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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  Genome-wide association study identifies multiple loci influencing human serum metabolite levels 
Nature genetics  2012;44(3):269-276.
Nuclear magnetic resonance assays allow for measurement of a wide range of metabolic phenotypes. We report here the results of a GWAS on 8,330 Finnish individuals genotyped and imputed at 7.7 million SNPs for a range of 216 serum metabolic phenotypes assessed by NMR of serum samples. We identified significant associations (P < 2.31 × 10−10) at 31 loci, including 11 for which there have not been previous reports of associations to a metabolic trait or disorder. Analyses of Finnish twin pairs suggested that the metabolic measures reported here show higher heritability than comparable conventional metabolic phenotypes. In accordance with our expectations, SNPs at the 31 loci associated with individual metabolites account for a greater proportion of the genetic component of trait variance (up to 40%) than is typically observed for conventional serum metabolic phenotypes. The identification of such associations may provide substantial insight into cardiometabolic disorders.
PMCID: PMC3605033  PMID: 22286219
5.  A common variant of HMGA2 is associated with adult and childhood height in the general population 
Nature genetics  2007;39(10):1245-1250.
Human height is a classic, highly heritable quantitative trait. To begin to identify genetic variants influencing height, we examined genome-wide association data from 4,921 individuals. Common variants in the HMGA2 oncogene, exemplified by rs1042725, were associated with height (P = 4 × 10−8). HMGA2 is also a strong biological candidate for height, as rare, severe mutations in this gene alter body size in mice and humans, so we tested rs1042725 in additional samples. We confirmed the association in 19,064 adults from four further studies (P = 3 × 10−11, overall P = 4 × 10−16, including the genome-wide association data). We also observed the association in children (P = 1 × 10−6, N = 6,827) and a tall/short case-control study (P = 4 × 10−6, N = 3,207). We estimate that rs1042725 explains ~0.3% of population variation in height (~0.4 cm increased adult height per C allele). There are few examples of common genetic variants reproducibly associated with human quantitative traits; these results represent, to our knowledge, the first consistently replicated association with adult and childhood height.
PMCID: PMC3086278  PMID: 17767157
6.  Dissection of the genetics of Parkinson's disease identifies an additional association 5′ of SNCA and multiple associated haplotypes at 17q21 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;20(2):345-353.
We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 1705 Parkinson's disease (PD) UK patients and 5175 UK controls, the largest sample size so far for a PD GWAS. Replication was attempted in an additional cohort of 1039 French PD cases and 1984 controls for the 27 regions showing the strongest evidence of association (P< 10−4). We replicated published associations in the 4q22/SNCA and 17q21/MAPT chromosome regions (P< 10−10) and found evidence for an additional independent association in 4q22/SNCA. A detailed analysis of the haplotype structure at 17q21 showed that there are three separate risk groups within this region. We found weak but consistent evidence of association for common variants located in three previously published associated regions (4p15/BST1, 4p16/GAK and 1q32/PARK16). We found no support for the previously reported SNP association in 12q12/LRRK2. We also found an association of the two SNPs in 4q22/SNCA with the age of onset of the disease.
PMCID: PMC3005904  PMID: 21044948
8.  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
9.  Genetic Loci Influencing C-reactive Protein Levels and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease 
Plasma levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) are independently associated with risk of coronary heart disease, but whether CRP is causally associated with coronary heart disease or merely a marker of underlying atherosclerosis is uncertain.
To investigate association of genetic loci with CRP levels and risk of coronary heart disease.
Design, setting and participants:
We first carried out a genome-wide association (n=17,967) and replication study (n=14,747) to identify genetic loci associated with plasma CRP concentrations. Data collection took place between 1989 and 2008 and genotyping between 2003 and 2008. We carried out a Mendelian randomisation study of the most closely associated SNP in the CRP locus and published data on other CRP variants involving a total of 28,112 cases and 100,823 controls, to investigate the association of CRP variants with coronary heart disease. We compared our finding with that predicted from meta-analysis of observational studies of CRP levels and risk of coronary heart disease. For the other loci associated with CRP levels, we selected the most closely associated SNP for testing against coronary heart disease among 14,365 cases and 32,069 controls.
Main outcome measure:
Risk of coronary heart disease.
Polymorphisms in five genetic loci were strongly associated with CRP levels (% difference per minor allele): SNP rs6700896 in LEPR (−14.7% [95% Confidence Interval {CI}], −17.5 – −11.9, P=1.6×10−21), rs4537545 in IL6R (−10.8% [95% CI, −13.8 – −7.7], P=5.1×10−11), rs7553007 in CRP locus (−20.7% [95% CI, −23.5 – −17.9], P=3.3×10−38), rs1183910 in HNF1A (−13.6% [95% CI, −16.4 – −10.6], P=1.2×10−17) and rs4420638 in APOE-CI-CII (−21.8% [95% CI, −25.4 – −18.1], P=2.1×10−25). Association of SNP rs7553007 in the CRP locus with coronary heart disease gave odds ratio (OR) 0.98 (95% CI, 0.94 – 1.01) per 20% lower CRP. Our Mendelian randomisation study of variants in the CRP locus showed no association with coronary heart disease: OR 1.00 (95% CI, 0.97 – 1.02) per 20% lower CRP, compared with OR 0.94 (95% CI, 0.94 – 0.95) predicted from meta-analysis of the observational studies of CRP levels and coronary heart disease (Z-score −3.45, P<.001). SNPs rs6700896 in LEPR (OR 1.06 [95% CI, 1.02 – 1.09] per minor allele), rs4537545 in IL6R (OR 0.94 [95% CI, 0.91 – 0.97]) and rs4420638 in the APOE-CI-CII cluster (OR 1.16 [95% CI, 1.12 – 1.21]) were all associated with risk of coronary heart disease.
The lack of concordance between the effect on coronary heart disease risk of CRP genotypes and CRP levels argues against a causal association of CRP with coronary heart disease.
PMCID: PMC2803020  PMID: 19567438
10.  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
11.  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
12.  Meta-Analysis of 28,141 Individuals Identifies Common Variants within Five New Loci That Influence Uric Acid Concentrations 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(6):e1000504.
Elevated serum uric acid levels cause gout and are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. To investigate the polygenetic basis of serum uric acid levels, we conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association scans from 14 studies totalling 28,141 participants of European descent, resulting in identification of 954 SNPs distributed across nine loci that exceeded the threshold of genome-wide significance, five of which are novel. Overall, the common variants associated with serum uric acid levels fall in the following nine regions: SLC2A9 (p = 5.2×10−201), ABCG2 (p = 3.1×10−26), SLC17A1 (p = 3.0×10−14), SLC22A11 (p = 6.7×10−14), SLC22A12 (p = 2.0×10−9), SLC16A9 (p = 1.1×10−8), GCKR (p = 1.4×10−9), LRRC16A (p = 8.5×10−9), and near PDZK1 (p = 2.7×10−9). Identified variants were analyzed for gender differences. We found that the minor allele for rs734553 in SLC2A9 has greater influence in lowering uric acid levels in women and the minor allele of rs2231142 in ABCG2 elevates uric acid levels more strongly in men compared to women. To further characterize the identified variants, we analyzed their association with a panel of metabolites. rs12356193 within SLC16A9 was associated with DL-carnitine (p = 4.0×10−26) and propionyl-L-carnitine (p = 5.0×10−8) concentrations, which in turn were associated with serum UA levels (p = 1.4×10−57 and p = 8.1×10−54, respectively), forming a triangle between SNP, metabolites, and UA levels. Taken together, these associations highlight additional pathways that are important in the regulation of serum uric acid levels and point toward novel potential targets for pharmacological intervention to prevent or treat hyperuricemia. In addition, these findings strongly support the hypothesis that transport proteins are key in regulating serum uric acid levels.
Author Summary
Elevated serum uric acid levels cause gout and are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The regulation of serum uric acid levels is under a strong genetic control. This study describes the first meta-analysis of genome-wide association scans from 14 studies totalling 28,141 participants of European descent. We show that common DNA variants at nine different loci are associated with uric acid concentrations, five of which are novel. These variants are located within the genes coding for organic anion transporter 4 (SLC22A11), monocarboxylic acid transporter 9 (SLC16A9), glucokinase regulatory protein (GCKR), Carmil (LRRC16A), and near PDZ domain-containing 1 (PDZK1). Gender-specific effects are shown for variants within the recently identified genes coding for glucose transporter 9 (SLC2A9) and the ATP-binding cassette transporter (ABCG2). Based on screening of 163 metabolites, we show an association of one of the identified variants within SLC16A9 with DL-carnitine and propionyl-L-carnitine. Moreover, DL-carnitine and propionyl-L-carnitine were strongly correlated with serum UA levels, forming a triangle between SNP, metabolites and UA levels. Taken together, these associations highlight pathways that are important in the regulation of serum uric acid levels and point toward novel potential targets for pharmacological intervention to prevent or treat hyperuricemia.
PMCID: PMC2683940  PMID: 19503597
13.  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 1-13 (13)