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1.  Determinants of dyslipidaemia in probands with polycystic ovary syndrome and their sisters 
Clinical endocrinology  2011;74(6):714-719.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is associated with dyslipidaemia and obesity. It is not clear whether the dyslipidaemia of PCOS is attributable to PCOS itself, obesity, or a combination of both. Our objective was to assess the importance of familial dyslipidaemia in PCOS by comparing fasting lipids between probands and their (affected and nonaffected) sisters.
Retrospective data set analyses.
Family study; 157 probands, 214 sisters and 76 control women (normal ovaries and regular cycles). All probands had PCOS, defined by symptoms of anovulation and/or hyperandrogenism with polycystic ovaries on ultrasound. Affected or unaffected status of sisters was defined by ovarian morphology.
Serum concentrations of triglycerides, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol.
Triglyceride levels and body mass index (BMI) were higher and HDL cholesterol levels were lower in the probands than affected sisters, unaffected sisters and controls. These differences in lipid profiles between the groups disappeared after adjustment for BMI. No differences in lipids were seen between affected and unaffected sisters.
These data are consistent with heritability of lipid levels in sisters but strongly suggest that the predominant influence on the manifestation of dyslipidaemia in PCOS is body weight.
PMCID: PMC4625580  PMID: 21521255
2.  The Importance of Global Studies of the Genetics of Type 2 Diabetes 
Diabetes & Metabolism Journal  2011;35(2):91-100.
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.
PMCID: PMC3122900  PMID: 21738890
Diabetes mellitus, type 2; Fine-mapping; Genetics; Genome-wide association; Multiethnic; Resequencing; Transethnic
3.  Genome-wide association study in people of South Asian ancestry identifies six novel susceptibility loci for type 2 diabetes 
Nature genetics  2011;43(10):984-989.
We carried out a genome wide association study of type-2 diabetes (T2D) amongst 20,119 people of South Asian ancestry (5,561 with T2D); we identified 20 independent SNPs associated with T2D at P<10−4 for testing amongst a further 38,568 South Asians (13,170 with T2D). In combined analysis, common genetic variants at six novel loci (GRB14, ST6GAL1, VPS26A, HMG20A, AP3S2 and HNF4A) were associated with T2D (P=4.1×10−8 to P=1.9×10−11); SNPs at GRB14 were also associated with insulin sensitivity, and at ST6GAL1 and HNF4A with pancreatic beta-cell function respectively. Our findings provide additional insight into mechanisms underlying T2D, and demonstrate the potential for new discovery from genetic association studies in South Asians who have increased susceptibility to T2D.
PMCID: PMC3773920  PMID: 21874001
4.  Meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies identifies 8 new loci for type 2 diabetes in East Asians 
Nature genetics  2011;44(1):67-72.
We conducted a three-stage genetic study to identify susceptibility loci for type 2 diabetes (T2D) in East Asian populations. The first stage meta-analysis of eight T2D genome-wide association studies (6,952 cases and 11,865 controls) was followed by a second stage in silico replication analysis (5,843 cases and 4,574 controls) and a stage 3 de novo replication analysis (12,284 cases and 13,172 controls). The combined analysis identified eight new T2D loci reaching genome-wide significance, which were mapped in or near GLIS3, PEPD, FITM2-R3HDML-HNF4A, KCNK16, MAEA, GCC1-PAX4, PSMD6 and ZFAND3. GLIS3, involved in pancreatic beta cell development and insulin gene expression1,2, is known for its association with fasting glucose levels3,4. The evidence of T2D association for PEPD5 and HNF4A6,7 has been detected in previous studies. KCNK16 may regulate glucose-dependent insulin secretion in the pancreas. These findings derived from East Asians provide new perspectives on the etiology of T2D.
PMCID: PMC3582398  PMID: 22158537
5.  Genome-wide association study identifies loci influencing concentrations of liver enzymes in plasma 
Chambers, John C | Zhang, Weihua | Sehmi, Joban | Li, Xinzhong | Wass, Mark N | Van der Harst, Pim | Holm, Hilma | Sanna, Serena | Kavousi, Maryam | Baumeister, Sebastian E | Coin, Lachlan J | Deng, Guohong | Gieger, Christian | Heard-Costa, Nancy L | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Kühnel, Brigitte | Kumar, Vinod | Lagou, Vasiliki | Liang, Liming | Luan, Jian’an | Vidal, Pedro Marques | Leach, Irene Mateo | O’Reilly, Paul F | Peden, John F | Rahmioglu, Nilufer | Soininen, Pasi | Speliotes, Elizabeth K | Yuan, Xin | Thorleifsson, Gudmar | Alizadeh, Behrooz Z | Atwood, Larry D | Borecki, Ingrid B | Brown, Morris J | Charoen, Pimphen | Cucca, Francesco | Das, Debashish | de Geus, Eco J C | Dixon, Anna L | Döring, Angela | Ehret, Georg | Eyjolfsson, Gudmundur I | Farrall, Martin | Forouhi, Nita G | Friedrich, Nele | Goessling, Wolfram | Gudbjartsson, Daniel F | Harris, Tamara B | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Heath, Simon | Hirschfield, Gideon M | Hofman, Albert | Homuth, Georg | Hyppönen, Elina | Janssen, Harry L A | Johnson, Toby | Kangas, Antti J | Kema, Ido P | Kühn, Jens P | Lai, Sandra | Lathrop, Mark | Lerch, Markus M | Li, Yun | Liang, T Jake | Lin, Jing-Ping | Loos, Ruth J F | Martin, Nicholas G | Moffatt, Miriam F | Montgomery, Grant W | Munroe, Patricia B | Musunuru, Kiran | Nakamura, Yusuke | O’Donnell, Christopher J | Olafsson, Isleifur | Penninx, Brenda W | Pouta, Anneli | Prins, Bram P | Prokopenko, Inga | Puls, Ralf | Ruokonen, Aimo | Savolainen, Markku J | Schlessinger, David | Schouten, Jeoffrey N L | Seedorf, Udo | Sen-Chowdhry, Srijita | Siminovitch, Katherine A | Smit, Johannes H | Spector, Timothy D | Tan, Wenting | Teslovich, Tanya M | Tukiainen, Taru | Uitterlinden, Andre G | Van der Klauw, Melanie M | Vasan, Ramachandran S | Wallace, Chris | Wallaschofski, Henri | Wichmann, H-Erich | Willemsen, Gonneke | Würtz, Peter | Xu, Chun | Yerges-Armstrong, Laura M | Abecasis, Goncalo R | Ahmadi, Kourosh R | Boomsma, Dorret I | Caulfield, Mark | Cookson, William O | van Duijn, Cornelia M | Froguel, Philippe | Matsuda, Koichi | McCarthy, Mark I | Meisinger, Christa | Mooser, Vincent | Pietiläinen, Kirsi H | Schumann, Gunter | Snieder, Harold | Sternberg, Michael J E | Stolk, Ronald P | Thomas, Howard C | Thorsteinsdottir, Unnur | Uda, Manuela | Waeber, Gérard | Wareham, Nicholas J | Waterworth, Dawn M | Watkins, Hugh | Whitfield, John B | Witteman, Jacqueline C M | Wolffenbuttel, Bruce H R | Fox, Caroline S | Ala-Korpela, Mika | Stefansson, Kari | Vollenweider, Peter | Völzke, Henry | Schadt, Eric E | Scott, James | Järvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Elliott, Paul | Kooner, Jaspal S
Nature genetics  2011;43(11):1131-1138.
Concentrations of liver enzymes in plasma are widely used as indicators of liver disease. We carried out a genome-wide association study in 61,089 individuals, identifying 42 loci associated with concentrations of liver enzymes in plasma, of which 32 are new associations (P = 10−8 to P = 10−190). We used functional genomic approaches including metabonomic profiling and gene expression analyses to identify probable candidate genes at these regions. We identified 69 candidate genes, including genes involved in biliary transport (ATP8B1 and ABCB11), glucose, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism (FADS1, FADS2, GCKR, JMJD1C, HNF1A, MLXIPL, PNPLA3, PPP1R3B, SLC2A2 and TRIB1), glycoprotein biosynthesis and cell surface glycobiology (ABO, ASGR1, FUT2, GPLD1 and ST3GAL4), inflammation and immunity (CD276, CDH6, GCKR, HNF1A, HPR, ITGA1, RORA and STAT4) and glutathione metabolism (GSTT1, GSTT2 and GGT), as well as several genes of uncertain or unknown function (including ABHD12, EFHD1, EFNA1, EPHA2, MICAL3 and ZNF827). Our results provide new insight into genetic mechanisms and pathways influencing markers of liver function.
PMCID: PMC3482372  PMID: 22001757
6.  Genome-Wide Association Identifies Nine Common Variants Associated With Fasting Proinsulin Levels and Provides New Insights Into the Pathophysiology of Type 2 Diabetes 
Strawbridge, Rona J. | Dupuis, Josée | Prokopenko, Inga | Barker, Adam | Ahlqvist, Emma | Rybin, Denis | Petrie, John R. | Travers, Mary E. | Bouatia-Naji, Nabila | Dimas, Antigone S. | Nica, Alexandra | Wheeler, Eleanor | Chen, Han | Voight, Benjamin F. | Taneera, Jalal | Kanoni, Stavroula | Peden, John F. | Turrini, Fabiola | Gustafsson, Stefan | Zabena, Carina | Almgren, Peter | Barker, David J.P. | Barnes, Daniel | Dennison, Elaine M. | Eriksson, Johan G. | Eriksson, Per | Eury, Elodie | Folkersen, Lasse | Fox, Caroline S. | Frayling, Timothy M. | Goel, Anuj | Gu, Harvest F. | Horikoshi, Momoko | Isomaa, Bo | Jackson, Anne U. | Jameson, Karen A. | Kajantie, Eero | Kerr-Conte, Julie | Kuulasmaa, Teemu | Kuusisto, Johanna | Loos, Ruth J.F. | Luan, Jian'an | Makrilakis, Konstantinos | Manning, Alisa K. | Martínez-Larrad, María Teresa | Narisu, Narisu | Nastase Mannila, Maria | Öhrvik, John | Osmond, Clive | Pascoe, Laura | Payne, Felicity | Sayer, Avan A. | Sennblad, Bengt | Silveira, Angela | Stančáková, Alena | Stirrups, Kathy | Swift, Amy J. | Syvänen, Ann-Christine | Tuomi, Tiinamaija | van 't Hooft, Ferdinand M. | Walker, Mark | Weedon, Michael N. | Xie, Weijia | Zethelius, Björn | Ongen, Halit | Mälarstig, Anders | Hopewell, Jemma C. | Saleheen, Danish | Chambers, John | Parish, Sarah | Danesh, John | Kooner, Jaspal | Östenson, Claes-Göran | Lind, Lars | Cooper, Cyrus C. | Serrano-Ríos, Manuel | Ferrannini, Ele | Forsen, Tom J. | Clarke, Robert | Franzosi, Maria Grazia | Seedorf, Udo | Watkins, Hugh | Froguel, Philippe | Johnson, Paul | Deloukas, Panos | Collins, Francis S. | Laakso, Markku | Dermitzakis, Emmanouil T. | Boehnke, Michael | McCarthy, Mark I. | Wareham, Nicholas J. | Groop, Leif | Pattou, François | Gloyn, Anna L. | Dedoussis, George V. | Lyssenko, Valeriya | Meigs, James B. | Barroso, Inês | Watanabe, Richard M. | Ingelsson, Erik | Langenberg, Claudia | Hamsten, Anders | Florez, Jose C.
Diabetes  2011;60(10):2624-2634.
Proinsulin is a precursor of mature insulin and C-peptide. Higher circulating proinsulin levels are associated with impaired β-cell function, raised glucose levels, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes (T2D). Studies of the insulin processing pathway could provide new insights about T2D pathophysiology.
We have conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association tests of ∼2.5 million genotyped or imputed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and fasting proinsulin levels in 10,701 nondiabetic adults of European ancestry, with follow-up of 23 loci in up to 16,378 individuals, using additive genetic models adjusted for age, sex, fasting insulin, and study-specific covariates.
Nine SNPs at eight loci were associated with proinsulin levels (P < 5 × 10−8). Two loci (LARP6 and SGSM2) have not been previously related to metabolic traits, one (MADD) has been associated with fasting glucose, one (PCSK1) has been implicated in obesity, and four (TCF7L2, SLC30A8, VPS13C/C2CD4A/B, and ARAP1, formerly CENTD2) increase T2D risk. The proinsulin-raising allele of ARAP1 was associated with a lower fasting glucose (P = 1.7 × 10−4), improved β-cell function (P = 1.1 × 10−5), and lower risk of T2D (odds ratio 0.88; P = 7.8 × 10−6). Notably, PCSK1 encodes the protein prohormone convertase 1/3, the first enzyme in the insulin processing pathway. A genotype score composed of the nine proinsulin-raising alleles was not associated with coronary disease in two large case-control datasets.
We have identified nine genetic variants associated with fasting proinsulin. Our findings illuminate the biology underlying glucose homeostasis and T2D development in humans and argue against a direct role of proinsulin in coronary artery disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3178302  PMID: 21873549
7.  Total Zinc Intake May Modify the Glucose-Raising Effect of a Zinc Transporter (SLC30A8) Variant 
Diabetes  2011;60(9):2407-2416.
Many genetic variants have been associated with glucose homeostasis and type 2 diabetes in genome-wide association studies. Zinc is an essential micronutrient that is important for β-cell function and glucose homeostasis. We tested the hypothesis that zinc intake could influence the glucose-raising effect of specific variants.
We conducted a 14-cohort meta-analysis to assess the interaction of 20 genetic variants known to be related to glycemic traits and zinc metabolism with dietary zinc intake (food sources) and a 5-cohort meta-analysis to assess the interaction with total zinc intake (food sources and supplements) on fasting glucose levels among individuals of European ancestry without diabetes.
We observed a significant association of total zinc intake with lower fasting glucose levels (β-coefficient ± SE per 1 mg/day of zinc intake: −0.0012 ± 0.0003 mmol/L, summary P value = 0.0003), while the association of dietary zinc intake was not significant. We identified a nominally significant interaction between total zinc intake and the SLC30A8 rs11558471 variant on fasting glucose levels (β-coefficient ± SE per A allele for 1 mg/day of greater total zinc intake: −0.0017 ± 0.0006 mmol/L, summary interaction P value = 0.005); this result suggests a stronger inverse association between total zinc intake and fasting glucose in individuals carrying the glucose-raising A allele compared with individuals who do not carry it. None of the other interaction tests were statistically significant.
Our results suggest that higher total zinc intake may attenuate the glucose-raising effect of the rs11558471 SLC30A8 (zinc transporter) variant. Our findings also support evidence for the association of higher total zinc intake with lower fasting glucose levels.
PMCID: PMC3161318  PMID: 21810599
8.  Genomic inflation factors under polygenic inheritance 
Population structure, including population stratification and cryptic relatedness, can cause spurious associations in genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Usually, the scaled median or mean test statistic for association calculated from multiple single-nucleotide-polymorphisms across the genome is used to assess such effects, and ‘genomic control' can be applied subsequently to adjust test statistics at individual loci by a genomic inflation factor. Published GWAS have clearly shown that there are many loci underlying genetic variation for a wide range of complex diseases and traits, implying that a substantial proportion of the genome should show inflation of the test statistic. Here, we show by theory, simulation and analysis of data that in the absence of population structure and other technical artefacts, but in the presence of polygenic inheritance, substantial genomic inflation is expected. Its magnitude depends on sample size, heritability, linkage disequilibrium structure and the number of causal variants. Our predictions are consistent with empirical observations on height in independent samples of ∼4000 and ∼133 000 individuals.
PMCID: PMC3137506  PMID: 21407268
genome-wide association study; genomic inflation factor; polygenic inheritance
9.  Association of Genetic Loci With Glucose Levels in Childhood and Adolescence 
Diabetes  2011;60(6):1805-1812.
To investigate whether associations of common genetic variants recently identified for fasting glucose or insulin levels in nondiabetic adults are detectable in healthy children and adolescents.
A total of 16 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with fasting glucose were genotyped in six studies of children and adolescents of European origin, including over 6,000 boys and girls aged 9–16 years. We performed meta-analyses to test associations of individual SNPs and a weighted risk score of the 16 loci with fasting glucose.
Nine loci were associated with glucose levels in healthy children and adolescents, with four of these associations reported in previous studies and five reported here for the first time (GLIS3, PROX1, SLC2A2, ADCY5, and CRY2). Effect sizes were similar to those in adults, suggesting age-independent effects of these fasting glucose loci. Children and adolescents carrying glucose-raising alleles of G6PC2, MTNR1B, GCK, and GLIS3 also showed reduced β-cell function, as indicated by homeostasis model assessment of β-cell function. Analysis using a weighted risk score showed an increase [β (95% CI)] in fasting glucose level of 0.026 mmol/L (0.021–0.031) for each unit increase in the score.
Novel fasting glucose loci identified in genome-wide association studies of adults are associated with altered fasting glucose levels in healthy children and adolescents with effect sizes comparable to adults. In nondiabetic adults, fasting glucose changes little over time, and our results suggest that age-independent effects of fasting glucose loci contribute to long-term interindividual differences in glucose levels from childhood onwards.
PMCID: PMC3114379  PMID: 21515849
10.  A Bivariate Genome-Wide Approach to Metabolic Syndrome 
Diabetes  2011;60(4):1329-1339.
The metabolic syndrome (MetS) is defined as concomitant disorders of lipid and glucose metabolism, central obesity, and high blood pressure, with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This study tests whether common genetic variants with pleiotropic effects account for some of the correlated architecture among five metabolic phenotypes that define MetS.
Seven studies of the STAMPEED consortium, comprising 22,161 participants of European ancestry, underwent genome-wide association analyses of metabolic traits using a panel of ∼2.5 million imputed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Phenotypes were defined by the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) criteria for MetS in pairwise combinations. Individuals exceeding the NCEP thresholds for both traits of a pair were considered affected.
Twenty-nine common variants were associated with MetS or a pair of traits. Variants in the genes LPL, CETP, APOA5 (and its cluster), GCKR (and its cluster), LIPC, TRIB1, LOC100128354/MTNR1B, ABCB11, and LOC100129150 were further tested for their association with individual qualitative and quantitative traits. None of the 16 top SNPs (one per gene) associated simultaneously with more than two individual traits. Of them 11 variants showed nominal associations with MetS per se. The effects of 16 top SNPs on the quantitative traits were relatively small, together explaining from ∼9% of the variance in triglycerides, 5.8% of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, 3.6% of fasting glucose, and 1.4% of systolic blood pressure.
Qualitative and quantitative pleiotropic tests on pairs of traits indicate that a small portion of the covariation in these traits can be explained by the reported common genetic variants.
PMCID: PMC3064107  PMID: 21386085
11.  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
12.  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
13.  Identification of an imprinted master trans-regulator at the KLF14 locus related to multiple metabolic phenotypes 
Nature genetics  2011;43(6):561-564.
Genome-wide association studies have identified many genetic variants associated with complex traits. However, at only a minority of loci have the molecular mechanisms mediating these associations been characterized. In parallel, whilst cis-regulatory patterns of gene expression have been extensively explored, the identification of trans-regulatory effects in humans has attracted less attention. We demonstrate that the Type 2 diabetes and HDL-cholesterol associated cis-acting eQTL of the maternally-expressed transcription factor KLF14 acts as a master trans-regulator of adipose gene expression. Expression levels of genes regulated by this trans-eQTL are highly-correlated with concurrently-measured metabolic traits, and a subset of the trans-genes harbor variants directly-associated with metabolic phenotypes. This trans-eQTL network provides a mechanistic understanding of the effect of the KLF14 locus on metabolic disease risk, providing a potential model for other complex traits.
PMCID: PMC3192952  PMID: 21572415
14.  MicroRNA Expression in Abdominal and Gluteal Adipose Tissue Is Associated with mRNA Expression Levels and Partly Genetically Driven 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27338.
To understand how miRNAs contribute to the molecular phenotype of adipose tissues and related traits, we performed global miRNA expression profiling in subcutaneous abdominal and gluteal adipose tissue of 70 human subjects and characterised which miRNAs were differentially expressed between these tissues. We found that 12% of the miRNAs were significantly differentially expressed between abdominal and gluteal adipose tissue (FDR adjusted p<0.05) in the primary study, of which 59 replicated in a follow-up study of 40 additional subjects. Further, 14 miRNAs were found to be associated with metabolic syndrome case-control status in abdominal tissue and three of these replicated (primary study: FDR adjusted p<0.05, replication: p<0.05 and directionally consistent effect). Genome-wide genotyping was performed in the 70 subjects to enable miRNA expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analysis. Candidate miRNA eQTLs were followed-up in the additional 40 subjects and six significant, independent cis-located miRNA eQTLs (primary study: p<0.001; replication: p<0.05 and directionally consistent effect) were identified. Finally, global mRNA expression profiling was performed in both tissues to enable association analysis between miRNA and target mRNA expression levels. We find 22% miRNAs in abdominal and 9% miRNAs in gluteal adipose tissue with expression levels significantly associated with the expression of corresponding target mRNAs (FDR adjusted p<0.05). Taken together, our results indicate a clear difference in the miRNA molecular phenotypic profile of abdominal and gluteal adipose tissue, that the expressions of some miRNAs are influenced by cis-located genetic variants and that miRNAs are associated with expression levels of their predicted mRNA targets.
PMCID: PMC3216936  PMID: 22102887
15.  A Genome-Wide Screen for Interactions Reveals a New Locus on 4p15 Modifying the Effect of Waist-to-Hip Ratio on Total Cholesterol 
Surakka, Ida | Isaacs, Aaron | Karssen, Lennart C. | Laurila, Pirkka-Pekka P. | Middelberg, Rita P. S. | Tikkanen, Emmi | Ried, Janina S. | Lamina, Claudia | Mangino, Massimo | Igl, Wilmar | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Lagou, Vasiliki | van der Harst, Pim | Mateo Leach, Irene | Esko, Tõnu | Kutalik, Zoltán | Wainwright, Nicholas W. | Struchalin, Maksim V. | Sarin, Antti-Pekka | Kangas, Antti J. | Viikari, Jorma S. | Perola, Markus | Rantanen, Taina | Petersen, Ann-Kristin | Soininen, Pasi | Johansson, Åsa | Soranzo, Nicole | Heath, Andrew C. | Papamarkou, Theodore | Prokopenko, Inga | Tönjes, Anke | Kronenberg, Florian | Döring, Angela | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Montgomery, Grant W. | Whitfield, John B. | Kähönen, Mika | Lehtimäki, Terho | Freimer, Nelson B. | Willemsen, Gonneke | de Geus, Eco J. C. | Palotie, Aarno | Sandhu, Manj S. | Waterworth, Dawn M. | Metspalu, Andres | Stumvoll, Michael | Uitterlinden, André G. | Jula, Antti | Navis, Gerjan | Wijmenga, Cisca | Wolffenbuttel, Bruce H. R. | Taskinen, Marja-Riitta | Ala-Korpela, Mika | Kaprio, Jaakko | Kyvik, Kirsten O. | Boomsma, Dorret I. | Pedersen, Nancy L. | Gyllensten, Ulf | Wilson, James F. | Rudan, Igor | Campbell, Harry | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Spector, Tim D. | Witteman, Jacqueline C. M. | Eriksson, Johan G. | Salomaa, Veikko | Oostra, Ben A. | Raitakari, Olli T. | Wichmann, H.-Erich | Gieger, Christian | Järvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Martin, Nicholas G. | Hofman, Albert | McCarthy, Mark I. | Peltonen, Leena | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Aulchenko, Yurii S. | Ripatti, Samuli
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(10):e1002333.
Recent genome-wide association (GWA) studies described 95 loci controlling serum lipid levels. These common variants explain ∼25% of the heritability of the phenotypes. To date, no unbiased screen for gene–environment interactions for circulating lipids has been reported. We screened for variants that modify the relationship between known epidemiological risk factors and circulating lipid levels in a meta-analysis of genome-wide association (GWA) data from 18 population-based cohorts with European ancestry (maximum N = 32,225). We collected 8 further cohorts (N = 17,102) for replication, and rs6448771 on 4p15 demonstrated genome-wide significant interaction with waist-to-hip-ratio (WHR) on total cholesterol (TC) with a combined P-value of 4.79×10−9. There were two potential candidate genes in the region, PCDH7 and CCKAR, with differential expression levels for rs6448771 genotypes in adipose tissue. The effect of WHR on TC was strongest for individuals carrying two copies of G allele, for whom a one standard deviation (sd) difference in WHR corresponds to 0.19 sd difference in TC concentration, while for A allele homozygous the difference was 0.12 sd. Our findings may open up possibilities for targeted intervention strategies for people characterized by specific genomic profiles. However, more refined measures of both body-fat distribution and metabolic measures are needed to understand how their joint dynamics are modified by the newly found locus.
Author Summary
Circulating serum lipids contribute greatly to the global health by affecting the risk for cardiovascular diseases. Serum lipid levels are partly inherited, and already 95 loci affecting high- and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides have been found. Serum lipids are also known to be affected by multiple epidemiological risk factors like body composition, lifestyle, and sex. It has been hypothesized that there are loci modifying the effects between risk factors and serum lipids, but to date only candidate gene studies for interactions have been reported. We conducted a genome-wide screen with meta-analysis approach to identify loci having interactions with epidemiological risk factors on serum lipids with over 30,000 population-based samples. When combining results from our initial datasets and 8 additional replication cohorts (maximum N = 17,102), we found a genome-wide significant locus in chromosome 4p15 with a joint P-value of 4.79×10−9 modifying the effect of waist-to-hip ratio on total cholesterol. In the area surrounding this genetic variant, there were two genes having association between the genotypes and the gene expression in adipose tissue, and we also found enrichment of association in genes belonging to lipid metabolism related functions.
PMCID: PMC3197672  PMID: 22028671
16.  A Genome-Wide Metabolic QTL Analysis in Europeans Implicates Two Loci Shaped by Recent Positive Selection 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(9):e1002270.
We have performed a metabolite quantitative trait locus (mQTL) study of the 1H nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H NMR) metabolome in humans, building on recent targeted knowledge of genetic drivers of metabolic regulation. Urine and plasma samples were collected from two cohorts of individuals of European descent, with one cohort comprised of female twins donating samples longitudinally. Sample metabolite concentrations were quantified by 1H NMR and tested for association with genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Four metabolites' concentrations exhibited significant, replicable association with SNP variation (8.6×10−11
Author Summary
Physiological concentrations of metabolites—small molecules involved in biochemical processes in living systems—can be measured and used to diagnose and predict disease states. A common goal is to detect and clinically exploit statistical differences in metabolite concentrations between diseased and healthy individuals. As a basis for the design and interpretation of case-control studies, it is useful to have a characterization of metabolic diversity amongst healthy individuals, some of which stems from inter-individual genetic variation. When a single genetic locus has a sufficiently strong effect on metabolism, its genomic position can be determined by collecting metabolite concentration data and genome-wide genotype data on a set of individuals and searching for associations between the two data sets—a so-called metabolite quantitative trait locus (mQTL) study. By so tracing mQTLs, we can identify the genetic drivers of metabolism, characterize how the nature or quantity of the corresponding expressed protein(s) feeds forward to influence metabolite levels, and specify disease-predictive models that incorporate mutual dependence amongst genetics, environment, and metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3169529  PMID: 21931564
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
A comprehensive variation map of the human metabolome identifies genetic and stable-environmental sources as major drivers of metabolite concentrations. The data suggest that sample sizes of a few thousand are sufficient to detect metabolite biomarkers predictive of disease.
We designed a longitudinal twin study to characterize the genetic, stable-environmental, and longitudinally fluctuating influences on metabolite concentrations in two human biofluids—urine and plasma—focusing specifically on the representative subset of metabolites detectable by 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (1H NMR) spectroscopy.We identified widespread genetic and stable-environmental influences on the (urine and plasma) metabolomes, with (30 and 42%) attributable on average to familial sources, and (47 and 60%) attributable to longitudinally stable sources.Ten of the metabolites annotated in the study are estimated to have >60% familial contribution to their variation in concentration.Our findings have implications for the design and interpretation of 1H NMR-based molecular epidemiology studies. On the basis of the stable component of variation quantified in the current paper, we specified a model of disease association under which we inferred that sample sizes of a few thousand should be sufficient to detect disease-predictive metabolite biomarkers.
Metabolites are small molecules involved in biochemical processes in living systems. Their concentration in biofluids, such as urine and plasma, can offer insights into the functional status of biological pathways within an organism, and reflect input from multiple levels of biological organization—genetic, epigenetic, transcriptomic, and proteomic—as well as from environmental and lifestyle factors. Metabolite levels have the potential to indicate a broad variety of deviations from the ‘normal' physiological state, such as those that accompany a disease, or an increased susceptibility to disease. A number of recent studies have demonstrated that metabolite concentrations can be used to diagnose disease states accurately. A more ambitious goal is to identify metabolite biomarkers that are predictive of future disease onset, providing the possibility of intervention in susceptible individuals.
If an extreme concentration of a metabolite is to serve as an indicator of disease status, it is usually important to know the distribution of metabolite levels among healthy individuals. It is also useful to characterize the sources of that observed variation in the healthy population. A proportion of that variation—the heritable component—is attributable to genetic differences between individuals, potentially at many genetic loci. An effective, molecular indicator of a heritable, complex disease is likely to have a substantive heritable component. Non-heritable biological variation in metabolite concentrations can arise from a variety of environmental influences, such as dietary intake, lifestyle choices, general physical condition, composition of gut microflora, and use of medication. Variation across a population in stable-environmental influences leads to long-term differences between individuals in their baseline metabolite levels. Dynamic environmental pressures lead to short-term fluctuations within an individual about their baseline level. A metabolite whose concentration changes substantially in response to short-term pressures is relatively unlikely to offer long-term prediction of disease. In summary, the potential suitability of a metabolite to predict disease is reflected by the relative contributions of heritable and stable/unstable-environmental factors to its variation in concentration across the healthy population.
Studies involving twins are an established technique for quantifying the heritable component of phenotypes in human populations. Monozygotic (MZ) twins share the same DNA genome-wide, while dizygotic (DZ) twins share approximately half their inherited DNA, as do ordinary siblings. By comparing the average extent of phenotypic concordance within MZ pairs to that within DZ pairs, it is possible to quantify the heritability of a trait, and also to quantify the familiality, which refers to the combination of heritable and common-environmental effects (i.e., environmental influences shared by twins in a pair). In addition to incorporating twins into the study design, it is useful to quantify the phenotype in some individuals at multiple time points. The longitudinal aspect of such a study allows environmental effects to be decomposed into those that affect the phenotype over the short term and those that exert stable influence.
For the current study, urine and blood samples were collected from a cohort of MZ and DZ twins, with some twins donating samples on two occasions several months apart. Samples were analysed by 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (1H NMR) spectroscopy—an untargeted, discovery-driven technique for quantifying metabolite concentrations in biological samples. The application of 1H NMR to a biological sample creates a spectrum, made up of multiple peaks, with each peak's size quantitatively representing the concentration of its corresponding hydrogen-containing metabolite.
In each biological sample in our study, we extracted a full set of peaks, and thereby quantified the concentrations of all common plasma and urine metabolites detectable by 1H NMR. We developed bespoke statistical methods to decompose the observed concentration variation at each metabolite peak into that originating from familial, individual-environmental, and unstable-environmental sources.
We quantified the variability landscape across all common metabolite peaks in the urine and plasma 1H NMR metabolomes. We annotated a subset of peaks with a total of 65 metabolites; the variance decompositions for these are shown in Figure 1. Ten metabolites' concentrations were estimated to have familial contributions in excess of 60%. The average proportion of stable variation across all extracted metabolite peaks was estimated to be 47% in the urine samples and 60% in the plasma samples; the average estimated familiality was 30% for urine and 42% for plasma. These results comprise the first quantitative variation map of the 1H NMR metabolome. The identification and quantification of substantive widespread stability provides support for the use of these biofluids in molecular epidemiology studies. On the basis of our findings, we performed power calculations for a hypothetical study searching for predictive disease biomarkers among 1H NMR-detectable urine and plasma metabolites. Our calculations suggest that sample sizes of 2000–5000 should allow reliable identification of disease-predictive metabolite concentrations explaining 5–10% of disease risk, while greater sample sizes of 5000–20 000 would be required to identify metabolite concentrations explaining 1–2% of disease risk.
1H Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy (1H NMR) is increasingly used to measure metabolite concentrations in sets of biological samples for top-down systems biology and molecular epidemiology. For such purposes, knowledge of the sources of human variation in metabolite concentrations is valuable, but currently sparse. We conducted and analysed a study to create such a resource. In our unique design, identical and non-identical twin pairs donated plasma and urine samples longitudinally. We acquired 1H NMR spectra on the samples, and statistically decomposed variation in metabolite concentration into familial (genetic and common-environmental), individual-environmental, and longitudinally unstable components. We estimate that stable variation, comprising familial and individual-environmental factors, accounts on average for 60% (plasma) and 47% (urine) of biological variation in 1H NMR-detectable metabolite concentrations. Clinically predictive metabolic variation is likely nested within this stable component, so our results have implications for the effective design of biomarker-discovery studies. We provide a power-calculation method which reveals that sample sizes of a few thousand should offer sufficient statistical precision to detect 1H NMR-based biomarkers quantifying predisposition to disease.
PMCID: PMC3202796  PMID: 21878913
biomarker; 1H nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy; metabolome-wide association study; top-down systems biology; variance decomposition
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
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(2):e1002003.
While there have been studies exploring regulatory variation in one or more tissues, the complexity of tissue-specificity in multiple primary tissues is not yet well understood. We explore in depth the role of cis-regulatory variation in three human tissues: lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL), skin, and fat. The samples (156 LCL, 160 skin, 166 fat) were derived simultaneously from a subset of well-phenotyped healthy female twins of the MuTHER resource. We discover an abundance of cis-eQTLs in each tissue similar to previous estimates (858 or 4.7% of genes). In addition, we apply factor analysis (FA) to remove effects of latent variables, thus more than doubling the number of our discoveries (1,822 eQTL genes). The unique study design (Matched Co-Twin Analysis—MCTA) permits immediate replication of eQTLs using co-twins (93%–98%) and validation of the considerable gain in eQTL discovery after FA correction. We highlight the challenges of comparing eQTLs between tissues. After verifying previous significance threshold-based estimates of tissue-specificity, we show their limitations given their dependency on statistical power. We propose that continuous estimates of the proportion of tissue-shared signals and direct comparison of the magnitude of effect on the fold change in expression are essential properties that jointly provide a biologically realistic view of tissue-specificity. Under this framework we demonstrate that 30% of eQTLs are shared among the three tissues studied, while another 29% appear exclusively tissue-specific. However, even among the shared eQTLs, a substantial proportion (10%–20%) have significant differences in the magnitude of fold change between genotypic classes across tissues. Our results underline the need to account for the complexity of eQTL tissue-specificity in an effort to assess consequences of such variants for complex traits.
Author Summary
Regulation of gene expression is a fundamental cellular process determining a large proportion of the phenotypic variance. Previous studies have identified genetic loci influencing gene expression levels (eQTLs), but the complexity of their tissue-specific properties has not yet been well-characterized. In this study, we perform cis-eQTL analysis in a unique matched co-twin design for three human tissues derived simultaneously from the same set of individuals. The study design allows validation of the substantial discoveries we make in each tissue. We explore in depth the tissue-dependent features of regulatory variants and estimate the proportions of shared and specific effects. We use continuous measures of eQTL sharing to circumvent the statistical power limitations of comparing direct overlap of eQTLs in multiple tissues. In this framework, we demonstrate that 30% of eQTLs are shared among tissues, while 29% are exclusively tissue-specific. Furthermore, we show that the fold change in expression between eQTL genotypic classes differs between tissues. Even among shared eQTLs, we report a substantial proportion (10%–20%) of significant tissue differences in magnitude of these effects. The complexities we highlight here are essential for understanding the impact of regulatory variants on complex traits.
PMCID: PMC3033383  PMID: 21304890
Genetic Epidemiology  2011;35(8):800-808.
Genome-wide association (GWA) studies have been extremely successful in identifying novel loci contributing effects to a wide range of complex human traits. However, despite this success, the joint marginal effects of these loci account for only a small proportion of the heritability of these traits. Interactions between variants in different loci are not typically modelled in traditional GWA analysis, but may account for some of the missing heritability in humans, as they do in other model organisms. One of the key challenges in performing gene-gene interaction studies is the computational burden of the analysis. We propose a two-stage interaction analysis strategy to address this challenge in the context of both quantitative traits and dichotomous phenotypes. We have performed simulations to demonstrate only a negligible loss in power of this two-stage strategy, while minimizing the computational burden. Application of this interaction strategy to GWA studies of T2D and obesity highlights potential novel signals of association, which warrant follow-up in larger cohorts. Genet. Epidemiol. 2011.© 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.35: 800-808, 2011
PMCID: PMC3410530  PMID: 21948692
genome-wide association study; gene-gene interaction; computational efficiency

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