Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more apparent in many populations. Genetic factors may play a role in the maintenance of vitamin D levels. The objective of this study was to perform a genome-wide analysis (GWAS) of vitamin D levels, including replication of prior GWAS results. We measured 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels in serum collected at the time of enrollment and at year 4 in 572 Caucasian children with asthma, who were part of a multi-center clinical trial, the Childhood Asthma Management Program. Replication was performed in a second cohort of 592 asthmatics from Costa Rica and a third cohort of 516 Puerto Rican asthmatics. In addition, we attempted replication of three SNPs that were previously identified in a large GWAS of Caucasian individuals. The setting included data from a clinical trial of childhood asthmatics and two cohorts of asthmatics recruited for genetic studies of asthma. The main outcome measure was circulating 25(OH)D levels. The 25(OH)D levels at the two time-points were only modestly correlated with each other (intraclass correlation coefficient = 0.33) in the CAMP population. We identified SNPs that were nominally associated with 25(OH)D levels at two time-points in CAMP, and replicated four SNPs in the Costa Rican cohort: rs11002969, rs163221, rs1678849, and rs4864976. However, these SNPs were not significantly associated with 25(OH)D levels in a third population of Puerto Rican asthmatics. We were able to replicate the SNP with the strongest effect, previously reported in a large GWAS: rs2282679 (GC), and we were able to replicate another SNP, rs10741657 (CYP2R1), to a lesser degree. We were able to replicate two of three prior significant findings in a GWAS of 25(OH)D levels. Other SNPs may be additionally associated with 25(OH)D levels in certain populations.
Childhood asthma is a complex disease with known heritability and phenotypic diversity. Although an earlier onset has been associated with more severe disease, there has been no genome-wide association study of the age of onset of asthma in children.
To identify genetic variants associated with earlier onset of childhood asthma.
We conducted the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of the age of onset of childhood asthma among participants in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP), and used three independent cohorts from North America, Costa Rica, and Sweden for replication.
Two SNPs were associated with earlier onset of asthma in the combined analysis of CAMP and the replication cohorts: : rs9815663 (Fisher’s P value=2.31 × 10−8) and rs7927044 (P=6.54 × 10−9). Of these two SNPs, rs9815663 was also significantly associated with earlier asthma onset in an analysis including only the replication cohorts. Ten SNPs in linkage disequilibrium with rs9815663 were also associated with earlier asthma onset (2.24 × 10−7 < P < 8.22 ×10−6). Having ≥1 risk allele of the two SNPs of interest (rs9815663 and rs7927044) was associated with lower lung function and higher asthma medication use during 4 years of follow-up in CAMP.
We have identified two SNPs associated with earlier onset of childhood asthma in four independent cohorts.
Asthma; pediatrics; age of onset; asthma genetics; C1orf100; genome-wide association study; pediatric asthma
The response to treatment for asthma is characterized by wide interindividual variability, with a significant number of patients who have no response. We hypothesized that a genomewide association study would reveal novel pharmacogenetic determinants of the response to inhaled glucocorticoids.
We analyzed a small number of statistically powerful variants selected on the basis of a family-based screening algorithm from among 534,290 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to determine changes in lung function in response to inhaled glucocorticoids. A significant, replicated association was found, and we characterized its functional effects.
We identified a significant pharmacogenetic association at SNP rs37972, replicated in four independent populations totaling 935 persons (P = 0.0007), which maps to the glucocorticoid-induced transcript 1 gene (GLCCI1) and is in complete linkage disequilibrium (i.e., perfectly correlated) with rs37973. Both rs37972 and rs37973 are associated with decrements in GLCCI1 expression. In isolated cell systems, the rs37973 variant is associated with significantly decreased luciferase reporter activity. Pooled data from treatment trials indicate reduced lung function in response to inhaled glucocorticoids in subjects with the variant allele (P = 0.0007 for pooled data). Overall, the mean (± SE) increase in forced expiratory volume in 1 second in the treated subjects who were homozygous for the mutant rs37973 allele was only about one third of that seen in similarly treated subjects who were homozygous for the wild-type allele (3.2 ± 1.6% vs. 9.4 ± 1.1%), and their risk of a poor response was significantly higher (odds ratio, 2.36; 95% confidence interval, 1.27 to 4.41), with genotype accounting for about 6.6% of overall inhaled glucocorticoid response variability.
A functional GLCCI1 variant is associated with substantial decrements in the response to inhaled glucocorticoids in patients with asthma. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00000575.)
To assess the feasibility of developing a Combined Clinical and Pharmacogenetic Predictive Test, comprised of multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that is associated with poor bronchodilator response (BDR).
We genotyped SNPs that tagged the whole genome of the parents and children in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) and implemented an algorithm using a family-based association test that ranked SNPs by statistical power. The top eight SNPs that were associated with BDR comprised the Pharmacogenetic Predictive Test. The Clinical Predictive Test was comprised of baseline forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1). We evaluated these predictive tests and a Combined Clinical and Pharmacogenetic Predictive Test in three distinct populations: the children of the CAMP trial and two additional clinical trial populations of asthma. Our outcome measure was poor BDR, defined as BDR of less than 20th percentile in each population. BDR was calculated as the percent difference between the prebronchodilator and postbronchodilator (two puffs of albuterol at 180 μg/puff) FEV1 value. To assess the predictive ability of the test, the corresponding area under the receiver operating characteristic curves (AUROCs) were calculated for each population.
The AUROC values for the Clinical Predictive Test alone were not significantly different from 0.50, the AUROC of a random classifier. Our Combined Clinical and Pharmacogenetic Predictive Test comprised of genetic polymorphisms in addition to FEV1 predicted poor BDR with an AUROC of 0.65 in the CAMP children (n= 422) and 0.60 (n= 475) and 0.63 (n= 235) in the two independent populations. Both the Combined Clinical and Pharmacogenetic Predictive Test and the Pharmacogenetic Predictive Test were significantly more accurate than the Clinical Predictive Test (AUROC between 0.44 and 0.55) in each of the populations.
Our finding that genetic polymorphisms with a clinical trait are associated with BDR suggests that there is promise in using multiple genetic polymorphisms simultaneously to predict which asthmatics are likely to respond poorly to bronchodilators.
asthma; bronchodilator response; personalized medicine; pharmacogenetic test; predictive medicine
It has recently been shown that vitamin D deficiency can increase asthma development and severity and that variations in vitamin D receptor genes are associated with asthma susceptibility.
We sought to find genetic factors that might interact with vitamin D levels to affect the risk of asthma exacerbation. Methods: We conducted a genome-wide study of gene–vitamin D interaction on asthma exacerbations using population-based and family-based approaches on 403 subjects and trios from the Childhood Asthma Management Program. Twenty-three polymorphisms with significant interactions were studied in a replication analysis in 584 children from a Costa Rican cohort. Results: We identified 3 common variants in the class I MHC–restricted T cell–associated molecule gene (CRTAM) that were associated with an increased rate of asthma exacerbations based on the presence of a low circulating vitamin D level. These results were replicated in a second independent population (unadjusted combined interaction, P =.00028–.00097; combined odds ratio, 3.28–5.38). One variant, rs2272094, is a nonsynonymous coding polymorphism of CRTAM. Functional studies on cell lines confirmed the interaction of vitamin D and rs2272094 on CRTAM expression. CRTAM is highly expressed in activated human CD8+ and natural killer T cells, both of which have been implicated in asthmatic patients.
The findings highlight an important gene-environment interaction that elucidates the role of vitamin D and CD8+ and natural killer T cells in asthma exacerbation in a genome-wide gene-environment interaction study that has been replicated in an independent population. The results suggest the potential importance of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels in subsets of high-risk asthmatic patients.
Gene-environment interaction; genome-wide association study; vitamin D; asthma exacerbation
Corticotropin - releasing hormone receptor 2 (CRHR2) participates in smooth muscle relaxation response and may influence acute airway bronchodilator response to short – acting β2 agonist treatment of asthma. We aim to assess associations between genetic variants of CRHR2 and acute bronchodilator response in asthma.
We investigated 28 single nucleotide polymorphisms in CRHR2 for associations with acute bronchodilator response to albuterol in 607 Caucasian asthmatic subjects recruited as part of the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP). Replication was conducted in two Caucasian adult asthma cohorts – a cohort of 427 subjects enrolled in a completed clinical trial conducted by Sepracor Inc. (MA, USA) and a cohort of 152 subjects enrolled in the Clinical Trial of Low-Dose Theopylline and Montelukast (LODO) conducted by the American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers.
Five variants were significantly associated with acute bronchodilator response in at least one cohort (p-value ≤ 0.05). Variant rs7793837 was associated in CAMP and LODO (p-value = 0.05 and 0.03, respectively) and haplotype blocks residing at the 5’ end of CRHR2 were associated with response in all three cohorts.
We report for the first time, at the gene level, replicated associations between CRHR2 and acute bronchodilator response. While no single variant was significantly associated in all three cohorts, the findings that variants at the 5’ end of CRHR2 are associated in each of three cohorts strongly suggest that the causative variants reside in this region and its genetic effect, although present, is likely to be weak.
Asthma; genetics; corticotrophin releasing hormone receptor 2; CRHR2; bronchodilator response; polymorphism; β2 adrenergic receptor agonist
We propose an omnibus family-based association test (MFBAT) that can be applied to multiple markers and multiple phenotypes and that has only one degree of freedom. The proposed test statistic extends current FBAT methodology to incorporate multiple markers as well as multiple phenotypes. Using simulation studies, power estimates for the proposed methodology are compared with the standard methodologies. On the basis of these simulations, we find that MFBAT substantially outperforms other methods, including haplotypic approaches and doing multiple tests with single single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and single phenotypes. The practical relevance of the approach is illustrated by an application to asthma in which SNP/phenotype combinations are identified and reach overall significance that would not have been identified using other approaches. This methodology is directly applicable to cases in which there are multiple SNPs, such as candidate gene studies, cases in which there are multiple phenotypes, such as expression data, and cases in which there are multiple phenotypes and genotypes, such as genome-wide association studies that incorporate expression profiles as phenotypes. This program is available in the PBAT analysis package.
family-based association testing (FBAT); genome-wide association studies; FBAT-PC; multiple marker; multiple phenotypes; multiple testing
Rationale: Animal models demonstrate that aberrant gene expression in utero can result in abnormal pulmonary phenotypes.
Objectives: We sought to identify genes that are differentially expressed during in utero airway development and test the hypothesis that variants in these genes influence lung function in patients with asthma.
Methods: Stage 1 (Gene Expression): Differential gene expression analysis across the pseudoglandular (n = 27) and canalicular (n = 9) stages of human lung development was performed using regularized t tests with multiple comparison adjustments. Stage 2 (Genetic Association): Genetic association analyses of lung function (FEV1, FVC, and FEV1/FVC) for variants in five differentially expressed genes were conducted in 403 parent-child trios from the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP). Associations were replicated in 583 parent-child trios from the Genetics of Asthma in Costa Rica study.
Measurements and Main Results: Of the 1,776 differentially expressed genes between the pseudoglandular (gestational age: 7–16 wk) and the canalicular (gestational age: 17–26 wk) stages, we selected 5 genes in the Wnt pathway for association testing. Thirteen single nucleotide polymorphisms in three genes demonstrated association with lung function in CAMP (P < 0.05), and associations for two of these genes were replicated in the Costa Ricans: Wnt1-inducible signaling pathway protein 1 with FEV1 (combined P = 0.0005) and FVC (combined P = 0.0004), and Wnt inhibitory factor 1 with FVC (combined P = 0.003) and FEV1/FVC (combined P = 0.003).
Conclusions: Wnt signaling genes are associated with impaired lung function in two childhood asthma cohorts. Furthermore, gene expression profiling of human fetal lung development can be used to identify genes implicated in the pathogenesis of lung function impairment in individuals with asthma.
asthma; lung development; lung function; genetic variation; gene expression
Allergic rhinitis (AR) affects up to 80% of children with asthma and increases asthma severity. Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) is a key mediator of allergic inflammation. The role of the TSLP gene (TSLP) in the pathogenesis of AR has not been studied.
To test for associations between variants in TSLP, TSLP-related genes, and AR in children with asthma.
We genotyped 15 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in TSLP, OX40L, IL7R, and RXRα in three independent cohorts: 592 asthmatic Costa Rican children and their parents, 422 nuclear families of North American children with asthma, and 239 Swedish children with asthma. We tested for associations between these SNPs and AR. As we previously reported sex-specific effects for TSLP, we performed overall and sex-stratified analyses. We additionally performed secondary analyses for gene-by-gene interactions.
Across the three cohorts, the T allele of TSLP SNP rs1837253 was undertransmitted in boys with AR and asthma as compared to boys with asthma alone. The SNP was associated with reduced odds for AR (odds ratios ranging from 0.56 to 0.63, with corresponding Fisher's combined P value of 1.2 × 10-4). Our findings were significant after accounting for multiple comparisons. SNPs in OX40L, IL7R, and RXRα were not consistently associated with AR in children with asthma. There were nominally significant interactions between gene pairs.
TSLP SNP rs1837253 is associated with reduced odds for AR in boys with asthma. Our findings support a role for TSLP in the pathogenesis of AR in children with asthma.
We propose an omnibus family-based association test (MFBAT), that can be applied to multiple markers and multiple phenotypes and that has only 1 degree of freedom. The proposed test statistic extends current FBAT methodology to incorporate multiple markers as well as multiple phenotypes. Using simulation studies, power estimates for the proposed methodology are compared with the standard methodologies. Based on these simulations, we find that MFBAT substantially outperforms other methods including some haplotypic approaches and doing multiple tests with single SNPs and single phenotypes. The practical relevance of the approach is illustrated by an application to asthma where SNPs/phenotype combinations are identified and reach overall significance that would not have been identified using other approaches. This methodology is directly applicable to cases where there are multiple SNPs, such as candidate gene studies, cases where there are multiple phenotypes, such as expression data, and cases where there are multiple phenotypes and genotypes, such as genome-wide association studies that incorporate expression profiles as phenotypes. This program is available in the PBAT analysis package1.
Family-based association testing (FBAT); genome-wide association studies; FBAT-PC; multiple marker; multiple phenotypes; multiple testing
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) have been associated with IgE (in girls) and asthma (in general). We sought to determine whether TSLP SNPs are associated with asthma in a sex-specific fashion.
We conducted regular and sex-stratified analyses of association between SNPs in TSLP and asthma in families of asthmatic children in Costa Rica. Significant findings were replicated in white and African-American participants in the Childhood Asthma Management Program, in African Americans in the Genomic Research on Asthma in the African Diaspora study, in whites and Hispanics in the Children’s Health Study, and in whites in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS).
Two SNPs in TSLP (rs1837253 and rs2289276) were significantly associated with a reduced risk of asthma in combined analyses of all cohorts (p values of 2×10−5 and 1×10−5, respectively). In a sex-stratified analysis, the T allele of rs1837253 was significantly associated with a reduced risk of asthma in males only (p= 3×10−6). Alternately, the T allele of rs2289276 was significantly associated with a reduced risk of asthma in females only (p= 2×10−4). Findings for rs2289276 were consistent in all cohorts except the FHS.
TSLP variants are associated with asthma in a sex-specific fashion.
asthma; genetic association; sex-specific; thymic stromal lymphopoietin; TSLP
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease whose genetic basis has been explored for over two decades, most recently via genome-wide association studies. We sought to find asthma-susceptibility variants by using probands from a single population in both family-based and case-control association designs.
We used probands from the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) in two primary genome-wide association study designs: (1) probands were combined with publicly available population controls in a case-control design, and (2) probands and their parents were used in a family-based design. We followed a two-stage replication process utilizing three independent populations to validate our primary findings.
We found that single nucleotide polymorphisms with similar case-control and family-based association results were more likely to replicate in the independent populations, than those with the smallest p-values in either the case-control or family-based design alone. The single nucleotide polymorphism that showed the strongest evidence for association to asthma was rs17572584, which replicated in 2/3 independent populations with an overall p-value among replication populations of 3.5E-05. This variant is near a gene that encodes an enzyme that has been implicated to act coordinately with modulators of Th2 cell differentiation and is expressed in human lung.
Our results suggest that using probands from family-based studies in case-control designs, and combining results of both family-based and case-control approaches, may be a way to augment our ability to find SNPs associated with asthma and other complex diseases.
Genetic variants influencing lung function in children and adults may ultimately lead to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), particularly in high-risk groups.
We tested for an association between single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the gene encoding matrix metalloproteinase 12 (MMP12) and a measure of lung function (prebronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 second [FEV1]) in more than 8300 subjects in seven cohorts that included children and adults. Within the Normative Aging Study (NAS), a cohort of initially healthy adult men, we tested for an association between SNPs that were associated with FEV1 and the time to the onset of COPD. We then examined the relationship between MMP12 SNPs and COPD in two cohorts of adults with COPD or at risk for COPD.
The minor allele (G) of a functional variant in the promoter region of MMP12 (rs2276109 [−82A→G]) was positively associated with FEV1 in a combined analysis of children with asthma and adult former and current smokers in all cohorts (P=2×10−6). This allele was also associated with a reduced risk of the onset of COPD in the NAS cohort (hazard ratio, 0.65; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.46 to 0.92; P = 0.02) and with a reduced risk of COPD in a cohort of smokers (odds ratio, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.45 to 0.88; P = 0.005) and among participants in a family-based study of early-onset COPD (P = 0.006).
The minor allele of a SNP in MMP12 (rs2276109) is associated with a positive effect on lung function in children with asthma and in adults who smoke. This allele is also associated with a reduced risk of COPD in adult smokers.
Rationale: Polymorphisms in the gene for transforming growth factor-β1 (TGFB1) have been associated with asthma, but not with airway responsiveness or disease exacerbations in subjects with asthma.
Objectives: To test for association between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in TGFB1 and markers of asthma severity in childhood.
Methods: We tested for the association between nine SNPs in TGFB1 and indicators of asthma severity (lung function, airway responsiveness, and disease exacerbations) in two cohorts: 416 Costa Rican parent-child trios and 465 families of non-Hispanic white children in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP). We also tested for the interaction between these polymorphisms and exposure to dust mite allergen on asthma severity.
Measurements and Main Results: The A allele of promoter SNP rs2241712 was associated with increased airway responsiveness in Costa Rica (P = 0.0006) and CAMP (P = 0.005), and the C allele of an SNP in the promoter region (rs1800469) was associated with increased airway responsiveness in both cohorts (P ≤ 0.01). Dust mite exposure modified the effect of the C allele of exonic SNP rs1800471 on airway responsiveness (P = 0.03 for interactions in both cohorts). The T allele of a coding SNP (rs1982073) was associated with a reduced risk of asthma exacerbations in Costa Rica (P = 0.009) and CAMP (P = 0.005). Dust mite exposure also significantly modified the effect of the A allele of the promoter SNP rs2241712 on asthma exacerbations in both cohorts.
Conclusions: SNPs in TGFB1 are associated with airway responsiveness and disease exacerbations in children with asthma. Moreover, dust mite exposure may modify the effect of TGFB1 SNPs on airway responsiveness and asthma exacerbations.
airway responsiveness; asthma; dust mite allergen; single nucleotide polymorphisms; transforming growth factor-β1
Rationale: Inhaled β-agonists are one of the most widely used classes of drugs for the treatment of asthma. However, a substantial proportion of patients with asthma do not have a favorable response to these drugs, and identifying genetic determinants of drug response may aid in tailoring treatment for individual patients.
Objectives: To screen variants in candidate genes in the steroid and β-adrenergic pathways for association with response to inhaled β-agonists.
Methods: We genotyped 844 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 111 candidate genes in 209 children and their parents participating in the Childhood Asthma Management Program. We screened the association of these SNPs with acute response to inhaled β-agonists (bronchodilator response [BDR]) using a novel algorithm implemented in a family-based association test that ranked SNPs in order of statistical power. Genes that had SNPs with median power in the highest quartile were then taken for replication analyses in three other asthma cohorts.
Measurements and Main Results: We identified 17 genes from the screening algorithm and genotyped 99 SNPs from these genes in a second population of patients with asthma. We then genotyped 63 SNPs from four genes with significant associations with BDR, for replication in a third and fourth population of patients with asthma. Evidence for association from the four asthma cohorts was combined, and SNPs from ARG1 were significantly associated with BDR. SNP rs2781659 survived Bonferroni correction for multiple testing (combined P value = 0.00048, adjusted P value = 0.047).
Conclusions: These findings identify ARG1 as a novel gene for acute BDR in both children and adults with asthma.
pharmacogenetics; asthma; bronchodilator agents
Glucocorticoid function is dependent on efficient translocation of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) from the cytoplasm to the nucleus of cells. Importin-13 (IPO13) is a nuclear transport receptor that mediates nuclear entry of GR. In airway epithelial cells, inhibition of IPO13 expression prevents nuclear entry of GR and abrogates anti-inflammatory effects of glucocorticoids. Impaired nuclear entry of GR has been documented in steroid-non-responsive asthmatics. We hypothesize that common IPO13 genetic variation influences the anti-inflammatory effects of inhaled corticosteroids for the treatment of asthma, as measured by change in methacholine airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR-PC20).
10 polymorphisms were evaluated in 654 children with mild-to-moderate asthma participating in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP), a clinical trial of inhaled anti-inflammatory medications (budesonide and nedocromil). Population-based association tests with repeated measures of PC20 were performed using mixed models and confirmed using family-based tests of association.
Among participants randomized to placebo or nedocromil, IPO13 polymorphisms were associated with improved PC20 (i.e. less AHR), with subjects harboring minor alleles demonstrating an average 1.51–2.17 fold increase in mean PC20 at 8-months post-randomization that persisted over four years of observation (p = 0.01–0.005). This improvement was similar to that among children treated with long-term inhaled corticosteroids. There was no additional improvement in PC20 by IPO13 variants among children treated with inhaled corticosteroids.
IPO13 variation is associated with improved AHR in asthmatic children. The degree of this improvement is similar to that observed with long-term inhaled corticosteroid treatment, suggesting that IPO13 variation may improve nuclear bioavailability of endogenous glucocorticoids.
Rationale: Replication of gene-disease associations has become a requirement in complex trait genetics.
Objectives: In studies of childhood asthma from two different ethnic groups, we attempted to replicate associations with five potential asthma susceptibility genes previously identified by positional cloning.
Methods: We analyzed two family-based samples ascertained through an asthmatic proband: 497 European-American children from the Childhood Asthma Management Program and 439 Hispanic children from the Central Valley of Costa Rica. We genotyped 98 linkage disequilibrium–tagging single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in five genes: ADAM33, DPP10, GPR154 (HUGO name: NPSR1), HLA-G, and the PHF11 locus (includes genes SETDB2 and RCBTB1). SNPs were tested for association with asthma and two intermediate phenotypes: airway hyperresponsiveness and total serum immunoglobulin E levels.
Measurements and Main Results: Despite differing ancestries, linkage disequilibrium patterns were similar in both cohorts. Of the five evaluated genes, SNP-level replication was found only for GPR154 (NPSR1). In this gene, three SNPs were associated with asthma in both cohorts, although the opposite alleles were associated in either study. Weak evidence for locus-level replication with asthma was found in the PHF11 locus, although there was no overlap in the associated SNP across the two cohorts. No consistent associations were observed for the three other genes.
Conclusions: These results provide some further support for the role of genetic variation in GPR154 (NPSR1) and PHF11 in asthma susceptibility and also highlight the challenges of replicating genetic associations in complex traits such as asthma, even for genes identified by linkage analysis.
bronchial hyperreactivity; immunoglobulin E; linkage disequilibrium; NPSR1; single-nucleotide polymorphism
A SNP upstream of the INSIG2 gene, rs7566605, was recently found to be associated with obesity as measured by body mass index (BMI) by Herbert and colleagues. The association between increased BMI and homozygosity for the minor allele was first observed in data from a genome-wide association scan of 86,604 SNPs in 923 related individuals from the Framingham Heart Study offspring cohort. The association was reproduced in four additional cohorts, but was not seen in a fifth cohort. To further assess the general reproducibility of this association, we genotyped rs7566605 in nine large cohorts from eight populations across multiple ethnicities (total n = 16,969). We tested this variant for association with BMI in each sample under a recessive model using family-based, population-based, and case-control designs. We observed a significant (p < 0.05) association in five cohorts but saw no association in three other cohorts. There was variability in the strength of association evidence across examination cycles in longitudinal data from unrelated individuals in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring cohort. A combined analysis revealed significant independent validation of this association in both unrelated (p = 0.046) and family-based (p = 0.004) samples. The estimated risk conferred by this allele is small, and could easily be masked by small sample size, population stratification, or other confounders. These validation studies suggest that the original association is less likely to be spurious, but the failure to observe an association in every data set suggests that the effect of SNP rs7566605 on BMI may be heterogeneous across population samples.
Obesity is an epidemic in the United States of America and developing world, portending an epidemic of related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. While diet and lifestyle contribute to obesity, half of the population variation in body mass index, a common measure of obesity, is determined by inherited factors. Many studies have reported that common sequence variants in genes are associated with an increased risk for obesity, yet most of these are not reproducible in other study cohorts, suggesting that some are false. Recently, Herbert et al. reported a slightly increased risk of obesity for people carrying two copies of the minor allele at a common variant near INSIG2. We present our attempts to further evaluate this potential association with obesity in additional populations. We find evidence of increased risk of obesity for people carrying two copies of the minor allele in five out of nine cohorts tested, using both family- and population-based testing. We indicate possible reasons for the varied results, with the hope of encouraging a combined analysis across study cohorts to more precisely define the effect of this INSIG2 gene variant.