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1.  Genetics of Childhood Obesity 
Journal of Obesity  2011;2011:845148.
Obesity is a major health problem and an immense economic burden on the health care systems both in the United States and the rest of the world. The prevalence of obesity in children and adults in the United States has increased dramatically over the past decade. Besides environmental factors, genetic factors are known to play an important role in the pathogenesis of obesity. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have revealed strongly associated genomic variants associated with most common disorders; indeed there is general consensus on these findings from generally positive replication outcomes by independent groups. To date, there have been only a few GWAS-related reports for childhood obesity specifically, with studies primarily uncovering loci in the adult setting instead. It is clear that a number of loci previously reported from GWAS analyses of adult BMI and/or obesity also play a role in childhood obesity.
doi:10.1155/2011/845148
PMCID: PMC3136227  PMID: 21773009
2.  Genome-wide association studies of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis suggest candidate susceptibility genes 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(7):1456-1466.
Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is an unexplained and common spinal deformity seen in otherwise healthy children. Its pathophysiology is poorly understood despite intensive investigation. Although genetic underpinnings are clear, replicated susceptibility loci that could provide insight into etiology have not been forthcoming. To address these issues, we performed genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of ∼327 000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 419 AIS families. We found strongest evidence of association with chromosome 3p26.3 SNPs in the proximity of the CHL1 gene (P < 8 × 10−8 for rs1400180). We genotyped additional chromosome 3p26.3 SNPs and tested replication in two follow-up case–control cohorts, obtaining strongest results when all three cohorts were combined (rs10510181 odds ratio = 1.49, 95% confidence interval = 1.29–1.73, P = 2.58 × 10−8), but these were not confirmed in a separate GWAS. CHL1 is of interest, as it encodes an axon guidance protein related to Robo3. Mutations in the Robo3 protein cause horizontal gaze palsy with progressive scoliosis (HGPPS), a rare disease marked by severe scoliosis. Other top associations in our GWAS were with SNPs in the DSCAM gene encoding an axon guidance protein in the same structural class with Chl1 and Robo3. We additionally found AIS associations with loci in CNTNAP2, supporting a previous study linking this gene with AIS. Cntnap2 is also of functional interest, as it interacts directly with L1 and Robo class proteins and participates in axon pathfinding. Our results suggest the relevance of axon guidance pathways in AIS susceptibility, although these findings require further study, particularly given the apparent genetic heterogeneity in this disease.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddq571
PMCID: PMC3049353  PMID: 21216876
3.  Pathway-Wide Association Study Implicates Multiple Sterol Transport and Metabolism Genes in HDL Cholesterol Regulation 
Pathway-based association methods have been proposed to be an effective approach in identifying disease genes, when single-marker association tests do not have sufficient power. The analysis of quantitative traits may be benefited from these approaches, by sampling from two extreme tails of the distribution. Here we tested a pathway association approach on a small genome-wide association study (GWAS) on 653 subjects with extremely high high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels and 784 subjects with low HDL-C levels. We identified 102 genes in the sterol transport and metabolism pathways that collectively associate with HDL-C levels, and replicated these association signals in an independent GWAS. Interestingly, the pathways include 18 genes implicated in previous GWAS on lipid traits, suggesting that genuine HDL-C genes are highly enriched in these pathways. Additionally, multiple biologically relevant loci in the pathways were not detected by previous GWAS, including genes implicated in previous candidate gene association studies (such as LEPR, APOA2, HDLBP, SOAT2), genes that cause Mendelian forms of lipid disorders (such as DHCR24), and genes expressing dyslipidemia phenotypes in knockout mice (such as SOAT1, PON1). Our study suggests that sampling from two extreme tails of a quantitative trait and examining genetic pathways may yield biological insights from smaller samples than are generally required using single-marker analysis in large-scale GWAS. Our results also implicate that functionally related genes work together to regulate complex quantitative traits, and that future large-scale studies may benefit from pathway-association approaches to identify novel pathways regulating HDL-C levels.
doi:10.3389/fgene.2011.00041
PMCID: PMC3268595  PMID: 22303337
GWAS; lipid; HDL-C; pathway analysis; cholesterol; sterol transport; sterol metabolism; genetic association
4.  A Genome-Wide Association Study on Obesity and Obesity-Related Traits 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e18939.
Large-scale genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified many loci associated with body mass index (BMI), but few studies focused on obesity as a binary trait. Here we report the results of a GWAS and candidate SNP genotyping study of obesity, including extremely obese cases and never overweight controls as well as families segregating extreme obesity and thinness. We first performed a GWAS on 520 cases (BMI>35 kg/m2) and 540 control subjects (BMI<25 kg/m2), on measures of obesity and obesity-related traits. We subsequently followed up obesity-associated signals by genotyping the top ∼500 SNPs from GWAS in the combined sample of cases, controls and family members totaling 2,256 individuals. For the binary trait of obesity, we found 16 genome-wide significant signals within the FTO gene (strongest signal at rs17817449, P = 2.5×10−12). We next examined obesity-related quantitative traits (such as total body weight, waist circumference and waist to hip ratio), and detected genome-wide significant signals between waist to hip ratio and NRXN3 (rs11624704, P = 2.67×10−9), previously associated with body weight and fat distribution. Our study demonstrated how a relatively small sample ascertained through extreme phenotypes can detect genuine associations in a GWAS.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018939
PMCID: PMC3084240  PMID: 21552555
5.  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
6.  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

Results 1-6 (6)