. The relationship between apelin serum concentration and dysmetabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes (T2D) is still controversial. Aims of our study are: 1) determine the circulating levels of apelin in a large cohort of Italian subjects with T2D, T1D and in non-diabetic controls; 2) identify putative metabolic determinants of modified apelin concentrations, in order to search possible mechanism of apelin control; 3) investigate changes in apelin levels in response to sharp modifications of glucose/insulin metabolism in T2D obese subjects before and 3 days after bariatric surgery.
We recruited 369 subjects, 119 with T2D, 113 with T1D and 137 non-diabetic controls. All subjects underwent a complete clinical examination, including anthropometric and laboratory measurements. Serum apelin levels were determined by EIA (immunoenzyme assay).
Patients with T2D had significantly higher serum apelin levels compared to controls (1.23±1.1 ng/mL vs 0.91±0.7 ng/mL, P<0.001) and to T1D subjects (0.73±0.39 ng/mL, P<0.001). Controls and T1D subjects did not differ significantly in apelin levels. Apelin concentrations were directly associated with fasting blood glucose (FBG), body mass index (BMI), basal Disposition Index (DI-0), age, and diagnosis of T2D at bivariate correlation analysis. Multiple regression analysis confirmed that diagnosis of T2D, basal DI-0 and FBG were all determinants of serum apelin levels independently from age and BMI. Bariatric surgery performed in a subgroup of obese diabetic subjects (n = 12) resulted in a significant reduction of apelin concentrations compared to baseline levels (P = 0.01).
Our study demonstrates that T2D, but not T1D, is associated with increased serum apelin levels compared to non-diabetic subjects. This association is dependent on impaired glucose homeostasis, and disappears after bariatric surgery, providing further evidence regarding the relationship between apelin and the regulation of glucose metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3515542  PMID: 23227256
16.  PNPLA 3 I148M genetic variant associates with insulin resistance and baseline viral load in HCV genotype 2 but not in genotype 3 infection 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:82.
Hepatic steatosis in HCV patients has been postulated as a risk factor associated with a higher frequency of fibrosis and cirrhosis. A single genetic variant, PNPLA3 I148M, has been widely associated with increased hepatic steatosis. Previous studies of the PNPLA3 I148M sequence variant in HCV infected individuals have reported an association between this variant and prevalence of steatosis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. To evaluate the impact of PNPLA3 I148M variant on metabolic traits and treatment response in HCV genotype 2 and 3 infected patients.
Three hundred and eighty-two treatment naïve HCV genotype 2 or 3 infected patients were included in a phase III, open label, randomized, multicenter, investigator-initiated trial (the NORDynamIC study), in which pretreatment liver biopsies were mandatory. PNPLA3I148M genotyping was performed in a total of 359 Caucasian patients.
In HCV genotype 2 infected patients carrying the PNPLA3 148M allele, there was significantly increased insulin resistance (P = 0.023) and lower viral load (P = 0.005) at baseline as well as the first seven days of antiviral treatment. These results were not observed in HCV genotype 3 infected patients.
Our results suggest a possible association between the PNPLA3 148M allele and insulin resistance as well as baseline viral load in HCV genotype 2, but not in genotype 3.
PMCID: PMC3495049  PMID: 22978414
Hepatitis C; PNPLA 3; Insulin resistance; Viral load
17.  Paradoxical Lower Serum Triglyceride Levels and Higher Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Susceptibility in Obese Individuals with the PNPLA3 148M Variant 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39362.
Obesity is highly associated with elevated serum triglycerides, hepatic steatosis and type 2 diabetes (T2D). The I148M (rs738409) genetic variant of patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing 3 gene (PNPLA3) is known to modulate hepatic triglyceride accumulation, leading to steatosis. No association between PNPLA3 I148M genotype and T2D in Europeans has been reported. Aim of this study is to examine the relationship between PNPLA3 I148M genotypes and serum triglycerides, insulin resistance and T2D susceptibility by testing a gene-environment interaction model with severe obesity.
Methods and Findings
PNPLA3 I148M was genotyped in a large obese cohort, the SOS study (n = 3,473) and in the Go-DARTS (n = 15,448), a T2D case-control study. Metabolic parameters were examined across the PNPLA3 I148M genotypes in participants of the SOS study at baseline and at 2- and 10-year follow up after bariatric surgery or conventional therapy. The associations with metabolic parameters were validated in the Go-DARTS study. Serum triglycerides were found to be lower in the PNPLA3 148M carriers from the SOS study at baseline and from the Go-DARTS T2D cohort. An increased risk for T2D conferred by the 148M allele was found in the SOS study (O.R. 1.09, 95% C.I. 1.01-1.39, P = 0.040) and in severely obese individuals in the Go-DARTS study (O.R. 1.37, 95% C.I. 1.13-1.66, P = 0.001). The 148M allele was no longer associated with insulin resistance or T2D after bariatric surgery in the SOS study and no association with the 148M allele was observed in the less obese (BMI<35) individuals in the Go-DARTS study (P for interaction  = 0.002). This provides evidence for the obesity interaction with I48M allele and T2D risk in a large-scale cross-sectional and a prospective interventional study.
Severely obese individuals carrying the PNPLA3 148M allele have lower serum triglyceride levels, are more insulin resistant and more susceptible to T2D. This study supports the hypothesis that obesity-driven hepatic lipid accumulation may contribute to T2D susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3377675  PMID: 22724004
18.  Association of FTO Polymorphisms with Early Age of Obesity in Obese Italian Subjects 
Experimental Diabetes Research  2012;2012:872176.
Obesity is recognized as a major health problem worldwide. Genetic factors play a major role in obesity, and genomewide association studies have provided evidence that several common variants within the fat mass- and obesity-associated (FTO) gene are significantly associated with obesity. Very limited data is available on FTO in the Italian population. Aims of our study are to investigate: (1) the association of FTO gene SNPs rs9939609 and rs9930506 with body mass index (BMI) and obesity-related parameters in a large cohort (n = 752) of Italian obese subjects; (2) the association between the two FTO SNPs and age of onset of obesity. Our results demonstrate a strong association between FTO SNPs rs9939609 (P < 0.043) and rs9930506 (P < 0.029) with BMI in the Italian population. FTO rs9930506 was significantly associated with higher BMI in a G allele dose-dependent manner (BMI + 1.4 kg/m2 per G allele). We also observed that the association with BMI of the two FTO variants varied with age, with the carriers of the risk alleles developing an increase in body weight earlier in life. In conclusion, our study further demonstrates a role of the genetic variability in FTO on BMI in a large Italian population.
PMCID: PMC3290805  PMID: 22454631
19.  Lack of effect of apolipoprotein C3 polymorphisms on indices of liver steatosis, lipid profile and insulin resistance in obese Southern Europeans 
Apolipoprotein C3 (APOC3) is a component of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, and APOC3 rs2854116 and rs2854117 polymorphisms have been associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, hypertriglyceridaemia, and insulin-resistance.
To determine if the APOC3 variants alter the susceptibility of obese subjects to develop liver damage, hypertrigliceridaemia, and insulin-resistance.
The study was carried out on 585 unrelated obese Italians (median body mass index BMI = 41 kg/m2) who were genotyped for the rs2854116 and rs2854117 variants. All participants underwent oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT), with measurement of glucose, insulin, lipid parameters. Indices of insulin-resistance (HOMA and ISI) were calculated. Alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST) were used as markers of liver injury.
The study subjects were divided into two groups: those homozygous for the wild-type alleles at both SNPs (-482C and -455T alleles) and those who were carriers of at least one variant allele or both (-482T, -455C or both). Also each SNP was analysed independently. No significant differences were found in ALT and AST levels and in the lipid profile between the two groups. Insulin concentrations, glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity were similar in the two groups.
We did not identify any significant association between APOC3 polymorphisms and fatty liver disease, lipids, and insulin-resistance in obese subjects, thus not confirming the suggested role of these APOC3 gene sequence variants.
PMCID: PMC3135552  PMID: 21663607
hepatic transaminases; NAFLD; BMI; obesity; tryglicerides; HDL; atherogenic dyslipidemia
20.  Population-based resequencing of ANGPTL4 uncovers variations that reduce triglycerides and increase HDL 
Nature genetics  2007;39(4):513-516.
Resequencing genes provides the opportunity to assess the full spectrum of variants that influence complex traits. Here we report the first application of resequencing to a large population (n = 3,551) to examine the role of the adipokine ANGPTL4 in lipid metabolism. Nonsynonymous variants in ANGPTL4 were more prevalent in individuals with triglyceride levels in the lowest quartile than in individuals with levels in the highest quartile (P = 0.016). One variant (E40K), present in ~3% of European Americans, was associated with significantly lower plasma levels of triglyceride and higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in European Americans from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study and in Danes from the Copenhagen City Heart Study. The ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous variants was higher in European Americans than in African Americans (4:1 versus 1.3:1), suggesting population-specific relaxation of purifying selection. Thus, resequencing of ANGPTL4 in a multiethnic population allowed analysis of the phenotypic effects of both rare and common variants while taking advantage of genetic variation arising from ethnic differences in population history.
PMCID: PMC2762948  PMID: 17322881
21.  Genetic variation in PNPLA3 confers susceptibility to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease 
Nature genetics  2008;40(12):1461-1465.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a burgeoning health problem of unknown etiology that varies in prevalence among ethnic groups. To identify genetic variants contributing to differences in hepatic fat content, we performed a genome-wide association scan of nonsynonymous sequence variations (n=9,229) in a multiethnic population. An allele in PNPLA3 (rs738409; I148M) was strongly associated with increased hepatic fat levels (P=5.9×10−10) and with hepatic inflammation (P=3.7×10−4). The allele was most common in Hispanics, the group most susceptible to NAFLD; hepatic fat content was > 2-fold higher in PNPLA3-148M homozygotes than in noncarriers. Resequencing revealed another allele associated with lower hepatic fat content in African-Americans, the group at lowest risk of NAFLD. Thus, variation in PNPLA3 contributes to ethnic and inter-individual differences in hepatic fat content and susceptibility to NAFLD.
PMCID: PMC2597056  PMID: 18820647
22.  Genetic Variation in ANGPTL4 Provides Insights into Protein Processing and Function*S⃞ 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2009;284(19):13213-13222.
Angiopoietin-like protein 4 (ANGPTL4) is a secreted protein that modulates the disposition of circulating triglycerides (TG) by inhibiting lipoprotein lipase (LPL). Here we examine the steps involved in the synthesis and post-translational processing of ANGPTL4, and the effects of a naturally occurring sequence variant (E40K) that is associated with lower plasma TG levels in humans. Expression of the wild-type and mutant proteins in HEK-293A cells indicated that ANGPTL4 formed dimers and tetramers in cells prior to secretion and cleavage of the protein. After cleavage at a canonical proprotein convertase cleavage site (161RRKR164), the oligomeric structure of the N-terminal domain was retained whereas the C-terminal fibrinogen-like domain dissociated into monomers. Inhibition of cleavage did not interfere with oligomerization of ANGPTL4 or with its ability to inhibit LPL, whereas mutations that prevented oligomerization severely compromised the capacity of the protein to inhibit LPL. ANGPTL4 containing the E40K substitution was synthesized and processed normally, but no monomers or oligomers of the N-terminal fragments accumulated in the medium; medium from these cells failed to inhibit LPL activity. Parallel experiments performed in mice recapitulated these results. Our findings indicate that oligomerization, but not cleavage, of ANGPTL4 is required for LPL inhibition, and that the E40K substitution destabilizes the protein after secretion, preventing the extracellular accumulation of oligomers and abolishing the ability of the protein to inhibit LPL activity.
PMCID: PMC2676053  PMID: 19270337
23.  MODY-like diabetes associated with an apparently balanced translocation: possible involvement of MPP7 gene and cell polarity in the pathogenesis of diabetes 
Characterization of disease-associated balanced translocations has led to the discovery of genes responsible for many disorders, including syndromes that include various forms of diabetes mellitus. We studied a man with unexplained maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY)-like diabetes and an apparently balanced translocation [46,XY,t(7;10)(q22;p12)] and sought to identify a novel diabetes locus by characterizing the translocation breakpoints.
Mutations in coding exons and splice sites of known MODY genes were first ruled out by PCR amplification and DNA sequencing. Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) studies demonstrated that the translocation did not disrupt two known diabetes-related genes on 10p12. The translocation breakpoints were further mapped to high resolution using FISH and somatic cell hybrids and the junctions PCR-amplified and sequenced. The translocation did not disrupt any annotated transcription unit. However, the chromosome 10 breakpoint was 220 kilobases 5' to the Membrane Protein, Palmitoylated 7 (MPP7) gene, which encodes a protein required for proper cell polarity. This biological function is shared by HNF4A, a known MODY gene. Databases show MPP7 is highly expressed in mouse pancreas and is expressed in human islets. The translocation did not appear to alter lymphoblastoid expression of MPP7 or other genes near the breakpoints.
The balanced translocation and MODY-like diabetes in the proband could be coincidental. Alternatively, the translocation may cause islet cell dysfunction by altering MPP7 expression in a subtle or tissue-specific fashion. The potential roles of MPP7 mutations in diabetes and perturbed islet cell polarity in insulin secretion warrant further study.
PMCID: PMC2646739  PMID: 19216786
24.  Rare loss-of-function mutations in ANGPTL family members contribute to plasma triglyceride levels in humans  
The relative activity of lipoprotein lipase (LPL) in different tissues controls the partitioning of lipoprotein-derived fatty acids between sites of fat storage (adipose tissue) and oxidation (heart and skeletal muscle). Here we used a reverse genetic strategy to test the hypothesis that 4 angiopoietin-like proteins (ANGPTL3, -4, -5, and -6) play key roles in triglyceride (TG) metabolism in humans. We re-sequenced the coding regions of the genes encoding these proteins and identified multiple rare nonsynonymous (NS) sequence variations that were associated with low plasma TG levels but not with other metabolic phenotypes. Functional studies revealed that all mutant alleles of ANGPTL3 and ANGPTL4 that were associated with low plasma TG levels interfered either with the synthesis or secretion of the protein or with the ability of the ANGPTL protein to inhibit LPL. A total of 1% of the Dallas Heart Study population and 4% of those participants with a plasma TG in the lowest quartile had a rare loss-of-function mutation in ANGPTL3, ANGPTL4, or ANGPTL5. Thus, ANGPTL3, ANGPTL4, and ANGPTL5, but not ANGPTL6, play nonredundant roles in TG metabolism, and multiple alleles at these loci cumulatively contribute to variability in plasma TG levels in humans.
PMCID: PMC2613476  PMID: 19075393
25.  Search for genetic variants in the p66Shc longevity gene by PCR-single strand conformational polymorphism in patients with early-onset cardiovascular disease 
BMC Genetics  2006;7:14.
Among the possible candidate genes for atherosclerosis experimental data point towards the longevity gene p66Shc. The p66Shc gene determines an increase of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), affecting the rate of oxidative damage to nucleic acids. Knock-out p66Shc-/- mice show reduction of systemic oxidative stress, as well as of plasma LDL oxidation, and reduced atherogenic lesions. Thus, p66Shc may play a pivotal role in controlling oxidative stress and vascular dysfunction in vivo.
We searched for sequence variations in the p66Shc specific region of the Shc gene and its upstream promoter by PCR-SSCP in a selected group of early onset coronary artery disease (CAD) subjects (n. 78, mean age 48.5 ± 6 years) and in 93 long-living control subjects (mean age 89 ± 6 years).
The analysis revealed two variant bands. Sequencing of these variants showed two SNPs: -354T>C in the regulatory region of p66Shc locus and 92C>T in the p66 specific region (CH2). Both these variants have never been described before. The first substitution partially modifies the binding consensus sequence of the Sp1 transcription factor, and was detected only in two heterozygous carriers (1 CAD subjects and 1 control subject). The 92C>T substitution in the CH2 region consists in an amino acid substitution at codon 31 (proline to leucine, P31L), and was detected in heterozygous status only in one CAD subject. No subjects homozygous for the two newly described SNPs were found.
Only two sequence variations in the p66Shc gene were observed in a total of 171 subjects, and only in heterozygotes. Our observations, in accordance to other studies, suggest that important variations in the p66Shc gene may be extremely rare and probably this gene is not involved in the genetic susceptibility to CAD.
PMCID: PMC1420326  PMID: 16519809

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