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1.  Novel Loci for Metabolic Networks and Multi-Tissue Expression Studies Reveal Genes for Atherosclerosis 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(8):e1002907.
Association testing of multiple correlated phenotypes offers better power than univariate analysis of single traits. We analyzed 6,600 individuals from two population-based cohorts with both genome-wide SNP data and serum metabolomic profiles. From the observed correlation structure of 130 metabolites measured by nuclear magnetic resonance, we identified 11 metabolic networks and performed a multivariate genome-wide association analysis. We identified 34 genomic loci at genome-wide significance, of which 7 are novel. In comparison to univariate tests, multivariate association analysis identified nearly twice as many significant associations in total. Multi-tissue gene expression studies identified variants in our top loci, SERPINA1 and AQP9, as eQTLs and showed that SERPINA1 and AQP9 expression in human blood was associated with metabolites from their corresponding metabolic networks. Finally, liver expression of AQP9 was associated with atherosclerotic lesion area in mice, and in human arterial tissue both SERPINA1 and AQP9 were shown to be upregulated (6.3-fold and 4.6-fold, respectively) in atherosclerotic plaques. Our study illustrates the power of multi-phenotype GWAS and highlights candidate genes for atherosclerosis.
Author Summary
In this study, we aim to identify novel genetic variants for metabolism, characterize their effects on nearby genes, and show that the nearby genes are associated with metabolism and atherosclerosis. To discover new genetic variants, we use an alternative approach to traditional genome-wide association studies: we leverage the information in phenotype covariance to increase our statistical power. We identify variants at seven novel loci and then show that our top signals drive expression of nearby genes AQP9 and SERPINA1 in multiple tissues. We demonstrate that AQP9 and SERPINA1 gene expression, in turn, is associated with metabolite levels. Finally, we show that the genes are associated with atherosclerosis using mouse atherosclerotic lesion size (AQP9) as well as tissue from healthy human arteries and atherosclerotic plaques (AQP9 and SERPINA1). This study illustrates that multivariate analysis of correlated metabolites can boost power for gene discovery substantially. Further functional work will need to be performed to elucidate the biological role of SERPINA1 and AQP9 in atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3420921  PMID: 22916037
2.  Genetic Association and Interaction Analysis of USF1 and APOA5 on Lipid Levels and Atherosclerosis 
USF1 is a ubiquitous transcription factor governing the expression of numerous genes of lipid and glucose metabolism. APOA5 is a well-established candidate gene regulating triglyceride (TG) levels and has been identified as a downstream target of upstream stimulatory factor. No detailed studies about the effect of APOA5 on atherosclerotic lesion formation have been conducted, nor has its potential interaction with USF1 been examined.
Methods and Results
We analyzed allelic variants of USF1 and APOA5 in families (n=516) ascertained for atherogenic dyslipidemia and in an autopsy series of middle-aged men (n=300) with precise quantitative measurements of atherosclerotic lesions. The impact of previously associated APOA5 variants on TGs was observed in the dyslipidemic families, and variant rs3135506 was associated with size of fibrotic aortic lesions in the autopsy series. The USF1 variant rs2516839, associated previously with atherosclerotic lesions, showed an effect on TGs in members of the dyslipidemic families with documented coronary artery disease. We provide preliminary evidence of gene-gene interaction between these variants in an autopsy series with a fibrotic lesion area in the abdominal aorta (P=0.0028), with TGs in dyslipidemic coronary artery disease subjects (P=0.03), and with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (P=0.008) in a large population cohort of coronary artery disease patients (n=1065) in which the interaction for TGs was not replicated.
Our findings in these unique samples reinforce the roles of APOA5 and USF1 variants on cardiovascular phenotypes and suggest that both genes contribute to lipid levels and aortic atherosclerosis individually and possibly through epistatic effects.
PMCID: PMC3224996  PMID: 19910639
genes; USF1; APOA5; lipids; atherosclerosis; epistasis
3.  A Genome-Wide Screen for Interactions Reveals a New Locus on 4p15 Modifying the Effect of Waist-to-Hip Ratio on Total Cholesterol 
Surakka, Ida | Isaacs, Aaron | Karssen, Lennart C. | Laurila, Pirkka-Pekka P. | Middelberg, Rita P. S. | Tikkanen, Emmi | Ried, Janina S. | Lamina, Claudia | Mangino, Massimo | Igl, Wilmar | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Lagou, Vasiliki | van der Harst, Pim | Mateo Leach, Irene | Esko, Tõnu | Kutalik, Zoltán | Wainwright, Nicholas W. | Struchalin, Maksim V. | Sarin, Antti-Pekka | Kangas, Antti J. | Viikari, Jorma S. | Perola, Markus | Rantanen, Taina | Petersen, Ann-Kristin | Soininen, Pasi | Johansson, Åsa | Soranzo, Nicole | Heath, Andrew C. | Papamarkou, Theodore | Prokopenko, Inga | Tönjes, Anke | Kronenberg, Florian | Döring, Angela | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Montgomery, Grant W. | Whitfield, John B. | Kähönen, Mika | Lehtimäki, Terho | Freimer, Nelson B. | Willemsen, Gonneke | de Geus, Eco J. C. | Palotie, Aarno | Sandhu, Manj S. | Waterworth, Dawn M. | Metspalu, Andres | Stumvoll, Michael | Uitterlinden, André G. | Jula, Antti | Navis, Gerjan | Wijmenga, Cisca | Wolffenbuttel, Bruce H. R. | Taskinen, Marja-Riitta | Ala-Korpela, Mika | Kaprio, Jaakko | Kyvik, Kirsten O. | Boomsma, Dorret I. | Pedersen, Nancy L. | Gyllensten, Ulf | Wilson, James F. | Rudan, Igor | Campbell, Harry | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Spector, Tim D. | Witteman, Jacqueline C. M. | Eriksson, Johan G. | Salomaa, Veikko | Oostra, Ben A. | Raitakari, Olli T. | Wichmann, H.-Erich | Gieger, Christian | Järvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Martin, Nicholas G. | Hofman, Albert | McCarthy, Mark I. | Peltonen, Leena | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Aulchenko, Yurii S. | Ripatti, Samuli | Gibson, Greg
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(10):e1002333.
Recent genome-wide association (GWA) studies described 95 loci controlling serum lipid levels. These common variants explain ∼25% of the heritability of the phenotypes. To date, no unbiased screen for gene–environment interactions for circulating lipids has been reported. We screened for variants that modify the relationship between known epidemiological risk factors and circulating lipid levels in a meta-analysis of genome-wide association (GWA) data from 18 population-based cohorts with European ancestry (maximum N = 32,225). We collected 8 further cohorts (N = 17,102) for replication, and rs6448771 on 4p15 demonstrated genome-wide significant interaction with waist-to-hip-ratio (WHR) on total cholesterol (TC) with a combined P-value of 4.79×10−9. There were two potential candidate genes in the region, PCDH7 and CCKAR, with differential expression levels for rs6448771 genotypes in adipose tissue. The effect of WHR on TC was strongest for individuals carrying two copies of G allele, for whom a one standard deviation (sd) difference in WHR corresponds to 0.19 sd difference in TC concentration, while for A allele homozygous the difference was 0.12 sd. Our findings may open up possibilities for targeted intervention strategies for people characterized by specific genomic profiles. However, more refined measures of both body-fat distribution and metabolic measures are needed to understand how their joint dynamics are modified by the newly found locus.
Author Summary
Circulating serum lipids contribute greatly to the global health by affecting the risk for cardiovascular diseases. Serum lipid levels are partly inherited, and already 95 loci affecting high- and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides have been found. Serum lipids are also known to be affected by multiple epidemiological risk factors like body composition, lifestyle, and sex. It has been hypothesized that there are loci modifying the effects between risk factors and serum lipids, but to date only candidate gene studies for interactions have been reported. We conducted a genome-wide screen with meta-analysis approach to identify loci having interactions with epidemiological risk factors on serum lipids with over 30,000 population-based samples. When combining results from our initial datasets and 8 additional replication cohorts (maximum N = 17,102), we found a genome-wide significant locus in chromosome 4p15 with a joint P-value of 4.79×10−9 modifying the effect of waist-to-hip ratio on total cholesterol. In the area surrounding this genetic variant, there were two genes having association between the genotypes and the gene expression in adipose tissue, and we also found enrichment of association in genes belonging to lipid metabolism related functions.
PMCID: PMC3197672  PMID: 22028671

Results 1-3 (3)