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.
Epistasis; simultaneous search; joint effects; genome-wide association
Genome wide association analyses have revealed large numbers of common variants influencing predisposition to type 2 diabetes and related phenotypes. These studies have predominantly featured European populations, but are now being extended to samples from a wider range of ethnic groups. The transethnic analysis of association data is already providing insights into the genetic, molecular and biological causes of diabetes, and the relevance of such studies will increase as human discovery genetics increasingly moves towards sequencing-based approaches and a focus on low frequency and rare variants.
Diabetes mellitus, type 2; Fine-mapping; Genetics; Genome-wide association; Multiethnic; Resequencing; Transethnic
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.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
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.
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.
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).
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
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.
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.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
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.
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.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
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.
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.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
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.
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: https://github.com/sail.
Contact: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online and from http://www.simbioms.org.
Fasting plasma glucose and risk of type 2 diabetes are higher among Indian Asians than among European and North American Caucasians. Few studies have investigated genetic factors influencing glucose metabolism among Indian Asians.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
We carried out genome-wide association studies for fasting glucose in 5,089 nondiabetic Indian Asians genotyped with the Illumina Hap610 BeadChip and 2,385 Indian Asians (698 with type 2 diabetes) genotyped with the Illumina 300 BeadChip. Results were compared with findings in 4,462 European Caucasians.
We identified three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with glucose among Indian Asians at P < 5 × 10−8, all near melatonin receptor MTNR1B. The most closely associated was rs2166706 (combined P = 2.1 × 10−9), which is in moderate linkage disequilibrium with rs1387153 (r2 = 0.60) and rs10830963 (r2 = 0.45), both previously associated with glucose in European Caucasians. Risk allele frequency and effect sizes for rs2166706 were similar among Indian Asians and European Caucasians: frequency 46.2 versus 45.0%, respectively (P = 0.44); effect 0.05 (95% CI 0.01–0.08) versus 0.05 (0.03–0.07 mmol/l), respectively, higher glucose per allele copy (P = 0.84). SNP rs2166706 was associated with type 2 diabetes in Indian Asians (odds ratio 1.21 [95% CI 1.06–1.38] per copy of risk allele; P = 0.006). SNPs at the GCK, GCKR, and G6PC2 loci were also associated with glucose among Indian Asians. Risk allele frequencies of rs1260326 (GCKR) and rs560887 (G6PC2) were higher among Indian Asians compared with European Caucasians.
Common genetic variation near MTNR1B influences blood glucose and risk of type 2 diabetes in Indian Asians. Genetic variation at the MTNR1B, GCK, GCKR, and G6PC2 loci may contribute to abnormal glucose metabolism and related metabolic disturbances among Indian Asians.
For most associations of common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with common diseases, the genetic model of inheritance is unknown. The authors extended and applied a Bayesian meta-analysis approach to data from 19 studies on 17 replicated associations with type 2 diabetes. For 13 SNPs, the data fitted very well to an additive model of inheritance for the diabetes risk allele; for 4 SNPs, the data were consistent with either an additive model or a dominant model; and for 2 SNPs, the data were consistent with an additive or recessive model. Results were robust to the use of different priors and after exclusion of data for which index SNPs had been examined indirectly through proxy markers. The Bayesian meta-analysis model yielded point estimates for the genetic effects that were very similar to those previously reported based on fixed- or random-effects models, but uncertainty about several of the effects was substantially larger. The authors also examined the extent of between-study heterogeneity in the genetic model and found generally small between-study deviation values for the genetic model parameter. Heterosis could not be excluded for 4 SNPs. Information on the genetic model of robustly replicated association signals derived from genome-wide association studies may be useful for predictive modeling and for designing biologic and functional experiments.
Bayes theorem; diabetes mellitus, type 2; meta-analysis; models, genetic; polymorphism, genetic; population characteristics
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.
body mass index; molecular epidemiology; structural equation model
Recent genome-wide association studies have resulted in a dramatic increase in our knowledge of the genetic loci involved in type 2 diabetes. In a complementary approach to these single-marker studies, we attempted to identify biological pathways associated with type 2 diabetes. This approach could allow us to identify additional risk loci.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
We used individual level genotype data generated from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) type 2 diabetes study, consisting of 393,143 autosomal SNPs, genotyped across 1,924 case subjects and 2,938 control subjects. We sought additional evidence from summary level data available from the Diabetes Genetics Initiative (DGI) and the Finland-United States Investigation of NIDDM Genetics (FUSION) studies. Statistical analysis of pathways was performed using a modification of the Gene Set Enrichment Algorithm (GSEA). A total of 439 pathways were analyzed from the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes, Gene Ontology, and BioCarta databases.
After correcting for the number of pathways tested, we found no strong evidence for any pathway showing association with type 2 diabetes (top Padj = 0.31). The candidate WNT-signaling pathway ranked top (nominal P = 0.0007, excluding TCF7L2; P = 0.002), containing a number of promising single gene associations. These include CCND2 (rs11833537; P = 0.003), SMAD3 (rs7178347; P = 0.0006), and PRICKLE1 (rs1796390; P = 0.001), all expressed in the pancreas.
Common variants involved in type 2 diabetes risk are likely to occur in or near genes in multiple pathways. Pathway-based approaches to genome-wide association data may be more successful for some complex traits than others, depending on the nature of the underlying disease physiology.
Metformin is actively transported into the liver by the organic cation transporter (OCT)1 (encoded by SLC22A1). In 12 normoglycemic individuals, reduced-function variants in SLC22A1 were shown to decrease the ability of metformin to reduce glucose excursion in response to oral glucose. We assessed the effect of two common loss-of-function polymorphisms in SLC22A1 on metformin response in a large cohort of patients with type 2 diabetes.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
The Diabetes Audit and Research in Tayside Scotland (DARTS) database includes prescribing and biochemistry information and clinical phenotypes of all patients with diabetes within Tayside, Scotland, from 1992 onwards. R61C and 420del variants of SLC22A1 were genotyped in 3,450 patients with type 2 diabetes who were incident users of metformin. We assessed metformin response by modeling the maximum A1C reduction in 18 months after starting metformin and investigated whether a treatment target of A1C <7% was achieved. Sustained metformin effect on A1C between 6 and 42 months was also assessed, as was the time to metformin monotherapy failure. Covariates were SLC22A1 genotype, BMI, average drug dose, adherence, and creatinine clearance.
A total of 1,531 patients were identified with a definable metformin response. R61C and 420del variants did not affect the initial A1C reduction (P = 0.47 and P = 0.92, respectively), the chance of achieving a treatment target (P = 0.83 and P = 0.36), the average A1C on monotherapy up to 42 months (P = 0.44 and P = 0.75), or the hazard of monotherapy failure (P = 0.85 and P = 0.56).
The SLC22A1 loss-of-function variants, R61C and 420del, do not attenuate the A1C reduction achieved by metformin in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Genome-wide association studies have identified hundreds of genetic variants associated with complex human diseases and traits, and have provided valuable insights into their genetic architecture. Most variants identified so far confer relatively small increments in risk, and explain only a small proportion of familial clustering, leading many to question how the remaining, ‘missing’ heritability can be explained. Here we examine potential sources of missing heritability and propose research strategies, including and extending beyond current genome-wide association approaches, to illuminate the genetics of complex diseases and enhance its potential to enable effective disease prevention or treatment.
Two recent, large GWAS in European populations have associated a ∼47 Kb region that contains part of the FTO gene with high BMI. The functions of FTO and adjacent FTM in human biology are not clear. We examined expression of these genes in organs of mice segregating for monogenic obesity mutations, exposed to under/over feeding, and to 4 °C. Fto/Ftm expression was reduced in mesenteric adipose tissue of mice segregating for the Ay, Lepob, Leprdb, Cpefat or tub mutations and there was a similar trend in other tissues. These effects were not due to adiposity per se. Hypothalamic Fto and Ftm expression were decreased by fasting in lean and obese animals and by cold exposure in lean mice. The fact that responses of Fto and Ftm expression to these manipulations were almost indistinguishable suggested that the genes might be co-regulated. The putative overlapping regulatory region contains at least 2 canonical CUTL1 binding sites. One of these nominal CUTL1 sites includes rs8050136, a SNP associated with high body mass. The A allele of rs8050136 – associated with lower body mass than the C allele – preferentially bound CUTL1 in human fibroblast DNA. 70% knockdown of CUTL1 expression in human fibroblasts decreased FTO and FTM expression by 90 and 65 %, respectively. Animals and humans with various genetic interruptions of FTO or FTM have phenotypes reminiscent of aspects of the Bardet-Biedl obesity syndrome, a confirmed “ciliopathy”. FTM has recently been shown to be a ciliary basal body protein.
obesity; hypothalamus; adipose tissue; CUTL1
Heterozygous HNF1A mutations cause pancreatic-islet β-cell dysfunction and monogenic diabetes (MODY3). Hnf1α is known to regulate numerous hepatic genes, yet knowledge of its function in pancreatic islets is more limited. We now show that Hnf1a deficiency in mice leads to highly tissue-specific changes in the expression of genes involved in key functions of both islets and liver. To gain insights into the mechanisms of tissue-specific Hnf1α regulation, we integrated expression studies of Hnf1a-deficient mice with identification of direct Hnf1α targets. We demonstrate that Hnf1α can bind in a tissue-selective manner to genes that are expressed only in liver or islets. We also show that Hnf1α is essential only for the transcription of a minor fraction of its direct-target genes. Even among genes that were expressed in both liver and islets, the subset of targets showing functional dependence on Hnf1α was highly tissue specific. This was partly explained by the compensatory occupancy by the paralog Hnf1β at selected genes in Hnf1a-deficient liver. In keeping with these findings, the biological consequences of Hnf1a deficiency were markedly different in islets and liver. Notably, Hnf1a deficiency led to impaired large-T-antigen-induced growth and oncogenesis in β cells yet enhanced proliferation in hepatocytes. Collectively, these findings show that Hnf1α governs broad, highly tissue-specific genetic programs in pancreatic islets and liver and reveal key consequences of Hnf1a deficiency relevant to the pathophysiology of monogenic diabetes.
OBJECTIVES—Genome-wide association studies have dramatically increased the number of common genetic variants that are robustly associated with type 2 diabetes. A possible clinical use of this information is to identify individuals at high risk of developing the disease, so that preventative measures may be more effectively targeted. Here, we assess the ability of 18 confirmed type 2 diabetes variants to differentiate between type 2 diabetic case and control subjects.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—We assessed index single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for the 18 independent loci in 2,598 control subjects and 2,309 case subjects from the Genetics of Diabetes Audit and Research Tayside Study. The discriminatory ability of the combined SNP information was assessed by grouping individuals based on number of risk alleles carried and determining relative odds of type 2 diabetes and by calculating the area under the receiver-operator characteristic curve (AUC).
RESULTS—Individuals carrying more risk alleles had a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. For example, 1.2% of individuals with >24 risk alleles had an odds ratio of 4.2 (95% CI 2.11–8.56) against the 1.8% with 10–12 risk alleles. The AUC (a measure of discriminative accuracy) for these variants was 0.60. The AUC for age, BMI, and sex was 0.78, and adding the genetic risk variants only marginally increased this to 0.80.
CONCLUSIONS—Currently, common risk variants for type 2 diabetes do not provide strong predictive value at a population level. However, the joint effect of risk variants identified subgroups of the population at substantially different risk of disease. Further studies are needed to assess whether individuals with extreme numbers of risk alleles may benefit from genetic testing.
Genome-wide association studies have successfully identified numerous loci at which common variants influence disease risk or quantitative traits. Despite these successes, the variants identified by these studies have generally explained only a small fraction of the heritable component of disease risk, and have not pinpointed with certainty the causal variant(s) at the associated loci. Furthermore, the mechanisms of action by which associated loci influence disease or quantitative phenotypes are often unclear, because we do not know through which gene(s) the associated variants exert their effects or because these gene(s) are of unknown function or have no clear connection to known disease biology. Thus, the initial set of genome-wide association studies serve as a starting point for future genetic and functional studies. We outline possible next steps that may help accelerate progress from genetic studies to the biological knowledge that can guide the development of predictive, preventive, or therapeutic measures.
Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and lymphotoxin-α (LTA) are cytokines with a wide range of inflammatory and immunomodulatory activities. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease characterized by destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic β cells. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the association of polymorphisms in the TNF/LTA gene region with susceptibility to type 1 diabetes. We investigated 11 TNF/LTA tag polymorphisms, designed to capture the majority of common variation in the region, in 160 trio families from South Croatia. We observed overtransmission of alleles from parents to affected child at five variants: (rs909253, allele C, p = 1.2×10−4; rs1041981, allele A, p = 1.1×10−4; rs1800629 (G-308A), allele A, p = 1.2×10−4; rs361525(G-238A), allele G, p = 8.2×10−3 and rs3093668, allele G, p = 0.014). We also identified overtransmission of the rs 1800629(G-308A)-rs361525(G-238A) A-G haplotype, p = 2.384×10−5. The present study found an association of the TNF/LTA gene region with type 1 diabetes. A careful assessment of TNF/LTA variants adjusted for linkage disequilibrium with HLA loci is needed to further clarify the role of these genes in type 1 diabetes susceptibility in the population of South Croatia.
Type 1 diabetes; Tumor necrosis factor; Lymphotoxin alpha; TDT; Tag polymorphism
There is considerable interest in the hypothesis that low frequency, intermediate penetrance variants contribute to the proportion of Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) susceptibility not attributable to the common variants uncovered through genome-wide association approaches. Genes previously implicated in monogenic and multifactorial forms of diabetes are obvious candidates in this respect. In this study, we focussed on exons 8–10 of the HNF1A gene since rare, penetrant mutations in these exons (which are only transcribed in selected HNF1A isoforms) are associated with a later age of diagnosis of Maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY) than mutations in exons 1–7. The age of diagnosis in the subgroup of HNF1A-MODY individuals with exon 8–10 mutations overlaps with that of early multifactorial T2D, and we set out to test the hypothesis that these exons might also harbour low-frequency coding variants of intermediate penetrance that contribute to risk of multifactorial T2D.
Methodology and Principal Findings
We performed targeted capillary resequencing of HNF1A exons 8–10 in 591 European T2D subjects enriched for genetic aetiology on the basis of an early age of diagnosis (≤45 years) and/or family history of T2D (≥1 affected sibling). PCR products were sequenced and compared to the published HNF1A sequence. We identified several variants (rs735396 [IVS9−24T>C], rs1169304 [IVS8+29T>C], c.1768+44C>T [IVS9+44C>T] and rs61953349 [c.1545G>A, p.T515T] but no novel non-synonymous coding variants were detected.
Conclusions and Significance
We conclude that low frequency, nonsynonymous coding variants in the terminal exons of HNF1A are unlikely to contribute to T2D-susceptibility in European samples. Nevertheless, the rationale for seeking low-frequency causal variants in genes known to contain rare, penetrant mutations remains strong and should motivate efforts to screen other genes in a similar fashion.
Variants in FTO (fat mass and obesity associated) gene are associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D) in white Europeans. These associations are not consistent in Asians and there are few reports in South Asian Indians who develop T2D at a much lower body mass index (BMI) than that in the white Europeans.
Aims and hypothesis
We studied the association of FTO variants with T2D and measures of obesity in South Asian Indians in Pune, India.
We genotyped by sequencing, two SNPs rs9939609 and rs7191344, in the FTO gene in 1453 type 2 diabetes patients and 1361 controls and a further 961 population based individuals from India .
We observed a strong association of the minor allele A at rs9939609 with T2D (OR per allele =1.26 [95% CI, 1.13-1.40], P=3×10-5). The variant was also associated with BMI but this association appeared to be weaker (0.06SDs; 95%CIs:0.01-0.10, p=0.017) than the previously reported effect in Europeans (0.10SDs 95%CIs:0.09-0.12). Unlike in the Europeans, the association with T2D remained when adjusting for BMI (OR per allele for T2D=1.21 (95% CI, 1.06-1.37); P=4.0 × 10-3). Similar results were obtained when using waist circumference and other anthropometric parameters.
Our study replicates the strong association of FTO variants with type 2 diabetes in South Asian Indians but suggests that the association of FTO with T2D in them might operate through mechanisms other than obesity. This could imply a fundamental difference between Indians and Europeans in the mechanisms linking body size with T2D.
FTO; type 2 diabetes mellitus; polymorphisms; ethnicity; body mass index
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are powerful tools to unravel genomic loci associated with common traits and complex human disease. However, GWAS only rarely reveal information on the exact genetic elements and pathogenic events underlying an association. In order to extract functional information from genomic data, strategies for systematic follow-up studies on a phenotypic level are required. Here we address these limitations by applying RNA interference (RNAi) to analyze 133 candidate genes within 56 loci identified by GWAS as associated with blood lipid levels, coronary artery disease, and/or myocardial infarction for a function in regulating cholesterol levels in cells. Knockdown of a surprisingly high number (41%) of trait-associated genes affected low-density lipoprotein (LDL) internalization and/or cellular levels of free cholesterol. Our data further show that individual GWAS loci may contain more than one gene with cholesterol-regulatory functions. Using a set of secondary assays we demonstrate for a number of genes without previously known lipid-regulatory roles (e.g. CXCL12, FAM174A, PAFAH1B1, SEZ6L, TBL2, WDR12) that knockdown correlates with altered LDL–receptor levels and/or that overexpression as GFP–tagged fusion proteins inversely modifies cellular cholesterol levels. By providing strong evidence for disease-relevant functions of lipid trait-associated genes, our study demonstrates that quantitative, cell-based RNAi is a scalable strategy for a systematic, unbiased detection of functional effectors within GWAS loci.
Complex traits and diseases are assumed to result from interactions between multiple genes in relevant biological processes. Recent genome-wide association studies have uncovered many novel genomic loci where genes with functional significance are expected. However, functional validation of such genes has thus far remained confined to single gene approaches. Here, we use RNA interference and high-content screening microscopy to profile 133 genes at 56 loci associated with blood lipid traits, cardiovascular disease, and/or myocardial infarction for a function in regulating cellular free cholesterol levels and the efficiency of low-density lipoprotein uptake. Our results suggest that a high number of trait-associated genes have conserved cholesterol-regulatory functions in cells, with several GWAS loci harboring more than one gene of likely functional significance. For a number of genes without previously known lipid-regulatory functions, consequences upon siRNA knockdown positively correlated with cellular levels of LDL receptor, a major determinant of blood LDL levels. Moreover, GFP–tagged fusion proteins of several candidates shifted cellular cholesterol levels to inverse directions than knockdown, and subcellular localization of some candidates was sterol-dependent. Our study generates a valuable resource for prioritization of lipid-trait/CAD/MI-associated genes for future in-depth mechanistic analyses and introduces cell-based RNAi as a scalable and unbiased tool for functional follow-up of GWAS loci.