To identify genetic loci influencing central obesity and fat distribution, we performed a meta-analysis of 16 genome-wide association studies (GWAS, N = 38,580) informative for adult waist circumference (WC) and waist–hip ratio (WHR). We selected 26 SNPs for follow-up, for which the evidence of association with measures of central adiposity (WC and/or WHR) was strong and disproportionate to that for overall adiposity or height. Follow-up studies in a maximum of 70,689 individuals identified two loci strongly associated with measures of central adiposity; these map near TFAP2B (WC, P = 1.9×10−11) and MSRA (WC, P = 8.9×10−9). A third locus, near LYPLAL1, was associated with WHR in women only (P = 2.6×10−8). The variants near TFAP2B appear to influence central adiposity through an effect on overall obesity/fat-mass, whereas LYPLAL1 displays a strong female-only association with fat distribution. By focusing on anthropometric measures of central obesity and fat distribution, we have identified three loci implicated in the regulation of human adiposity.
Here, we describe a meta-analysis of genome-wide association data from 38,580 individuals, followed by large-scale replication (in up to 70,689 individuals) designed to uncover variants influencing anthropometric measures of central obesity and fat distribution, namely waist circumference (WC) and waist–hip ratio (WHR). This work complements parallel efforts that have been successful in defining variants impacting overall adiposity and focuses on the visceral fat accumulation which has particularly strong relationships to metabolic and cardiovascular disease. Our analyses have identified two loci (TFAP2B and MSRA) associated with WC, and a further locus, near LYPLAL1, which shows gender-specific relationships with WHR (all to levels of genome-wide significance). These loci vary in the strength of their associations with overall adiposity, and LYPLAL1 in particular appears to have a specific effect on patterns of fat distribution. All in all, these three loci provide novel insights into human physiology and the development of obesity.