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1.  Life-Course Analysis of a Fat Mass and Obesity-Associated (FTO) Gene Variant and Body Mass Index in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 Using Structural Equation Modeling 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2010;172(6):653-665.
The association between variation in the fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) gene and adulthood body mass index (BMI; weight (kg)/height (m)2) is well-replicated. More thorough analyses utilizing phenotypic data over the life course may deepen our understanding of the development of BMI and thus help in the prevention of obesity. The authors used a structural equation modeling approach to explore the network of variables associated with BMI from the prenatal period to age 31 years (1965–1997) in 4,435 subjects from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966. The use of structural equation modeling permitted the easy inclusion of variables with missing values in the analyses without separate imputation steps, as well as differentiation between direct and indirect effects. There was an association between the FTO single nucleotide polymorphism rs9939609 and BMI at age 31 years that persisted after controlling for several relevant factors during the life course. The total effect of the FTO variant on adult BMI was mostly composed of the direct effect, but a notable part was also arising indirectly via its effects on earlier BMI development. In addition to well-established genetic determinants, many life-course factors such as physical activity, in spite of not showing mediation or interaction, had a strong independent effect on BMI.
PMCID: PMC2938267  PMID: 20702506
body mass index; molecular epidemiology; structural equation model
2.  Association between Common Variation at the FTO Locus and Changes in Body Mass Index from Infancy to Late Childhood: The Complex Nature of Genetic Association through Growth and Development 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(2):e1001307.
An age-dependent association between variation at the FTO locus and BMI in children has been suggested. We meta-analyzed associations between the FTO locus (rs9939609) and BMI in samples, aged from early infancy to 13 years, from 8 cohorts of European ancestry. We found a positive association between additional minor (A) alleles and BMI from 5.5 years onwards, but an inverse association below age 2.5 years. Modelling median BMI curves for each genotype using the LMS method, we found that carriers of minor alleles showed lower BMI in infancy, earlier adiposity rebound (AR), and higher BMI later in childhood. Differences by allele were consistent with two independent processes: earlier AR equivalent to accelerating developmental age by 2.37% (95% CI 1.87, 2.87, p = 10−20) per A allele and a positive age by genotype interaction such that BMI increased faster with age (p = 10−23). We also fitted a linear mixed effects model to relate genotype to the BMI curve inflection points adiposity peak (AP) in infancy and AR. Carriage of two minor alleles at rs9939609 was associated with lower BMI at AP (−0.40% (95% CI: −0.74, −0.06), p = 0.02), higher BMI at AR (0.93% (95% CI: 0.22, 1.64), p = 0.01), and earlier AR (−4.72% (−5.81, −3.63), p = 10−17), supporting cross-sectional results. Overall, we confirm the expected association between variation at rs9939609 and BMI in childhood, but only after an inverse association between the same variant and BMI in infancy. Patterns are consistent with a shift on the developmental scale, which is reflected in association with the timing of AR rather than just a global increase in BMI. Results provide important information about longitudinal gene effects and about the role of FTO in adiposity. The associated shifts in developmental timing have clinical importance with respect to known relationships between AR and both later-life BMI and metabolic disease risk.
Author Summary
Variation at the FTO locus is reliably associated with BMI and adiposity-related traits, but little is still known about the effects of variation at this gene, particularly in children. We have examined a large collection of samples for which both genotypes at rs9939609 and multiple measurements of BMI are available. We observe a positive association between the minor allele (A) at rs9939609 and BMI emerging in childhood that has the characteristics of a shift in the age scale leading simultaneously to lower BMI during infancy and higher BMI in childhood. Assessed in cross section and longitudinally, we find evidence of variation at rs9939609 being associated with the timing of AR and the concert of events expected with such a change to the BMI curve. Importantly, the apparently negative association between the minor allele (A) and BMI in early life, which is then followed by an earlier AR and greater BMI in childhood, is a pattern known to be associated with both the risk of adult BMI and metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes (T2D). These findings are important in our understanding of the contribution of FTO to adiposity, but also in light of efforts to appreciate genetic effects in a lifecourse context.
PMCID: PMC3040655  PMID: 21379325
4.  Genome-Wide Association Study Reveals Multiple Loci Associated with Primary Tooth Development during Infancy 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(2):e1000856.
Tooth development is a highly heritable process which relates to other growth and developmental processes, and which interacts with the development of the entire craniofacial complex. Abnormalities of tooth development are common, with tooth agenesis being the most common developmental anomaly in humans. We performed a genome-wide association study of time to first tooth eruption and number of teeth at one year in 4,564 individuals from the 1966 Northern Finland Birth Cohort (NFBC1966) and 1,518 individuals from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). We identified 5 loci at P<5×10−8, and 5 with suggestive association (P<5×10−6). The loci included several genes with links to tooth and other organ development (KCNJ2, EDA, HOXB2, RAD51L1, IGF2BP1, HMGA2, MSRB3). Genes at four of the identified loci are implicated in the development of cancer. A variant within the HOXB gene cluster associated with occlusion defects requiring orthodontic treatment by age 31 years.
Author Summary
Genome-wide association studies have been used to identify genetic variants conferring susceptibility to diseases, intermediate phenotypes, and physiological traits such as height, hair color, and age at menarche. Here we analyze the NFBC1966 and ALSPAC birth cohorts to investigate the genetic determinants of a key developmental process: primary tooth development. The prospective nature of our studies allows us to exploit accurate measurements of age at first tooth eruption and number of teeth at one year, and also provides the opportunity to assess whether genetic variants affecting these traits are associated with dental problems later in the life course. Of the genes that we find to be associated with primary tooth development, several have established roles in tooth development and growth, and almost half have proposed links with the development of cancer. We find that one of the variants is also associated with occlusion defects requiring orthodontic treatment later in life. Our findings should provide a strong foundation for the study of the genetic architecture of tooth development, which as well as its relevance to medicine and dentistry, may have implications in evolutionary biology since teeth represent important markers of evolution.
PMCID: PMC2829062  PMID: 20195514
5.  European lactase persistence genotype shows evidence of association with increase in body mass index 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;19(6):1129-1136.
The global prevalence of obesity has increased significantly in recent decades, mainly due to excess calorie intake and increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Here, we test the association between obesity measured by body mass index (BMI) and one of the best-known genetic variants showing strong selective pressure: the functional variant in the cis-regulatory element of the lactase gene. We tested this variant since it is presumed to provide nutritional advantage in specific physical and cultural environments. We genetically defined lactase persistence (LP) in 31 720 individuals from eight European population-based studies and one family study by genotyping or imputing the European LP variant (rs4988235). We performed a meta-analysis by pooling the β-coefficient estimates of the relationship between rs4988235 and BMI from the nine studies and found that the carriers of the allele responsible for LP among Europeans showed higher BMI (P = 7.9 × 10−5). Since this locus has been shown to be prone to population stratification, we paid special attention to reveal any population substructure which might be responsible for the association signal. The best evidence of exclusion of stratification came from the Dutch family sample which is robust for stratification. In this study, we highlight issues in model selection in the genome-wide association studies and problems in imputation of these special genomic regions.
PMCID: PMC2830824  PMID: 20015952
6.  Genome-wide association analysis of metabolic traits in a birth cohort from a founder population 
Nature genetics  2008;41(1):35-46.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of longitudinal birth cohorts enable joint investigation of environmental and genetic influences on complex traits. We report GWAS results for nine quantitative metabolic traits (triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, glucose, insulin, C-reactive protein, body mass index, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure) in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 (NFBC1966), drawn from the most genetically isolated Finnish regions. We replicate most previously reported associations for these traits and identify nine new associations, several of which highlight genes with metabolic functions: high-density lipoprotein with NR1H3 (LXRA), low-density lipoprotein with AR and FADS1-FADS2, glucose with MTNR1B, and insulin with PANK1. Two of these new associations emerged after adjustment of results for body mass index. Gene-environment interaction analyses suggested additional associations, which will require validation in larger samples. The currently identified loci, together with quantified environmental exposures, explain little of the trait variation in NFBC1966. The association observed between low-density lipoprotein and an infrequent variant in AR suggests the potential of such a cohort for identifying associations with both common, low-impact and rarer, high-impact quantitative trait loci.
PMCID: PMC2687077  PMID: 19060910
7.  Genetic Determinants of Height Growth Assessed Longitudinally from Infancy to Adulthood in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(3):e1000409.
Recent genome-wide association (GWA) studies have identified dozens of common variants associated with adult height. However, it is unknown how these variants influence height growth during childhood. We derived peak height velocity in infancy (PHV1) and puberty (PHV2) and timing of pubertal height growth spurt from parametric growth curves fitted to longitudinal height growth data to test their association with known height variants. The study consisted of N = 3,538 singletons from the prospective Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 with genotype data and frequent height measurements (on average 20 measurements per person) from 0–20 years. Twenty-six of the 48 variants tested associated with adult height (p<0.05, adjusted for sex and principal components) in this sample, all in the same direction as in previous GWA scans. Seven SNPs in or near the genes HHIP, DLEU7, UQCC, SF3B4/SV2A, LCORL, and HIST1H1D associated with PHV1 and five SNPs in or near SOCS2, SF3B4/SV2A, C17orf67, CABLES1, and DOT1L with PHV2 (p<0.05). We formally tested variants for interaction with age (infancy versus puberty) and found biologically meaningful evidence for an age-dependent effect for the SNP in SOCS2 (p = 0.0030) and for the SNP in HHIP (p = 0.045). We did not have similar prior evidence for the association between height variants and timing of pubertal height growth spurt as we had for PHVs, and none of the associations were statistically significant after correction for multiple testing. The fact that in this sample, less than half of the variants associated with adult height had a measurable effect on PHV1 or PHV2 is likely to reflect limited power to detect these associations in this dataset. Our study is the first genetic association analysis on longitudinal height growth in a prospective cohort from birth to adulthood and gives grounding for future research on the genetic regulation of human height during different periods of growth.
Author Summary
Family studies have shown that adult height is largely genetically determined. Identification of common genetic factors has been expedited with recent advances in genotyping techniques. However, factors regulating childhood height growth remain unclear. We investigated genetic variants of adult height for associations with peak height velocity in infancy (PHV1) and puberty (PHV2) and timing of pubertal growth spurt in a population based sample of 3,538 Finns born in 1966. Most variants studied associated with adult height in this sample. Of the 48 genetic variants tested, seven of them associated with PHV1 and five with PHV2. However, only one of these associated with both, and we found suggestive evidence for differential effects at different stages of growth for some of the variants. In this sample, less than half of the variants associated with adult height had a measurable effect on PHV1 or PHV2. However, these differences may reflect lower statistical power to detect associations with height velocities compared to adult height. This study provides a foundation for further biological investigation into the genes acting at each stage of height growth.
PMCID: PMC2646138  PMID: 19266077

Results 1-7 (7)