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1.  Substance Use and Sexual Intercourse Onsets in Adolescence: A Genetically Informative Discordant Twin Design 
The objective of this study was to examine if earlier onset of drinking and smoking behaviors predicted early sexual intercourse onset using a genetically informed, discordant twin analysis.
3424 adult same-sex twins from the Australian Twin Registry completed a structured interview which included retrospective reports on onsets of smoking, drinking, intoxication and sexual intercourse and conduct disorder symptoms. A two-level frailty model estimated within-twin-pair and between-twin-pair comparisons. Onsets of smoking, drinking, drunkenness and conduct disorder symptoms were estimated as sexual intercourse onset predictors.
After controlling for conduct disorder, smoking and drinking onset did not predict sexual intercourse onset for either within-twin-pair or between-twin-pair comparisons. Drunkenness onset had a significant effect on sexual intercourse onset, such that twins who first experienced alcohol intoxication at a younger age than their co-twins were also more likely to have sex earlier than their co-twins.
Relationships between substance use and sexual intercourse onsets may be due mostly to shared underlying factors; there was only a small relation between intoxication onset and sexual intercourse onset, and no direct relation between smoking and drinking onset and sexual intercourse onset.
PMCID: PMC3872214  PMID: 23992762
Twin study; sexual intercourse onset; substance use onset; problem behavior theory
2.  Does variance in drinking motives explain the genetic overlap between personality and alcohol use disorder symptoms? A twin study of young women 
Genetic risk for alcohol dependence has been shown to overlap with genetic factors contributing to variation in dimensions of personality. Though drinking motives have been posited as important mediators of the alcohol-personality relation, the extent to which the genetic covariance between alcohol use disorder (AUD) symptoms (i.e. abuse and dependence criteria) and personality is explained by genetic factors contributing to variation in drinking motives remains unclear.
Using data from 2,904 young adult female twins, the phenotypic and genetic associations among personality dimensions (constraint [measured by the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire; Tellegen, 1982], conscientiousness, neuroticism, and agreeableness [measured by the NEO-PI; Costa & McCrae, 1985]), internal drinking motives (enhancement and coping motives [measured by the Drinking Motive Questionnaire; Cooper, 1994]), and AUD symptoms were tested.
Significant genetic associations were found between all personality measures and AUD symptoms. Coping motives showed significant genetic overlap with AUD symptoms and most personality measures, whereas enhancement motives were not significantly heritable. Adjusting for coping motives, genetic correlations between AUD symptoms and traits of neuroticism and agreeableness were no longer statistically significant.
Findings suggest that genetic variation in drinking to cope might account for a considerable proportion of the genetic covariance between specific personality dimensions and AUD symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3204320  PMID: 21790670
behavior genetics; personality; drinking motives; alcohol use disorders
3.  Genome-wide association study identifies loci affecting blood copper, selenium and zinc 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(19):3998-4006.
Genetic variation affecting absorption, distribution or excretion of essential trace elements may lead to health effects related to sub-clinical deficiency. We have tested for allelic effects of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on blood copper, selenium and zinc in a genome-wide association study using two adult cohorts from Australia and the UK. Participants were recruited in Australia from twins and their families and in the UK from pregnant women. We measured erythrocyte Cu, Se and Zn (Australian samples) or whole blood Se (UK samples) using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Genotyping was performed with Illumina chips and >2.5 m SNPs were imputed from HapMap data. Genome-wide significant associations were found for each element. For Cu, there were two loci on chromosome 1 (most significant SNPs rs1175550, P = 5.03 × 10−10, and rs2769264, P = 2.63 × 10−20); for Se, a locus on chromosome 5 was significant in both cohorts (combined P = 9.40 × 10−28 at rs921943); and for Zn three loci on chromosomes 8, 15 and X showed significant results (rs1532423, P = 6.40 × 10−12; rs2120019, P = 1.55 × 10−18; and rs4826508, P = 1.40 × 10−12, respectively). The Se locus covers three genes involved in metabolism of sulphur-containing amino acids and potentially of the analogous Se compounds; the chromosome 8 locus for Zn contains multiple genes for the Zn-containing enzyme carbonic anhydrase. Where potentially relevant genes were identified, they relate to metabolism of the element (Se) or to the presence at high concentration of a metal-containing protein (Cu).
PMCID: PMC3766178  PMID: 23720494
4.  Role of Nicotine Dependence in the Association between the Dopamine Receptor Gene DRD3 and Major Depressive Disorder 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e98199.
The aims of this study were to analyze associations of dopamine receptor genes (DRD1-5) with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and nicotine dependence (ND), and to investigate whether ND moderates genetic influences on MDD.
The sample was ascertained from the Finnish Twin Cohort. Twin pairs concordant for smoking history were recruited along with their family members, as part of the multisite Nicotine Addiction Genetics consortium. Genetic association analyses were based on 1428 adults. Total of 70 tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms within the dopamine receptor genes were genotyped and analyzed for association with MDD, ND, and MD-ND co-morbidity. Individual level logistic regression analyses were based on 1296 adults with data on ND and MDD diagnoses, as well as on dopamine receptor genotypes adjusted for sex, age, and alcohol use. Four independent samples, such as population-based and case-control samples, were used for replication.
Rs2399496, located 1.5 kb downstream of DRD3, showed suggestive association for MDD (p = 0.00076) and significant association for MDD-ND co-morbidity (p = 0.000079). Suggestive gene-(rs2399496) by-ND-interaction justified analyses by genetic risk variant and ND status. Individuals with ND and two minor alleles (AA) of rs2399496 had almost six-fold risk for MDD (OR 5.74, 95%CI 3.12–10.5, p = 9.010e-09) compared to individuals without ND and with two major alleles (TT).
Significant association between a variant downstream of DRD3 and a co-morbid MDD-ND phenotype was detected. Our results further suggest that nicotine dependence may potentiate the influence of the DRD3 genetic variant on MDD.
PMCID: PMC4057087  PMID: 24927283
5.  Harmonization of Neuroticism and Extraversion phenotypes across inventories and cohorts in the Genetics of Personality Consortium: an application of Item Response Theory 
van den Berg, Stéphanie M. | de Moor, Marleen H. M. | McGue, Matt | Pettersson, Erik | Terracciano, Antonio | Verweij, Karin J. H. | Amin, Najaf | Derringer, Jaime | Esko, Tõnu | van Grootheest, Gerard | Hansell, Narelle K. | Huffman, Jennifer | Konte, Bettina | Lahti, Jari | Luciano, Michelle | Matteson, Lindsay K. | Viktorin, Alexander | Wouda, Jasper | Agrawal, Arpana | Allik, Jüri | Bierut, Laura | Broms, Ulla | Campbell, Harry | Smith, George Davey | Eriksson, Johan G. | Ferrucci, Luigi | Franke, Barbera | Fox, Jean-Paul | de Geus, Eco J. C. | Giegling, Ina | Gow, Alan J. | Grucza, Richard | Hartmann, Annette M. | Heath, Andrew C. | Heikkilä, Kauko | Iacono, William G. | Janzing, Joost | Jokela, Markus | Kiemeney, Lambertus | Lehtimäki, Terho | Madden, Pamela A. F. | Magnusson, Patrik K. E. | Northstone, Kate | Nutile, Teresa | Ouwens, Klaasjan G. | Palotie, Aarno | Pattie, Alison | Pesonen, Anu-Katriina | Polasek, Ozren | Pulkkinen, Lea | Pulkki-Råback, Laura | Raitakari, Olli T. | Realo, Anu | Rose, Richard J. | Ruggiero, Daniela | Seppälä, Ilkka | Slutske, Wendy S. | Smyth, David C. | Sorice, Rossella | Starr, John M. | Sutin, Angelina R. | Tanaka, Toshiko | Verhagen, Josine | Vermeulen, Sita | Vuoksimaa, Eero | Widen, Elisabeth | Willemsen, Gonneke | Wright, Margaret J. | Zgaga, Lina | Rujescu, Dan | Metspalu, Andres | Wilson, James F. | Ciullo, Marina | Hayward, Caroline | Rudan, Igor | Deary, Ian J. | Räikkönen, Katri | Arias Vasquez, Alejandro | Costa, Paul T. | Keltikangas-Järvinen, Liisa | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Penninx, Brenda W. J. H. | Krueger, Robert F. | Evans, David M. | Kaprio, Jaakko | Pedersen, Nancy L. | Martin, Nicholas G. | Boomsma, Dorret I.
Behavior Genetics  2014;44(4):295-313.
Mega- or meta-analytic studies (e.g. genome-wide association studies) are increasingly used in behavior genetics. An issue in such studies is that phenotypes are often measured by different instruments across study cohorts, requiring harmonization of measures so that more powerful fixed effect meta-analyses can be employed. Within the Genetics of Personality Consortium, we demonstrate for two clinically relevant personality traits, Neuroticism and Extraversion, how Item-Response Theory (IRT) can be applied to map item data from different inventories to the same underlying constructs. Personality item data were analyzed in >160,000 individuals from 23 cohorts across Europe, USA and Australia in which Neuroticism and Extraversion were assessed by nine different personality inventories. Results showed that harmonization was very successful for most personality inventories and moderately successful for some. Neuroticism and Extraversion inventories were largely measurement invariant across cohorts, in particular when comparing cohorts from countries where the same language is spoken. The IRT-based scores for Neuroticism and Extraversion were heritable (48 and 49 %, respectively, based on a meta-analysis of six twin cohorts, total N = 29,496 and 29,501 twin pairs, respectively) with a significant part of the heritability due to non-additive genetic factors. For Extraversion, these genetic factors qualitatively differ across sexes. We showed that our IRT method can lead to a large increase in sample size and therefore statistical power. The IRT approach may be applied to any mega- or meta-analytic study in which item-based behavioral measures need to be harmonized.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10519-014-9654-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4057636  PMID: 24828478
Personality; Item-Response Theory; Measurement; Genome-wide association studies; Consortium; Meta-analysis
6.  Association of OPRD1 Polymorphisms with Heroin Dependence in a Large Case-control Series 
Addiction biology  2012;19(1):10.1111/j.1369-1600.2012.00445.x.
Genes encoding the opioid receptors (OPRM1, OPRD1, and OPRK1) are obvious candidates for involvement in risk for heroin dependence. Prior association studies commonly had samples of modest size, included limited single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) coverage of these genes, and yielded inconsistent results. Participants for the current investigation included 1459 heroin dependent cases ascertained from maintenance clinics in New South Wales, Australia, 1495 unrelated individuals selected from an Australian sample of twins and siblings as not meeting DSM-IV criteria for lifetime alcohol or illicit drug dependence (non-dependent controls), and 531 controls ascertained from economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods in proximity to the maintenance clinics. A total of 136 OPRM1, OPRD1, and OPRK1 SNPs were genotyped in this sample. After controlling for admixture with principal components analysis, our comparison of cases to non-dependent controls found 4 OPRD1 SNPs in fairly high linkage disequilibrium for which adjusted p values remained significant (e.g., rs2236857; OR 1.25; p=2.95 × 10−4) replicating a previously reported association. A post-hoc analysis revealed that the two-SNP (rs2236857 and rs581111) GA haplotype in OPRD1 is associated with greater risk (OR 1.68; p=1.41 × 10−5). No OPRM1 or OPRK1 SNPs reached more than nominal significance. Comparisons of cases to neighborhood controls reached only nominal significance. Our results replicate a prior report providing strong evidence implicating OPRD1 SNPs and, in particular, the two SNP (rs2236857 and rs581111) GA haplotype in liability for heroin dependence. Support was not found for similar association involving either OPRM1 or OPRK1 SNPs.
PMCID: PMC3867542  PMID: 22500942
association study; heroin dependence; OPRD1; OPRK1; OPRM1
7.  Functional Neuroimaging Study in Identical Twin Pairs Discordant for Regular Cigarette Smoking 
Addiction biology  2012;18(1):98-108.
Despite the tremendous public health and financial burden of cigarette smoking, relatively little is understood about brain mechanisms that subserve smoking behavior. This study investigated the effect of lifetime regular smoking on brain processing in a reward guessing task using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and a cotwin-control study design in monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs that maximally controls for genetic and family background factors. Young adult (24–34 years) MZ female twin pairs (n=15 pairs), discordant for regular smoking defined using Centers for Disease Control (CDC) criteria as having smoked ≥100 cigarettes lifetime were recruited from an ongoing genetic epidemiological longitudinal study of substance use and psychopathology. We applied hypothesis-driven region of interest and whole brain analyses to investigate the effect of regular smoking on reward processing. Reduced response to reward and punishment in regular compared to never-regular smokers was seen in hypothesis-driven region of interest analysis of bilateral ventral striatum. Whole brain analysis identified bilateral reward-processing regions that showed activation differences in response to winning or losing money but no effect of regular smoking; and frontal/parietal regions, predominantly in the right hemisphere, that showed robust effect of regular smoking but no effect of winning or losing money. Altogether, using a study design that maximally controls for group differences, we found that regular smoking had modest effects on striatal reward processing regions but robust effects on cognitive control/attentional systems.
PMCID: PMC3470739  PMID: 22340136
cigarette smoking; cotwin-control; fMRI
8.  Are There Differences Between Young African-American and European-American Women in the Relative Influences of Genetics vs. Environment on Age at First Drink and Problem Alcohol Use? 
Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research  2013;37(11):10.1111/acer.12185.
Differences in age at initiation of alcohol use and rates of problem drinking between African Americans (AA) and European Americans (EA) are well documented, but the association between early and problem use – and distinctions by ethnic group in this association - have yet to be examined in a genetically-informative framework.
Data were derived from a longitudinal study of female twins in Missouri. The sample was composed of 3,532 twins (13.6% AA, 86.4% EA) who participated in the fourth wave of data collection and reported consumption of at least one alcoholic drink over the lifetime. Mean age at Wave 4 was 21.7 (range=18–29) years. Twin modeling was conducted to estimate the relative contributions of additive genetic (A), shared environmental (C), and unique environmental (E) factors to variation in age at first drink and problem alcohol use and the cross-phenotype overlap in these influences.
Early initiation of alcohol use predicted problem use in EA but not AA women. Separate AA and EA twin models produced substantially different estimates (but not statistically different models) of the relative contributions of A and C to problem alcohol use but similar genetic correlations between the phenotypes. Whereas 33% of the variance in the EA model of problem use was attributed to C, no evidence for C was found in the AA model. Heritability estimates for problem alcohol use were 41% in the AA model, 21% in the EA model. Evidence for A and C were found in both AA and EA models of age at first drink, but the A estimate was higher in the EA than AA model (44% vs. 26%).
Findings are suggestive of distinctions between AA vs. EA women in the relative contribution of genetic and environmental influences on the development of problem drinking.
PMCID: PMC3775995  PMID: 23763496
alcohol; African Americans; women; twins
9.  An Australian Twin Study of Cannabis and Other Illicit Drug Use and Misuse, and Other Psychopathology 
Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug throughout the developed world and there is consistent evidence of heritable influences on multiple stages of cannabis involvement including initiation of use and abuse/dependence. In this paper, we describe the methodology and preliminary results of a large-scale interview study of 3,824 young adult twins (born 1972–1979) and their siblings. Cannabis use was common with 75.2% of males and 64.7% of females reporting some lifetime use of cannabis while 24.5% of males and 11.8% of females reported meeting criteria for DSM-IV cannabis abuse or dependence. Rates of other drug use disorders and common psychiatric conditions were highly correlated with extent of cannabis involvement and there was consistent evidence of heritable influences across a range of cannabis phenotypes including early (≤15 years) opportunity to use (h2 = 72%), early (≤16 years) onset use (h2 = 80%), using cannabis 11+ times lifetime (h2 = 76%), and DSM abuse/dependence (h2 = 72%). Early age of onset of cannabis use was strongly associated with increased rates of subsequent use of other illicit drugs and with illicit drug abuse/dependence; further analyses indicating that some component of this association may have been mediated by increasing exposure to and opportunity to use other illicit drugs.
PMCID: PMC3717485  PMID: 22874079
Cannabis; twin; Comorbidity; Illicit drugs
10.  Meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies for personality 
Molecular psychiatry  2010;17(3):337-349.
Personality can be thought of as a set of characteristics that influence people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviour across a variety of settings. Variation in personality is predictive of many outcomes in life, including mental health. Here we report on a meta-analysis of genome-wide association (GWA) data for personality in ten discovery samples (17 375 adults) and five in-silico replication samples (3 294 adults). All participants were of European ancestry. Personality scores for Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness were based on the NEO Five-Factor Inventory. Genotype data were available of ~2.4M Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs; directly typed and imputed using HAPMAP data). In the discovery samples, classical association analyses were performed under an additive model followed by meta-analysis using the weighted inverse variance method. Results showed genome-wide significance for Openness to Experience near the RASA1 gene on 5q14.3 (rs1477268 and rs2032794, P = 2.8 × 10−8 and 3.1 × 10−8) and for Conscientiousness in the brain-expressed KATNAL2 gene on 18q21.1 (rs2576037, P = 4.9 × 10−8). We further conducted a gene-based test that confirmed the association of KATNAL2 to Conscientiousness. In-silico replication did not, however, show significant associations of the top SNPs with Openness and Conscientiousness, although the direction of effect of the KATNAL2 SNP on Conscientiousness was consistent in all replication samples. Larger scale GWA studies and alternative approaches are required for confirmation of KATNAL2 as a novel gene affecting Conscientiousness.
PMCID: PMC3785122  PMID: 21173776
Personality; Five-Factor Model; Genome-wide association; Meta-analysis; Genetic variants
11.  Genetic Influences on Developmental Smoking Trajectories 
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2012;107(9):1696-1704.
To investigate the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors on smoking trajectory membership and to test whether individual smoking trajectories represent phenotypic thresholds of increasing genetic risk along a common genetic liability dimension.
Prospective study of a birth cohort of female like-sex twin pairs.
Participants completed diagnostic interview surveys 4 times from adolescence (average age 16) through young adulthood (average age 25).
Female twins who had smoked ≥100 cigarettes lifetime (n=1466 regular smokers).
Number of cigarettes smoked per day during the heaviest period of smoking (2 waves) or during the past 12 months (2 waves).
A 4-trajectory class solution provided the best fit to cigarette consumption data and was characterized by Low (n=564, 38.47%), Moderate (n=366, 24.97%), and High level smokers (n=197, 13.44%), and smokers who increased their smoking from adolescence to young adulthood (n=339, 23.12%). The best genetic model fit was a 3-category model that comprised the Low, a combined Increasing + Moderate, and High trajectories. This trajectory categorization was heritable (72.7%) with no evidence for significant contribution from shared environmental factors.
The way that smoking patterns develop in adolescence has a high level of heritability.
PMCID: PMC3412932  PMID: 22385035
smoking trajectories; twins; heritability
13.  Use of a predictive model derived from in vivo endophenotype measurements to demonstrate associations with a complex locus, CYP2A6 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(13):3050-3062.
This study demonstrates a novel approach to test associations between highly heterogeneous genetic loci and complex phenotypes. Previous investigations of the relationship between Cytochrome P450 2A6 (CYP2A6) genotype and smoking phenotypes made comparisons by dividing subjects into broad categories based on assumptions that simplify the range of function of different CYP2A6 alleles, their numerous possible diplotype combinations and non-additive allele effects. A predictive model that translates CYP2A6 diplotype into a single continuous variable was previously derived from an in vivo metabolism experiment in 189 European Americans. Here, we apply this model to assess associations between genotype, inferred nicotine metabolism and smoking behaviors in larger samples without direct nicotine metabolism measurements. CYP2A6 genotype is not associated with nicotine dependence, as defined by the Fagerström Test of Nicotine Dependence, demonstrating that cigarettes smoked per day (CPD) and nicotine dependence have distinct genetic correlates. The predicted metric is significantly associated with CPD among African Americans and European American dependent smokers. Individual slow metabolizing genotypes are associated with lower CPD, but the predicted metric is the best predictor of CPD. Furthermore, optimizing the predictive model by including additional CYP2A6 alleles improves the fit of the model in an independent data set and provides a novel method of predicting the functional impact of alleles without direct metabolism measurements. Lastly, comprehensive genotyping and in vivo metabolism data are used to demonstrate that genome-wide significant associations between CPD and single nucleotide polymorphisms are the result of synthetic associations.
PMCID: PMC3373237  PMID: 22451501
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
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).
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
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
PMCID: PMC3692470  PMID: 23824655
15.  The genetic etiology of cannabis use initiation: a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies and a SNP-based heritability estimation 
Addiction biology  2012;18(5):846-850.
While initiation of cannabis use is around 40% heritable, not much is known about the underlying genetic etiology. Here, we meta-analysed two genome-wide association studies of initiation of cannabis use with (>10,000 individuals). None of the genetic variants reached genome-wide significance. We also performed a gene-based association test, which also revealed no significant effects of individual genes. Finally, we estimated that only approximately 6.0% of the variation in cannabis initiation is due to common genetic variants. Future genetic studies using larger sample sizes and different methodologies (including sequencing) might provide more insight in the complex genetic etiology of cannabis use.
PMCID: PMC3548058  PMID: 22823124
genetics; cannabis; heritability; association
16.  The interpretability of family history reports of alcoholism in general community samples: Findings in a Midwestern US twin birth cohort 
Although there is a long tradition in alcoholism research of using family history ratings, the interpretability of family history reports of alcoholism from general community samples has yet to be established.
Telephone interview data obtained from a large cohort of female like-sex twins (N = 3787, median age 22) and their biological parents (N = 2928, assessed at twins’ median age 15) were analyzed to determine agreement between parent self-report, parent ratings of coparent, and twin narrow (alcohol problems) versus broad (problem or excessive drinking) ratings of each parent.
In European ancestry (EA) families, high tetrachoric correlations were observed between twin and cotwin ratings of parental alcohol problems, between twin and parent ratings of coparent alcohol problems using symptom-based and single-item assessments, as well as moderately high correlations between twin and both mother and father self-reports. In African American (AA) families, inter-rater agreement was substantially lower than for EA families, with no cases where father ratings of maternal alcohol problems agreed with either twin ratings or mother self-report; and both cotwin agreement and mother-twin agreement were reduced. Differences between EA and AA families were not explained by differences in years of cohabitation with father or mother’s education; however, underreporting of problems by AA parents may have contributed.
Results support the use of family history ratings of parental alcoholism in general community surveys for European ancestry families, but suggest that family history assessment in African American families requires improved methods.
PMCID: PMC3330191  PMID: 22235921
alcoholism; family history assessment; community samples
17.  Analysis of Detailed Phenotype Profiles Reveals CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 Gene Cluster Association With Several Nicotine Dependence Traits 
Nicotine & Tobacco Research  2012;14(6):720-733.
The role of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor gene cluster on chromosome 15q24-25 in the etiology of nicotine dependence (ND) is still being defined. In this study, we included all 15 tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 cluster and tested associations with 30 smoking-related phenotypes.
The study sample was ascertained from the Finnish Twin Cohort study. Twin pairs born 1938–1957 and concordant for a history of cigarette smoking were recruited along with their family members (mainly siblings), as part of the Nicotine Addiction Genetics consortium. The study sample consisted of 1,428 individuals (59% males) from 735 families, with mean age 55.6 years.
We detected multiple novel associations for ND. DSM-IV ND symptoms associated significantly with the proxy SNP Locus 1 (rs2036527, p = .000009) and Locus 2 (rs578776, p = .0001) and tolerance factor of the Nicotine Dependence Syndrome Scale (NDSS) showed suggestive association to rs11636753 (p = .0059), rs11634351 (p = .0069), and rs1948 (p = .0071) in CHRNB4. Furthermore, we report significant association with DSM-IV ND diagnosis (rs2036527, p = .0003) for the first time in a Caucasian population. Several SNPs indicated suggestive association for traits related to ages at smoking initiation. Also, rs11636753 in CHRNB4 showed suggestive association with regular drinking (p = .0029) and the comorbidity of depression and ND (p = .0034).
We demonstrate novel associations of DSM-IV ND symptoms and the NDSS tolerance subscale. Our results confirm and extend association findings for other ND measures. We show pleiotropic effects of this gene cluster on multiple measures of ND and also regular drinking and the comorbidity of ND and depression.
PMCID: PMC3356294  PMID: 22241830
18.  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.
PMCID: PMC3564953  PMID: 22982992
19.  Suicidal Behavior, Smoking, and Familial Vulnerability 
Nicotine & Tobacco Research  2011;14(4):415-424.
Smoking is a well-established correlate of suicidal behavior. It is not known if familial risk factors contribute to this association.
Data were obtained via semistructured interviews with 1,107 twin fathers, 1,919 offspring between ages 12–32 years, and 1,023 mothers. Familial vulnerability to nicotine dependence and suicidal behavior was modeled via father and maternal self-report of these behaviors. Multinomial logistic regression models were computed with and without familial risk factors to estimate the association between offspring ever smoking, regular smoking, nicotine dependence, and a 4-level offspring suicide variable: (a) none, (b) ideation, (c) ideation + plan, and (d) ideation + plan + attempt or ideation + attempt. All models were stratified by gender and adjusted for sociodemographics, familial risk factors including parental suicidal behavior, nicotine dependence, and conduct disorder, and offspring conduct disorder, depression, alcohol abuse/dependence, and illicit drug abuse/dependence.
After adjusting for covariates and familial risk factors, ever smoking was not significantly associated with suicidal behavior in males and females. In males, regular smoking was associated with ideation + plan (odds ratio [OR] = 5.47; 95% CI: 1.05–28.60), and in females, regular smoking was associated with ideation + plan + attempt or ideation + attempt. In both genders, nicotine-dependent smoking was associated with ideation + plan + attempt or ideation + attempt (males: OR = 6.59; 95% CI: 1.91–22.70, females: OR = 3.37; 95% CI: 1.25–9.04). Comparison of models with and without familial risk factors indicated that there is no mediation of smoking status and suicidal behavior by familial risk.
Smoking and nicotine dependence are correlated with suicidal behaviour. Contributions from familial risk factors did not significantly alter this association.
PMCID: PMC3313784  PMID: 22080587
20.  Conditional and joint multiple-SNP analysis of GWAS summary statistics identifies additional variants influencing complex traits 
Nature genetics  2012;44(4):369-S3.
We present an approximate conditional and joint association analysis that can use summary-level statistics from a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and estimated linkage disequilibrium (LD) from a reference sample with individual-level genotype data. Using this method, we analyzed meta-analysis summary data from the GIANT Consortium for height and body mass index (BMI), with the LD structure estimated from genotype data in two independent cohorts. We identified 36 loci with multiple associated variants for height (38 leading and 49 additional SNPs, 87 in total) via a genome-wide SNP selection procedure. The 49 new SNPs explain approximately 1.3% of variance, nearly doubling the heritability explained at the 36 loci. We did not find any locus showing multiple associated SNPs for BMI. The method we present is computationally fast and is also applicable to case-control data, which we demonstrate in an example from meta-analysis of type 2 diabetes by the DIAGRAM Consortium.
PMCID: PMC3593158  PMID: 22426310
21.  Do shared etiological factors contribute to the relationship between sexual orientation and depression? 
Psychological medicine  2011;42(3):521-532.
Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals (i.e. nonheterosexuals) have been found to be at much greater risk for many psychiatric symptoms and disorders, including depression. This may be due in part to prejudice and discrimination experienced by nonheterosexuals, but studies controlling for minority stress, or performed in very socially liberal countries, suggest that other mechanisms must also play a role. Here we test the viability of common cause (shared genetic or environmental etiology) explanations of elevated depression rates in nonheterosexuals.
A community-based sample of adult twins (N=9884 individuals) completed surveys investigating the genetics of psychiatric disorder, and were also asked about their sexual orientation. Large subsets of the sample were asked about adverse childhood experiences such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, and risky family environment, and also about number of older brothers, paternal and maternal age, and number of close friends. Data were analysed using the classical twin design.
Nonheterosexual males and females had higher rates of lifetime depression than their heterosexual counterparts. Genetic factors accounted for 31% and 44% of variation in sexual orientation and depression, respectively. Bivariate analysis revealed that genetic factors accounted for a majority (60%) of the correlation between sexual orientation and depression. In addition, childhood sexual abuse and risky family environment were significant predictors of both sexual orientation and depression, further contributing to their correlation.
Nonheterosexual men and women had elevated rates of lifetime depression, partly due to shared etiological factors, although causality cannot be definitively resolved.
PMCID: PMC3594769  PMID: 21867592
sexual orientation; childhood abuse; depression; twins; genetics
22.  Common Heritable Contributions to Low-Risk Trauma, High-Risk Trauma, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Major Depression 
Archives of general psychiatry  2012;69(3):293-299.
Understanding the relative contributions of genetic and environmental factors to trauma exposure, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and major depressive disorder (MDD) is critical to developing etiologic models of these conditions and their co-occurrence.
To quantify heritable influences on low-risk trauma, high-risk trauma, PTSD, and MDD and to estimate the degree of overlap between genetic and environmental sources of variance in these 4 phenotypes.
Adult twins and their siblings were ascertained from a large population-based sample of female and male twin pairs on the basis of screening items for childhood sexual abuse and physical abuse obtained in a previous assessment of this cohort.
Structured psychiatric telephone interviews.
Total sample size of 2591: 996 female and 536 male twins; 625 female and 434 male nontwin siblings.
Main Outcome Measure
Lifetime low- and high-risk trauma exposure, PTSD, and MDD.
In the best-fitting genetic model, 47% of the variance in low-risk trauma exposure and 60% of the variance in high-risk trauma exposure was attributable to additive genetic factors. Heritable influences accounted for 46% of the variance in PTSD and 27% of the variance in MDD. An extremely high degree of genetic overlap was observed between high-risk trauma exposure and both PTSD (r =0.89; 95% CI, 0.78-0.99) and MDD (r =0.89; 95% CI, 0.77-0.98). Complete correlation of genetic factors contributing to PTSD and to MDD (r=1.00) was observed.
The evidence suggests that almost all the heritable influences on high-risk trauma exposure, PTSD, and MDD, can be traced to the same sources; that is, genetic risk is not disorder specific. Individuals with a positive family history of either PTSD or MDD are at elevated risk for both disorders and should be closely monitored after a traumatic experience for symptoms of PTSD and MDD.
PMCID: PMC3594801  PMID: 22393221
24.  Correlates of alcohol abuse/dependence in early-onset alcohol-using women 
Early-onset alcohol use is associated with increased vulnerability to subsequent alcohol abuse and dependence. However, not all early-onset alcohol users develop alcohol use disorders (AUDs). Using a sample of young women from the U.S., we identify correlates that contribute to a greater likelihood of AUDs in early-onset alcohol users.
Using interview and questionnaire data on participants of the Missouri Adolescent Female Twin Study (MOAFTS), we examine whether measures from domains including socio-demographic, pubertal development, religiosity, educational achievement, adverse life events, internalizing disorders, externalizing disorders and family history and discipline were associated with development of AUDs in 1,158 women who had their first drink of alcohol prior to age 16.
Early-onset drinkers were 3.6 times more likely to meet criteria for AUDs than later onset drinkers. While univariate analyses revealed that a host of correlates were associated with likelihood of AUDs in early-onset drinkers, multivariate analyses suggested that, even after accounting for a particularly early age of onset of drinking, those with a history of physical abuse, co-twin alcohol problems, conduct disorder, regular smoking, older peers and peer substance use were considerably more likely to meet criteria for AUDs than early onset drinkers without a lifetime history of these correlates.
The progression from first drink to AUDs is complex, and while early age at first drink is a potent risk factor, other aspects of psychopathology, family history, conduct problems and peer affiliations can exacerbate or alleviate the risk of AUDs in these young female drinkers.
PMCID: PMC3571676  PMID: 21838841
alcohol; early-onset; alcohol abuse/dependence; female
25.  Chromosome 20 Shows Linkage With DSM-IV Nicotine Dependence in Finnish Adult Smokers 
Nicotine & Tobacco Research  2011;14(2):153-160.
Chromosome 20 has previously been associated with nicotine dependence (ND) and smoking cessation. Our aim was to replicate and extend these findings.
First, a total of 759 subjects belonging to 206 Finnish families were genotyped with 18 microsatellite markers residing on chromosome 20, in order to replicate previous linkage findings. Then, the replication data were combined to an existing whole-genome linkage data resulting in a total of 1,302 genotyped subjects from 357 families. ND diagnosed by DSM-IV criteria, the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence (FTND) score, and the lifetime maximum number of cigarettes smoked within a 24-hr period (MaxCigs24) were used as phenotypes in the nonparametric linkage analyses.
We replicated previously reported linkage to DSM-IV ND, with a maximum logarithm of odd (LOD) score of 3.8 on 20p11, with females contributing more (maximum LOD [MLOD] score 3.4 on 20q11) than males (MLOD score 2.6 on 20p11). With the combined sample, a suggestive LOD score of 2.3 was observed for DSM-IV ND on 20p11. Sex-specific analyses revealed that the signal was driven by females with a maximum LOD score of 3.3 (on 20q11) versus LOD score of 1.3 in males (on 20q13) in the combined sample. No significant linkage signals were obtained for FTND or MaxCigs24.
Our results provide further evidence that chromosome 20 harbors genetic variants influencing ND in adult smokers.
PMCID: PMC3265743  PMID: 22039074

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