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1.  Insights Into the Molecular Mechanism for Type 2 Diabetes Susceptibility at the KCNQ1 Locus From Temporal Changes in Imprinting Status in Human Islets 
Diabetes  2013;62(3):987-992.
The molecular basis of type 2 diabetes predisposition at most established susceptibility loci remains poorly understood. KCNQ1 maps within the 11p15.5 imprinted domain, a region with an established role in congenital growth phenotypes. Variants intronic to KCNQ1 influence diabetes susceptibility when maternally inherited. By use of quantitative PCR and pyrosequencing of human adult islet and fetal pancreas samples, we investigated the imprinting status of regional transcripts and aimed to determine whether type 2 diabetes risk alleles influence regional DNA methylation and gene expression. The results demonstrate that gene expression patterns differ by developmental stage. CDKN1C showed monoallelic expression in both adult and fetal tissue, whereas PHLDA2, SLC22A18, and SLC22A18AS were biallelically expressed in both tissues. Temporal changes in imprinting were observed for KCNQ1 and KCNQ1OT1, with monoallelic expression in fetal tissues and biallelic expression in adult samples. Genotype at the type 2 diabetes risk variant rs2237895 influenced methylation levels of regulatory sequence in fetal pancreas but without demonstrable effects on gene expression. We demonstrate that CDKN1C, KCNQ1, and KCNQ1OT1 are most likely to mediate diabetes susceptibility at the KCNQ1 locus and identify temporal differences in imprinting status and methylation effects, suggesting that diabetes risk effects may be mediated in early development.
PMCID: PMC3581222  PMID: 23139357
2.  Data sharing in large research consortia: experiences and recommendations from ENGAGE 
Data sharing is essential for the conduct of cutting-edge research and is increasingly required by funders concerned with maximising the scientific yield from research data collections. International research consortia are encouraged to share data intra-consortia, inter-consortia and with the wider scientific community. Little is reported regarding the factors that hinder or facilitate data sharing in these different situations. This paper provides results from a survey conducted in the European Network for Genetic and Genomic Epidemiology (ENGAGE) that collected information from its participating institutions about their data-sharing experiences. The questionnaire queried about potential hurdles to data sharing, concerns about data sharing, lessons learned and recommendations for future collaborations. Overall, the survey results reveal that data sharing functioned well in ENGAGE and highlight areas that posed the most frequent hurdles for data sharing. Further challenges arise for international data sharing beyond the consortium. These challenges are described and steps to help address these are outlined.
PMCID: PMC3925260  PMID: 23778872
biobanks; data sharing; consortia; genetic research
3.  Glycosylation of Immunoglobulin G: Role of Genetic and Epigenetic Influences 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82558.
To determine the extent to which genetic and epigenetic factors contribute to variations in glycosylation of immunoglobulin G (IgG) in humans.
76  N-glycan traits in circulating IgG were analyzed by UPLC in 220 monozygotic and 310 dizygotic twin pairs from TwinsUK. A classical twin study design was used to derive the additive genetic, common and unique environmental components defining the variance in these traits. Epigenome-wide association analysis was performed using the Illumina 27k chip.
51 of the 76 glycan traits studied have an additive genetic component (heritability, h2)≥  0.5. In contrast, 12 glycan traits had a low genetic contribution (h2<0.35). We then tested for association between methylation levels and glycan levels (P<2 x10-6). Among glycan traits with low heritability probe cg08392591 maps to a CpG island 5’ from the ANKRD11 gene, a p53 activator on chromosome 16. Probe cg26991199 maps to the SRSF10 gene involved in regulation of RNA splicing and particularly in regulation of splicing of mRNA precursors upon heat shock. Among those with high heritability we found cg13782134 (mapping to the NRN1L gene) and cg16029957 mapping near the QPCT gene to be array-wide significant. The proportion of array-wide epigenetic associations was significantly larger (P<0.005) among glycans with low heritability (42%) than in those with high heritability (6.2%).
Glycome analyses might provide a useful integration of genetic and non-genetic factors to further our understanding of the role of glycosylation in both normal physiology and disease.
PMCID: PMC3855797  PMID: 24324808
4.  Assessing association between protein truncating variants and quantitative traits 
Bioinformatics  2013;29(19):2419-2426.
Motivation: In sequencing studies of common diseases and quantitative traits, power to test rare and low frequency variants individually is weak. To improve power, a common approach is to combine statistical evidence from several genetic variants in a region. Major challenges are how to do the combining and which statistical framework to use.
General approaches for testing association between rare variants and quantitative traits include aggregating genotypes and trait values, referred to as ‘collapsing’, or using a score-based variance component test. However, little attention has been paid to alternative models tailored for protein truncating variants. Recent studies have highlighted the important role that protein truncating variants, commonly referred to as ‘loss of function’ variants, may have on disease susceptibility and quantitative levels of biomarkers. We propose a Bayesian modelling framework for the analysis of protein truncating variants and quantitative traits.
Results: Our simulation results show that our models have an advantage over the commonly used methods. We apply our models to sequence and exome-array data and discover strong evidence of association between low plasma triglyceride levels and protein truncating variants at APOC3 (Apolipoprotein C3).
Availability: Software is available from
PMCID: PMC3777107  PMID: 23860716
5.  Systematic Assessment of Etiology in Adults With a Clinical Diagnosis of Young-Onset Type 2 Diabetes Is a Successful Strategy for Identifying Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young 
Diabetes Care  2012;35(6):1206-1212.
Misdiagnosis of maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) remains widespread, despite the benefits of optimized management. This cross-sectional study examined diagnostic misclassification of MODY in subjects with clinically labeled young adult-onset type 1 and type 2 diabetes by extending genetic testing beyond current guidelines.
Individuals were selected for diagnostic sequencing if they displayed features atypical for their diagnostic label. From 247 case subjects with clinically labeled type 1 diabetes, we sequenced hepatocyte nuclear factor 1 α (HNF1A) and hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 α (HNF4A) in 20 with residual β-cell function ≥3 years from diagnosis (random or glucagon-stimulated C-peptide ≥0.2 nmol/L). From 322 with clinically labeled type 2 diabetes, we sequenced HNF1A and HNF4A in 80 with diabetes diagnosed ≤30 years and/or diabetes diagnosed ≤45 years without metabolic syndrome. We also sequenced the glucokinase (GCK) in 40 subjects with mild fasting hyperglycemia.
In the type 1 diabetic group, two HNF1A mutations were found (0.8% prevalence). In type 2 diabetic subjects, 10 HNF1A, two HNF4A, and one GCK mutation were identified (4.0%). Only 47% of MODY case subjects identified met current guidelines for diagnostic sequencing. Follow-up revealed a further 12 mutation carriers among relatives. Twenty-seven percent of newly identified MODY subjects changed treatment, all with improved glycemic control (HbA1c 8.8 vs. 7.3% at 3 months; P = 0.02).
The systematic use of widened diagnostic testing criteria doubled the numbers of MODY case subjects identified compared with current clinical practice. The yield was greatest in young adult-onset type 2 diabetes. We recommend that all patients diagnosed before age 30 and with presence of C-peptide at 3 years' duration are considered for molecular diagnostic analysis.
PMCID: PMC3357216  PMID: 22432108
6.  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
7.  Ethnic variation in the activity of lipid desaturases and their relationships with cardiovascular risk factors in control women and an at-risk group with previous gestational diabetes mellitus: a cross-sectional study 
Lipid desaturase enzymes mediate the metabolism of fatty acids to long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and their activities are related to metabolic risk factors for Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and coronary heart disease (CHD). There are marked ethnic differences in risks of CHD and T2DM but little is known about ethnic differences in desaturase activities.
Samples from a study of CVD risk in women with previous gestational diabetes were analysed for percentage fatty acids in plasma free fatty acid, triglyceride, cholesterol ester and phospholipid pools for 89 white European, 53 African Caribbean and 56 Asian Indian women. The fatty acid desaturase activities, stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD, calculated separately for C16 and C18 fatty acids), delta 6 desaturase (D6D) and delta 5 desaturase (D5D) were estimated from precursor-to-product ratios and their relationships with adiposity, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol and insulin sensitivity explored. Ethnic differences in desaturase activities independent of ethnic variation in risk factor correlates of desaturase activities were then identified.
There was significant ethnic variation in age, BMI, waist circumference, blood pressure, serum triglycerides and HDL cholesterol concentrations and insulin resistance. Desaturase activities showed significant correlations, independent of ethnicity, with BMI, waist circumference, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol. Independent of ethnic variation in BMI, waist circumference, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol, SCD-16 activity, calculated from each of the four lipid pools measured, was 18–35 percent higher in white Europeans than in African Caribbeans or Asian Indians (all p < 0.001). Similar, though less consistent differences were apparent for SCD-18 activity. Also independently of risk factor variation, but specifically when calculated from the cholesterol ester and phospholipid, pools, D6D activity was significantly lower in Asian Indians, and D5D activity higher in African Caribbeans.
Significant ethnic differences exist in desaturase activities, independently of ethnic variation in other risk factors. These characteristics did not accord with higher risk of T2DM among African Caribbeans and Asian Indians nor with lower risk of CHD among African Caribbeans but did accord with the higher risk of CHD in Asian Indians.
PMCID: PMC3605319  PMID: 23496836
Ethnicity; Lipids; Blood pressure; Insulin resistance; Stearoyl-CoA desaturase; Delta 6 desaturase; Delta 5 desaturase; Fatty acids; Desaturase activities; Triglycerides; HDL cholesterol; Insulin resistance
8.  Epigenetic silencing of HNF1A associates with changes in the composition of the human plasma N-glycome 
Epigenetics  2012;7(2):164-172.
Protein glycosylation is a ubiquitous modification that affects the structure and function of proteins. Our recent genome wide association study identified transcription factor HNF1A as an important regulator of plasma protein glycosylation. To evaluate the potential impact of epigenetic regulation of HNF1A on protein glycosylation we analyzed CpG methylation in 810 individuals. The association between methylation of four CpG sites and the composition of plasma and IgG glycomes was analyzed. Several statistically significant associations were observed between HNF1A methylation and plasma glycans, while there were no significant associations with IgG glycans. The most consistent association with HNF1A methylation was observed with the increase in the proportion of highly branched glycans in the plasma N-glycome. The hypothesis that inactivation of HNF1A promotes branching of glycans was supported by the analysis of plasma N-glycomes in 61 patients with inactivating mutations in HNF1A, where the increase in plasma glycan branching was also observed. This study represents the first demonstration of epigenetic regulation of plasma glycome composition, suggesting a potential mechanism by which epigenetic deregulation of the glycome may contribute to disease development.
PMCID: PMC3335910  PMID: 22395466
protein glycosylation; plasma glycome; HNF1A; CpG methylation; epigenetics
9.  Learning From Molecular Genetics 
Diabetes  2008;57(11):2889-2898.
PMCID: PMC2570381  PMID: 18971436
10.  Genome-Wide Association Scan Allowing for Epistasis in Type 2 Diabetes 
Annals of human genetics  2010;75(1):10-19.
In the presence of epistasis multilocus association tests of human complex traits can provide powerful methods to detect susceptibility variants. We undertook multilocus analyses in 1924 type 2 diabetes cases and 2938 controls from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC). We performed a two-dimensional genome-wide association (GWA) scan using joint two-locus tests of association including main and epistatic effects in 70,236 markers tagging common variants. We found two-locus association at 79 SNP-pairs at a Bonferroni-corrected P-value = 0.05 (uncorrected P-value = 2.14 × 10−11). The 79 pair-wise results always contained rs11196205 in TCF7L2 paired with 79 variants including confirmed variants in FTO, TSPAN8, and CDKAL1, which are associated in the absence of epistasis. However, the majority (82%) of the 79 variants did not have compelling single-locus association signals (P-value = 5 × 10−4). Analyses conditional on the single-locus effects at TCF7L2 established that the joint two-locus results could be attributed to single-locus association at TCF7L2 alone. Interaction analyses among the peak 80 regions and among 23 previously established diabetes candidate genes identified five SNP-pairs with case-control and case-only epistatic signals. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of systematic scans in GWA data, but confirm that single-locus association can underlie and obscure multilocus findings.
PMCID: PMC3430851  PMID: 21133856
Epistasis; simultaneous search; joint effects; genome-wide association
11.  Mutations in HNF1A Result in Marked Alterations of Plasma Glycan Profile 
Diabetes  2013;62(4):1329-1337.
A recent genome-wide association study identified hepatocyte nuclear factor 1-α (HNF1A) as a key regulator of fucosylation. We hypothesized that loss-of-function HNF1A mutations causal for maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) would display altered fucosylation of N-linked glycans on plasma proteins and that glycan biomarkers could improve the efficiency of a diagnosis of HNF1A-MODY. In a pilot comparison of 33 subjects with HNF1A-MODY and 41 subjects with type 2 diabetes, 15 of 29 glycan measurements differed between the two groups. The DG9-glycan index, which is the ratio of fucosylated to nonfucosylated triantennary glycans, provided optimum discrimination in the pilot study and was examined further among additional subjects with HNF1A-MODY (n = 188), glucokinase (GCK)-MODY (n = 118), hepatocyte nuclear factor 4-α (HNF4A)-MODY (n = 40), type 1 diabetes (n = 98), type 2 diabetes (n = 167), and nondiabetic controls (n = 98). The DG9-glycan index was markedly lower in HNF1A-MODY than in controls or other diabetes subtypes, offered good discrimination between HNF1A-MODY and both type 1 and type 2 diabetes (C statistic ≥0.90), and enabled us to detect three previously undetected HNF1A mutations in patients with diabetes. In conclusion, glycan profiles are altered substantially in HNF1A-MODY, and the DG9-glycan index has potential clinical value as a diagnostic biomarker of HNF1A dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC3609552  PMID: 23274891
12.  Coronary Heart Disease-Associated Variation in TCF21 Disrupts a miR-224 Binding Site and miRNA-Mediated Regulation 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(3):e1004263.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified chromosomal loci that affect risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) independent of classical risk factors. One such association signal has been identified at 6q23.2 in both Caucasians and East Asians. The lead CHD-associated polymorphism in this region, rs12190287, resides in the 3′ untranslated region (3′-UTR) of TCF21, a basic-helix-loop-helix transcription factor, and is predicted to alter the seed binding sequence for miR-224. Allelic imbalance studies in circulating leukocytes and human coronary artery smooth muscle cells (HCASMC) showed significant imbalance of the TCF21 transcript that correlated with genotype at rs12190287, consistent with this variant contributing to allele-specific expression differences. 3′ UTR reporter gene transfection studies in HCASMC showed that the disease-associated C allele has reduced expression compared to the protective G allele. Kinetic analyses in vitro revealed faster RNA-RNA complex formation and greater binding of miR-224 with the TCF21 C allelic transcript. In addition, in vitro probing with Pb2+ and RNase T1 revealed structural differences between the TCF21 variants in proximity of the rs12190287 variant, which are predicted to provide greater access to the C allele for miR-224 binding. miR-224 and TCF21 expression levels were anti-correlated in HCASMC, and miR-224 modulates the transcriptional response of TCF21 to transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) and platelet derived growth factor (PDGF) signaling in an allele-specific manner. Lastly, miR-224 and TCF21 were localized in human coronary artery lesions and anti-correlated during atherosclerosis. Together, these data suggest that miR-224 interaction with the TCF21 transcript contributes to allelic imbalance of this gene, thus partly explaining the genetic risk for coronary heart disease associated at 6q23.2. These studies implicating rs12190287 in the miRNA-dependent regulation of TCF21, in conjunction with previous studies showing that this variant modulates transcriptional regulation through activator protein 1 (AP-1), suggests a unique bimodal level of complexity previously unreported for disease-associated variants.
Author Summary
Both genetic and environmental factors cumulatively contribute to coronary heart disease risk in human populations. Large-scale meta-analyses of genome-wide association studies have now leveraged common genetic variation to identify multiple sites of disease susceptibility; however, the causal mechanisms for these associations largely remain elusive. One of these disease-associated variants, rs12190287, resides in the 3′untranslated region of the vascular developmental transcription factor, TCF21. Intriguingly, this variant is shown to disrupt the seed binding sequence for microRNA-224, and through altered RNA secondary structure and binding kinetics, leads to dysregulated TCF21 gene expression in response to disease-relevant stimuli. Importantly TCF21 and miR-224 expression levels were perturbed in human atherosclerotic lesions. Along with our previous reports on the transcriptional regulatory mechanisms altered by this variant, these studies shed new light on the complex heritable mechanisms of coronary heart disease risk that are amenable to therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC3967965  PMID: 24676100
13.  Transcriptome and genome sequencing uncovers functional variation in humans 
Nature  2013;501(7468):506-511.
Genome sequencing projects are discovering millions of genetic variants in humans, and interpretation of their functional effects is essential for understanding the genetic basis of variation in human traits. Here we report sequencing and deep analysis of mRNA and miRNA from lymphoblastoid cell lines of 462 individuals from the 1000 Genomes Project – the first uniformly processed RNA-seq data from multiple human populations with high-quality genome sequences. We discovered extremely widespread genetic variation affecting regulation of the majority of genes, with transcript structure and expression level variation being equally common but genetically largely independent. Our characterization of causal regulatory variation sheds light on cellular mechanisms of regulatory and loss-of-function variation, and allowed us to infer putative causal variants for dozens of disease-associated loci. Altogether, this study provides a deep understanding of the cellular mechanisms of transcriptome variation and of the landscape of functional variants in the human genome.
PMCID: PMC3918453  PMID: 24037378
14.  Mendelian Randomization Studies Do Not Support a Role for Raised Circulating Triglyceride Levels Influencing Type 2 Diabetes, Glucose Levels, or Insulin Resistance 
Diabetes  2011;60(3):1008-1018.
The causal nature of associations between circulating triglycerides, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes is unclear. We aimed to use Mendelian randomization to test the hypothesis that raised circulating triglyceride levels causally influence the risk of type 2 diabetes and raise normal fasting glucose levels and hepatic insulin resistance.
We tested 10 common genetic variants robustly associated with circulating triglyceride levels against the type 2 diabetes status in 5,637 case and 6,860 control subjects and four continuous outcomes (reflecting glycemia and hepatic insulin resistance) in 8,271 nondiabetic individuals from four studies.
Individuals carrying greater numbers of triglyceride-raising alleles had increased circulating triglyceride levels (SD 0.59 [95% CI 0.52–0.65] difference between the 20% of individuals with the most alleles and the 20% with the fewest alleles). There was no evidence that the carriers of greater numbers of triglyceride-raising alleles were at increased risk of type 2 diabetes (per weighted allele odds ratio [OR] 0.99 [95% CI 0.97–1.01]; P = 0.26). In nondiabetic individuals, there was no evidence that carriers of greater numbers of triglyceride-raising alleles had increased fasting insulin levels (SD 0.00 per weighted allele [95% CI −0.01 to 0.02]; P = 0.72) or increased fasting glucose levels (0.00 [−0.01 to 0.01]; P = 0.88). Instrumental variable analyses confirmed that genetically raised circulating triglyceride levels were not associated with increased diabetes risk, fasting glucose, or fasting insulin and, for diabetes, showed a trend toward a protective association (OR per 1-SD increase in log10 triglycerides: 0.61 [95% CI 0.45–0.83]; P = 0.002).
Genetically raised circulating triglyceride levels do not increase the risk of type 2 diabetes or raise fasting glucose or fasting insulin levels in nondiabetic individuals. One explanation for our results is that raised circulating triglycerides are predominantly secondary to the diabetes disease process rather than causal.
PMCID: PMC3046819  PMID: 21282362
15.  Genome-Wide Association Study for Type 2 Diabetes in Indians Identifies a New Susceptibility Locus at 2q21 
Diabetes  2013;62(3):977-986.
Indians undergoing socioeconomic and lifestyle transitions will be maximally affected by epidemic of type 2 diabetes (T2D). We conducted a two-stage genome-wide association study of T2D in 12,535 Indians, a less explored but high-risk group. We identified a new type 2 diabetes–associated locus at 2q21, with the lead signal being rs6723108 (odds ratio 1.31; P = 3.32 × 10−9). Imputation analysis refined the signal to rs998451 (odds ratio 1.56; P = 6.3 × 10−12) within TMEM163 that encodes a probable vesicular transporter in nerve terminals. TMEM163 variants also showed association with decreased fasting plasma insulin and homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance, indicating a plausible effect through impaired insulin secretion. The 2q21 region also harbors RAB3GAP1 and ACMSD; those are involved in neurologic disorders. Forty-nine of 56 previously reported signals showed consistency in direction with similar effect sizes in Indians and previous studies, and 25 of them were also associated (P < 0.05). Known loci and the newly identified 2q21 locus altogether explained 7.65% variance in the risk of T2D in Indians. Our study suggests that common susceptibility variants for T2D are largely the same across populations, but also reveals a population-specific locus and provides further insights into genetic architecture and etiology of T2D.
PMCID: PMC3581193  PMID: 23209189
16.  Correlation of rare coding variants in the gene encoding human glucokinase regulatory protein with phenotypic, cellular, and kinetic outcomes 
Defining the genetic contribution of rare variants to common diseases is a major basic and clinical science challenge that could offer new insights into disease etiology and provide potential for directed gene- and pathway-based prevention and treatment. Common and rare nonsynonymous variants in the GCKR gene are associated with alterations in metabolic traits, most notably serum triglyceride levels. GCKR encodes glucokinase regulatory protein (GKRP), a predominantly nuclear protein that inhibits hepatic glucokinase (GCK) and plays a critical role in glucose homeostasis. The mode of action of rare GCKR variants remains unexplored. We identified 19 nonsynonymous GCKR variants among 800 individuals from the ClinSeq medical sequencing project. Excluding the previously described common missense variant p.Pro446Leu, all variants were rare in the cohort. Accordingly, we functionally characterized all variants to evaluate their potential phenotypic effects. Defects were observed for the majority of the rare variants after assessment of cellular localization, ability to interact with GCK, and kinetic activity of the encoded proteins. Comparing the individuals with functional rare variants to those without such variants showed associations with lipid phenotypes. Our findings suggest that, while nonsynonymous GCKR variants, excluding p.Pro446Leu, are rare in individuals of mixed European descent, the majority do affect protein function. In sum, this study utilizes computational, cell biological, and biochemical methods to present a model for interpreting the clinical significance of rare genetic variants in common disease.
PMCID: PMC3248284  PMID: 22182842
17.  Genome-wide association study identifies variants in TMPRSS6 associated with hemoglobin levels 
Nature genetics  2009;41(11):1170-1172.
We carried out a genome-wide association study of hemoglobin levels in 16,001 individuals of European and Indian Asian ancestry. The most closely associated SNP (rs855791) results in nonsynonymous (V736A) change in the serine protease domain of TMPRSS6 and a blood hemoglobin concentration 0.13 (95% CI 0.09–0.17) g/dl lower per copy of allele A (P = 1.6 × 10−13). Our findings suggest that TMPRSS6, a regulator of hepcidin synthesis and iron handling, is crucial in hemoglobin level maintenance.
PMCID: PMC3178047  PMID: 19820698
18.  Assessment of High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein Levels as Diagnostic Discriminator of Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young Due to HNF1A Mutations 
Diabetes Care  2010;33(9):1919-1924.
Despite the clinical importance of an accurate diagnosis in individuals with monogenic forms of diabetes, restricted access to genetic testing leaves many patients with undiagnosed diabetes. Recently, common variation near the HNF1 homeobox A (HNF1A) gene was shown to influence C-reactive protein levels in healthy adults. We hypothesized that serum levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) could represent a clinically useful biomarker for the identification of HNF1A mutations causing maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY).
Serum hs-CRP was measured in subjects with HNF1A-MODY (n = 31), autoimmune diabetes (n = 316), type 2 diabetes (n = 240), and glucokinase (GCK) MODY (n = 24) and in nondiabetic individuals (n = 198). The discriminative accuracy of hs-CRP was evaluated through receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis, and performance was compared with standard diagnostic criteria. Our primary analyses excluded ∼11% of subjects in whom the single available hs-CRP measurement was >10 mg/l.
Geometric mean (SD range) hs-CRP levels were significantly lower (P ≤ 0.009) for HNF1A-MODY individuals, 0.20 (0.03–1.14) mg/l, than for any other group: autoimmune diabetes 0.58 (0.10–2.75) mg/l, type 2 diabetes 1.33 (0.28–6.14) mg/l, GCK-MODY 1.01 (0.19–5.33) mg/l, and nondiabetic 0.48 (0.10–2.42) mg/l. The ROC-derived C-statistic for discriminating HNF1A-MODY and type 2 diabetes was 0.8. Measurement of hs-CRP, either alone or in combination with current diagnostic criteria, was superior to current diagnostic criteria alone. Sensitivity and specificity for the combined criteria approached 80%.
Serum hs-CRP levels are markedly lower in HNF1A-MODY than in other forms of diabetes. hs-CRP has potential as a widely available, cost-effective screening test to support more precise targeting of MODY diagnostic testing.
PMCID: PMC2928334  PMID: 20724646
19.  Mendelian Randomization Studies do not Support a Role for Raised Circulating Triglyceride Levels influencing Type 2 Diabetes, Glucose Levels, or Insulin Resistance 
Diabetes  2011;60(3):1008-1018.
The causal nature of associations between circulating triglycerides, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes is unclear. We aimed to use Mendelian randomization to test the hypothesis that raised circulating triglyceride levels causally influence the risk of type 2 diabetes, raised normal fasting glucose levels, and hepatic insulin resistance.
Research design and methods
We tested 10 common genetic variants robustly associated with circulating triglyceride levels against type 2 diabetes status in 5637 cases, 6860 controls, and four continuous outcomes (reflecting glycemia and hepatic insulin resistance) in 8271 non-diabetic individuals from four studies.
Individuals carrying greater numbers of triglyceride-raising alleles had increased circulating triglyceride levels (0.59 SD [95% CI: 0.52, 0.65] difference between the 20% of individuals with the most alleles and the 20% with the fewest alleles). There was no evidence that carriers of greater numbers of triglyceride-raising alleles were at increased risk of type 2 diabetes (per weighted allele odds ratio (OR) 0.99 [95% CI: 0.97, 1.01]; P = 0.26). In non-diabetic individuals, there was no evidence that carriers of greater numbers of triglyceride-raising alleles had increased fasting insulin levels (0.00 SD per weighted allele [95% CI: −0.01, 0.02]; P = 0.72) or increased fasting glucose levels (0.00 SD per weighted allele [95% CI: −0.01, 0.01]; P = 0.88). Instrumental variable analyses confirmed that genetically raised circulating triglyceride levels were not associated with increased diabetes risk, fasting glucose or fasting insulin, and, for diabetes, showed a trend towards a protective association (OR per 1 SD increase in log10-triglycerides: 0.61 [95% CI: 0.45, 0.83]; P = 0.002).
Genetically raised circulating triglyceride levels do not increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, or raise fasting glucose or fasting insulin levels in non-diabetic individuals. One explanation for our results is that raised circulating triglycerides are predominantly secondary to the diabetes disease process rather than causal.
PMCID: PMC3046819  PMID: 21282362
20.  BMI-Associated Alleles Do Not Constitute Risk Alleles for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Independently of BMI: A Case-Control Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87335.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) has a strong genetic background and the majority of patients with PCOS have elevated BMI levels. The aim of this study was to determine to which extent BMI-increasing alleles contribute to risk of PCOS when contemporaneous BMI is taken into consideration.
Patients with PCOS and controls were recruited from the United Kingdom (563 cases and 791 controls) and The Netherlands (510 cases and 2720 controls). Cases and controls were of similar BMI. SNPs mapping to 12 BMI-associated loci which have been extensively replicated across different ethnicities, i.e., BDNF, FAIM2, ETV5, FTO, GNPDA2, KCTD15, MC4R, MTCH2, NEGR1, SEC16B, SH2B1, and TMEM18, were studied in association with PCOS within each cohort using the additive genetic model followed by a combined analysis. A genetic allelic count risk score model was used to determine the risk of PCOS for individuals carrying increasing numbers of BMI-increasing alleles.
None of the genetic variants, including FTO and MC4R, was associated with PCOS independently of BMI in the meta-analysis. Moreover, no differences were observed between cases and controls in the number of BMI-risk alleles present and no overall trend across the risk score groups was observed.
In this combined analysis of over 4,000 BMI-matched individuals from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, we observed no association of BMI risk alleles with PCOS independent of BMI.
PMCID: PMC3909077  PMID: 24498077
21.  Detailed Investigation of the Role of Common and Low-Frequency WFS1 Variants in Type 2 Diabetes Risk 
Diabetes  2009;59(3):741-746.
Wolfram syndrome 1 (WFS1) single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are associated with risk of type 2 diabetes. In this study we aimed to refine this association and investigate the role of low-frequency WFS1 variants in type 2 diabetes risk.
For fine-mapping, we sequenced WFS1 exons, splice junctions, and conserved noncoding sequences in samples from 24 type 2 diabetic case and 68 control subjects, selected tagging SNPs, and genotyped these in 959 U.K. type 2 diabetic case and 1,386 control subjects. The same genomic regions were sequenced in samples from 1,235 type 2 diabetic case and 1,668 control subjects to compare the frequency of rarer variants between case and control subjects.
Of 31 tagging SNPs, the strongest associated was the previously untested 3′ untranslated region rs1046320 (P = 0.008); odds ratio 0.84 and P = 6.59 × 10−7 on further replication in 3,753 case and 4,198 control subjects. High correlation between rs1046320 and the original strongest SNP (rs10010131) (r2 = 0.92) meant that we could not differentiate between their effects in our samples. There was no difference in the cumulative frequency of 82 rare (minor allele frequency [MAF] <0.01) nonsynonymous variants between type 2 diabetic case and control subjects (P = 0.79). Two intermediate frequency (MAF 0.01–0.05) nonsynonymous changes also showed no statistical association with type 2 diabetes.
We identified six highly correlated SNPs that show strong and comparable associations with risk of type 2 diabetes, but further refinement of these associations will require large sample sizes (>100,000) or studies in ethnically diverse populations. Low frequency variants in WFS1 are unlikely to have a large impact on type 2 diabetes risk in white U.K. populations, highlighting the complexities of undertaking association studies with low-frequency variants identified by resequencing.
PMCID: PMC2828659  PMID: 20028947
22.  Re-sequencing Expands Our Understanding of the Phenotypic Impact of Variants at GWAS Loci 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(1):e1004147.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified >500 common variants associated with quantitative metabolic traits, but in aggregate such variants explain at most 20–30% of the heritable component of population variation in these traits. To further investigate the impact of genotypic variation on metabolic traits, we conducted re-sequencing studies in >6,000 members of a Finnish population cohort (The Northern Finland Birth Cohort of 1966 [NFBC]) and a type 2 diabetes case-control sample (The Finland-United States Investigation of NIDDM Genetics [FUSION] study). By sequencing the coding sequence and 5′ and 3′ untranslated regions of 78 genes at 17 GWAS loci associated with one or more of six metabolic traits (serum levels of fasting HDL-C, LDL-C, total cholesterol, triglycerides, plasma glucose, and insulin), and conducting both single-variant and gene-level association tests, we obtained a more complete understanding of phenotype-genotype associations at eight of these loci. At all eight of these loci, the identification of new associations provides significant evidence for multiple genetic signals to one or more phenotypes, and at two loci, in the genes ABCA1 and CETP, we found significant gene-level evidence of association to non-synonymous variants with MAF<1%. Additionally, two potentially deleterious variants that demonstrated significant associations (rs138726309, a missense variant in G6PC2, and rs28933094, a missense variant in LIPC) were considerably more common in these Finnish samples than in European reference populations, supporting our prior hypothesis that deleterious variants could attain high frequencies in this isolated population, likely due to the effects of population bottlenecks. Our results highlight the value of large, well-phenotyped samples for rare-variant association analysis, and the challenge of evaluating the phenotypic impact of such variants.
Author Summary
Abnormal serum levels of various metabolites, including measures relevant to cholesterol, other fats, and sugars, are known to be risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Identification of the genes that play a role in generating such abnormalities could advance the development of new treatment and prevention strategies for these disorders. Investigations of common genetic variants carried out in large sets of research subjects have successfully pinpointed such genes within many regions of the human genome. However, these studies often have not led to the identification of the specific genetic variations affecting metabolic traits. To attempt to detect such causal variations, we sequenced genes in 17 genomic regions implicated in metabolic traits in >6,000 people from Finland. By conducting statistical analyses relating specific variations (individually and grouped by gene) to the measures for these metabolic traits observed in the study subjects, we added to our understanding of how genotypes affect these traits. Our findings support a long-held hypothesis that the unique history of the Finnish population provides important advantages for analyzing the relationship between genetic variations and biomedically important traits.
PMCID: PMC3907339  PMID: 24497850
23.  Detailed investigation of the role of common and low frequency WFS1 variants in type 2 diabetes risk 
Diabetes  2009;59(3):741-746.
WFS1 (Wolfram Syndrome 1) SNPs are associated with risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D). Here, we aimed to refine this association and investigate the role of low frequency WFS1 variants in T2D risk.
For fine-mapping, we sequenced WFS1 exons, splice junctions and conserved non-coding sequences in 24 T2D cases and 68 controls, selected tagging SNPs, and genotyped these in 959 UK T2D cases and 1386 controls. The same genomic regions were sequenced in 1235 T2D cases and 1668 controls to compare the frequency of rarer variants between cases and controls.
Of 31 tagging SNPs, the strongest associated was the previously untested 3′ UTR rs1046320 (P=0.008); OR=0.84, P=6.59 × 10−7 on further replication in 3753 cases and 4198 controls. High correlation between rs1046320 and the original strongest SNP (rs10010131) (r2=0.92) meant that we could not differentiate between their effects in our samples. There was no difference in the cumulative frequency of 82 rare (MAF<0.01) non-synonymous variants between T2D cases and controls (P=0.79). Two intermediate frequency (MAF 0.01-0.05) non-synonymous changes also showed no statistical association with T2D.
We identified six highly correlated SNPs that show strong and comparable associations with risk of T2D association but further refinement of these associations will require large sample sizes (>100,000), or studies in ethnically diverse populations. Low frequency variants in WFS1 are unlikely to have a large impact on T2D risk in white UK populations, highlighting the complexities of undertaking association studies with low frequency variants identified by re-sequencing.
PMCID: PMC2828659  PMID: 20028947
24.  Evaluation of Serum 1,5 Anhydroglucitol Levels as a Clinical Test to Differentiate Subtypes of Diabetes 
Diabetes Care  2010;33(2):252-257.
Assignment of the correct molecular diagnosis in diabetes is necessary for informed decisions regarding treatment and prognosis. Better clinical markers would facilitate discrimination and prioritization for genetic testing between diabetes subtypes. Serum 1,5 anhydroglucitol (1,5AG) levels were reported to differentiate maturity-onset diabetes of the young due to HNF1A mutations (HNF1A-MODY) from type 2 diabetes, but this requires further validation. We evaluated serum 1,5AG in a range of diabetes subtypes as an adjunct for defining diabetes etiology.
1,5AG was measured in U.K. subjects with: HNF1A-MODY (n = 23), MODY due to glucokinase mutations (GCK-MODY, n = 23), type 1 diabetes (n = 29), latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA, n = 42), and type 2 diabetes (n = 206). Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis was performed to assess discriminative accuracy of 1,5AG for diabetes etiology.
Mean (SD range) 1,5AG levels were: GCK-MODY 13.06 μg/ml (5.74–29.74), HNF1A-MODY 4.23 μg/ml (2.12–8.44), type 1 diabetes 3.09 μg/ml (1.45–6.57), LADA 3.46 μg/ml (1.42–8.45), and type 2 diabetes 5.43 (2.12–13.23). Levels in GCK-MODY were higher than in other groups (P < 10−4 vs. each group). HNF1A-MODY subjects showed no difference in unadjusted 1,5AG levels from type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes, and LADA. Adjusting for A1C revealed a difference between HNF1A-MODY and type 2 diabetes (P = 0.001). The discriminative accuracy of unadjusted 1,5AG levels was 0.79 for GCK-MODY versus type 2 diabetes and 0.86 for GCK-MODY versus HNF1A-MODY but was only 0.60 for HNF1A-MODY versus type 2 diabetes.
In our dataset, serum 1,5AG performed well in discriminating GCK-MODY from other diabetes subtypes, particularly HNF1A-MODY. Measurement of 1,5AG levels could inform decisions regarding MODY diagnostic testing.
PMCID: PMC2809258  PMID: 19933992
25.  SAIL—a software system for sample and phenotype availability across biobanks and cohorts 
Bioinformatics  2010;27(4):589-591.
Summary: The Sample avAILability system—SAIL—is a web based application for searching, browsing and annotating biological sample collections or biobank entries. By providing individual-level information on the availability of specific data types (phenotypes, genetic or genomic data) and samples within a collection, rather than the actual measurement data, resource integration can be facilitated. A flexible data structure enables the collection owners to provide descriptive information on their samples using existing or custom vocabularies. Users can query for the available samples by various parameters combining them via logical expressions. The system can be scaled to hold data from millions of samples with thousands of variables.
Availability: SAIL is available under Aferro-GPL open source license:
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online and from
PMCID: PMC3035801  PMID: 21169373

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