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1.  Genome-Wide Association of Body Fat Distribution in African Ancestry Populations Suggests New Loci 
Liu, Ching-Ti | Monda, Keri L. | Taylor, Kira C. | Lange, Leslie | Demerath, Ellen W. | Palmas, Walter | Wojczynski, Mary K. | Ellis, Jaclyn C. | Vitolins, Mara Z. | Liu, Simin | Papanicolaou, George J. | Irvin, Marguerite R. | Xue, Luting | Griffin, Paula J. | Nalls, Michael A. | Adeyemo, Adebowale | Liu, Jiankang | Li, Guo | Ruiz-Narvaez, Edward A. | Chen, Wei-Min | Chen, Fang | Henderson, Brian E. | Millikan, Robert C. | Ambrosone, Christine B. | Strom, Sara S. | Guo, Xiuqing | Andrews, Jeanette S. | Sun, Yan V. | Mosley, Thomas H. | Yanek, Lisa R. | Shriner, Daniel | Haritunians, Talin | Rotter, Jerome I. | Speliotes, Elizabeth K. | Smith, Megan | Rosenberg, Lynn | Mychaleckyj, Josyf | Nayak, Uma | Spruill, Ida | Garvey, W. Timothy | Pettaway, Curtis | Nyante, Sarah | Bandera, Elisa V. | Britton, Angela F. | Zonderman, Alan B. | Rasmussen-Torvik, Laura J. | Chen, Yii-Der Ida | Ding, Jingzhong | Lohman, Kurt | Kritchevsky, Stephen B. | Zhao, Wei | Peyser, Patricia A. | Kardia, Sharon L. R. | Kabagambe, Edmond | Broeckel, Ulrich | Chen, Guanjie | Zhou, Jie | Wassertheil-Smoller, Sylvia | Neuhouser, Marian L. | Rampersaud, Evadnie | Psaty, Bruce | Kooperberg, Charles | Manson, JoAnn E. | Kuller, Lewis H. | Ochs-Balcom, Heather M. | Johnson, Karen C. | Sucheston, Lara | Ordovas, Jose M. | Palmer, Julie R. | Haiman, Christopher A. | McKnight, Barbara | Howard, Barbara V. | Becker, Diane M. | Bielak, Lawrence F. | Liu, Yongmei | Allison, Matthew A. | Grant, Struan F. A. | Burke, Gregory L. | Patel, Sanjay R. | Schreiner, Pamela J. | Borecki, Ingrid B. | Evans, Michele K. | Taylor, Herman | Sale, Michele M. | Howard, Virginia | Carlson, Christopher S. | Rotimi, Charles N. | Cushman, Mary | Harris, Tamara B. | Reiner, Alexander P. | Cupples, L. Adrienne | North, Kari E. | Fox, Caroline S.
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003681.
Central obesity, measured by waist circumference (WC) or waist-hip ratio (WHR), is a marker of body fat distribution. Although obesity disproportionately affects minority populations, few studies have conducted genome-wide association study (GWAS) of fat distribution among those of predominantly African ancestry (AA). We performed GWAS of WC and WHR, adjusted and unadjusted for BMI, in up to 33,591 and 27,350 AA individuals, respectively. We identified loci associated with fat distribution in AA individuals using meta-analyses of GWA results for WC and WHR (stage 1). Overall, 25 SNPs with single genomic control (GC)-corrected p-values<5.0×10−6 were followed-up (stage 2) in AA with WC and with WHR. Additionally, we interrogated genomic regions of previously identified European ancestry (EA) WHR loci among AA. In joint analysis of association results including both Stage 1 and 2 cohorts, 2 SNPs demonstrated association, rs2075064 at LHX2, p = 2.24×10−8 for WC-adjusted-for-BMI, and rs6931262 at RREB1, p = 2.48×10−8 for WHR-adjusted-for-BMI. However, neither signal was genome-wide significant after double GC-correction (LHX2: p = 6.5×10−8; RREB1: p = 5.7×10−8). Six of fourteen previously reported loci for waist in EA populations were significant (p<0.05 divided by the number of independent SNPs within the region) in AA studied here (TBX15-WARS2, GRB14, ADAMTS9, LY86, RSPO3, ITPR2-SSPN). Further, we observed associations with metabolic traits: rs13389219 at GRB14 associated with HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, and fasting insulin, and rs13060013 at ADAMTS9 with HDL-cholesterol and fasting insulin. Finally, we observed nominal evidence for sexual dimorphism, with stronger results in AA women at the GRB14 locus (p for interaction = 0.02). In conclusion, we identified two suggestive loci associated with fat distribution in AA populations in addition to confirming 6 loci previously identified in populations of EA. These findings reinforce the concept that there are fat distribution loci that are independent of generalized adiposity.
Author Summary
Central obesity is a marker of body fat distribution and is known to have a genetic underpinning. Few studies have reported genome-wide association study (GWAS) results among individuals of predominantly African ancestry (AA). We performed a collaborative meta-analysis in order to identify genetic loci associated with body fat distribution in AA individuals using waist circumference (WC) and waist to hip ratio (WHR) as measures of fat distribution, with and without adjustment for body mass index (BMI). We uncovered 2 genetic loci potentially associated with fat distribution: LHX2 in association with WC-adjusted-for-BMI and at RREB1 for WHR-adjusted-for-BMI. Six of fourteen previously reported loci for waist in EA populations were significant in AA studied here (TBX15-WARS2, GRB14, ADAMTS9, LY86, RSPO3, ITPR2-SSPN). These findings reinforce the concept that there are loci for body fat distribution that are independent of generalized adiposity.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003681
PMCID: PMC3744443  PMID: 23966867
2.  A Genome-Wide Meta-Analysis of Six Type 1 Diabetes Cohorts Identifies Multiple Associated Loci 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(9):e1002293.
Diabetes impacts approximately 200 million people worldwide, of whom approximately 10% are affected by type 1 diabetes (T1D). The application of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) has robustly revealed dozens of genetic contributors to the pathogenesis of T1D, with the most recent meta-analysis identifying in excess of 40 loci. To identify additional genetic loci for T1D susceptibility, we examined associations in the largest meta-analysis to date between the disease and ∼2.54 million SNPs in a combined cohort of 9,934 cases and 16,956 controls. Targeted follow-up of 53 SNPs in 1,120 affected trios uncovered three new loci associated with T1D that reached genome-wide significance. The most significantly associated SNP (rs539514, P = 5.66×10−11) resides in an intronic region of the LMO7 (LIM domain only 7) gene on 13q22. The second most significantly associated SNP (rs478222, P = 3.50×10−9) resides in an intronic region of the EFR3B (protein EFR3 homolog B) gene on 2p23; however, the region of linkage disequilibrium is approximately 800 kb and harbors additional multiple genes, including NCOA1, C2orf79, CENPO, ADCY3, DNAJC27, POMC, and DNMT3A. The third most significantly associated SNP (rs924043, P = 8.06×10−9) lies in an intergenic region on 6q27, where the region of association is approximately 900 kb and harbors multiple genes including WDR27, C6orf120, PHF10, TCTE3, C6orf208, LOC154449, DLL1, FAM120B, PSMB1, TBP, and PCD2. These latest associated regions add to the growing repertoire of gene networks predisposing to T1D.
Author Summary
Despite the fact that there is clearly a large genetic component to type 1 diabetes (T1D), uncovering the genes contributing to this disease has proven challenging. However, in the past three years there has been relatively major progress in this regard, with advances in genetic screening technologies allowing investigators to scan the genome for variants conferring risk for disease without prior hypotheses. Such genome-wide association studies have revealed multiple regions of the genome to be robustly and consistently associated with T1D. More recent findings have been a consequence of combining of multiple datasets from independent investigators in meta-analyses, which have more power to pick up additional variants contributing to the trait. In the current study, we describe the largest meta-analysis of T1D genome-wide genotyped datasets to date, which combines six large studies. As a consequence, we have uncovered three new signals residing at the chromosomal locations 13q22, 2p23, and 6q27, which went on to be replicated in independent sample sets. These latest associated regions add to the growing repertoire of gene networks predisposing to T1D.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002293
PMCID: PMC3183083  PMID: 21980299
3.  Genome-Wide Association Study of White Blood Cell Count in 16,388 African Americans: the Continental Origins and Genetic Epidemiology Network (COGENT) 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002108.
Total white blood cell (WBC) and neutrophil counts are lower among individuals of African descent due to the common African-derived “null” variant of the Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines (DARC) gene. Additional common genetic polymorphisms were recently associated with total WBC and WBC sub-type levels in European and Japanese populations. No additional loci that account for WBC variability have been identified in African Americans. In order to address this, we performed a large genome-wide association study (GWAS) of total WBC and cell subtype counts in 16,388 African-American participants from 7 population-based cohorts available in the Continental Origins and Genetic Epidemiology Network. In addition to the DARC locus on chromosome 1q23, we identified two other regions (chromosomes 4q13 and 16q22) associated with WBC in African Americans (P<2.5×10−8). The lead SNP (rs9131) on chromosome 4q13 is located in the CXCL2 gene, which encodes a chemotactic cytokine for polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Independent evidence of the novel CXCL2 association with WBC was present in 3,551 Hispanic Americans, 14,767 Japanese, and 19,509 European Americans. The index SNP (rs12149261) on chromosome 16q22 associated with WBC count is located in a large inter-chromosomal segmental duplication encompassing part of the hydrocephalus inducing homolog (HYDIN) gene. We demonstrate that the chromosome 16q22 association finding is most likely due to a genotyping artifact as a consequence of sequence similarity between duplicated regions on chromosomes 16q22 and 1q21. Among the WBC loci recently identified in European or Japanese populations, replication was observed in our African-American meta-analysis for rs445 of CDK6 on chromosome 7q21 and rs4065321 of PSMD3-CSF3 region on chromosome 17q21. In summary, the CXCL2, CDK6, and PSMD3-CSF3 regions are associated with WBC count in African American and other populations. We also demonstrate that large inter-chromosomal duplications can result in false positive associations in GWAS.
Author Summary
Although recent genome-wide association studies have identified common genetic variants associated with total white blood cell (WBC) and WBC sub-type counts in European and Japanese ancestry populations, whether these or other loci account for differences in WBC count among African Americans is unknown. By examining >16,000 African Americans, we show that, in addition to the previously identified Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines (DARC) locus on chromosome 1, another variant, rs9131, and other nearby variants on human chromosome 4 are associated with total WBC count in African Americans. The variants span the CXCL2 gene, which encodes an inflammatory mediator involved in WBC production and migration. We show that the association is not restricted to African Americans but is also present in independent samples of European Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Japanese. This finding is potentially important because WBC mediate or have altered counts in a variety of acute and chronic disorders.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002108
PMCID: PMC3128101  PMID: 21738479
4.  From Disease Association to Risk Assessment: An Optimistic View from Genome-Wide Association Studies on Type 1 Diabetes 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(10):e1000678.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been fruitful in identifying disease susceptibility loci for common and complex diseases. A remaining question is whether we can quantify individual disease risk based on genotype data, in order to facilitate personalized prevention and treatment for complex diseases. Previous studies have typically failed to achieve satisfactory performance, primarily due to the use of only a limited number of confirmed susceptibility loci. Here we propose that sophisticated machine-learning approaches with a large ensemble of markers may improve the performance of disease risk assessment. We applied a Support Vector Machine (SVM) algorithm on a GWAS dataset generated on the Affymetrix genotyping platform for type 1 diabetes (T1D) and optimized a risk assessment model with hundreds of markers. We subsequently tested this model on an independent Illumina-genotyped dataset with imputed genotypes (1,008 cases and 1,000 controls), as well as a separate Affymetrix-genotyped dataset (1,529 cases and 1,458 controls), resulting in area under ROC curve (AUC) of ∼0.84 in both datasets. In contrast, poor performance was achieved when limited to dozens of known susceptibility loci in the SVM model or logistic regression model. Our study suggests that improved disease risk assessment can be achieved by using algorithms that take into account interactions between a large ensemble of markers. We are optimistic that genotype-based disease risk assessment may be feasible for diseases where a notable proportion of the risk has already been captured by SNP arrays.
Author Summary
An often touted utility of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) is that the resulting discoveries can facilitate implementation of personalized medicine, in which preventive and therapeutic interventions for complex diseases can be tailored to individual genetic profiles. However, recent studies using whole-genome SNP genotype data for disease risk assessment have generally failed to achieve satisfactory results, leading to a pessimistic view of the utility of genotype data for such purposes. Here we propose that sophisticated machine-learning approaches on a large ensemble of markers, which contain both confirmed and as yet unconfirmed disease susceptibility variants, may improve the performance of disease risk assessment. We tested an algorithm called Support Vector Machine (SVM) on three large-scale datasets for type 1 diabetes and demonstrated that risk assessment can be highly accurate for the disease. Our results suggest that individualized disease risk assessment using whole-genome data may be more successful for some diseases (such as T1D) than other diseases. However, the predictive accuracy will be dependent on the heritability of the disease under study, the proportion of the genetic risk that is known, and that the right set of markers and right algorithms are being used.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000678
PMCID: PMC2748686  PMID: 19816555
5.  Genome-Wide Analyses of Exonic Copy Number Variants in a Family-Based Study Point to Novel Autism Susceptibility Genes 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(6):e1000536.
The genetics underlying the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is complex and remains poorly understood. Previous work has demonstrated an important role for structural variation in a subset of cases, but has lacked the resolution necessary to move beyond detection of large regions of potential interest to identification of individual genes. To pinpoint genes likely to contribute to ASD etiology, we performed high density genotyping in 912 multiplex families from the Autism Genetics Resource Exchange (AGRE) collection and contrasted results to those obtained for 1,488 healthy controls. Through prioritization of exonic deletions (eDels), exonic duplications (eDups), and whole gene duplication events (gDups), we identified more than 150 loci harboring rare variants in multiple unrelated probands, but no controls. Importantly, 27 of these were confirmed on examination of an independent replication cohort comprised of 859 cases and an additional 1,051 controls. Rare variants at known loci, including exonic deletions at NRXN1 and whole gene duplications encompassing UBE3A and several other genes in the 15q11–q13 region, were observed in the course of these analyses. Strong support was likewise observed for previously unreported genes such as BZRAP1, an adaptor molecule known to regulate synaptic transmission, with eDels or eDups observed in twelve unrelated cases but no controls (p = 2.3×10−5). Less is known about MDGA2, likewise observed to be case-specific (p = 1.3×10−4). But, it is notable that the encoded protein shows an unexpectedly high similarity to Contactin 4 (BLAST E-value = 3×10−39), which has also been linked to disease. That hundreds of distinct rare variants were each seen only once further highlights complexity in the ASDs and points to the continued need for larger cohorts.
Author Summary
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are common neurodevelopmental syndromes with a strong genetic component. ASDs are characterized by disturbances in social behavior, impaired verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as repetitive behaviors and/or a restricted range of interests. To identify genes likely to contribute to ASD etiology, we performed high density genotyping in 912 multiplex families from the Autism Genetics Resource Exchange (AGRE) collection and contrasted results to those obtained for 1,488 healthy controls. To enrich for variants most likely to interfere with gene function, we restricted our analyses to deletions and gains encompassing exons. Of the many genomic regions highlighted, 27 were seen to harbor rare variants in cases and not controls, both in the first phase of our analysis, and also in an independent replication cohort comprised of 859 cases and 1,051 controls. More work in a larger number of individuals will be required to determine which of the rare alleles highlighted here are indeed related to the ASDs and how they act to shape risk.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000536
PMCID: PMC2695001  PMID: 19557195

Results 1-5 (5)