register interest

Professor Andrew P Morris

Research Area: Bioinformatics & Stats (inc. Modelling and Computational Biology)
Technology Exchange: Statistical genetics
Scientific Themes: Genetics & Genomics
Keywords: statistical genetics, genetic epidemiology, methodological development and genome-wide association studies

The primary aim of my research is the development and evaluation of novel statistical methodology for the analysis of the “next-generation” of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of complex human traits.  My research considers common and rare genetic variation from diverse ethnic groups, interrogated through traditional GWAS genotyping arrays, supplemented by imputation, and via state-of-the-art whole-exome or whole-genome re-sequencing studies.  Currently, my research group are addressing three key challenges in attempting to identify genetic variation contributing to the “missing heritability” of complex traits:

  1. genome-wide analysis of rare variants, focussing on “burden testing” within genes, pathways, or other functional units;
  2. trans-ethnic meta-analysis of GWAS from multiple ancestry groups;
  3. fine-mapping of complex trait loci to localise the underlying causal variants.

The methodology developed by my research group is currently being applied to next-generation GWAS of a range of complex traits, with a focus on cutting edge studies investigating the genetic basis of type 2 diabetes, glycaemic traits, anthropometric measures, blood pressure, endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.

The findings of this research will contribute to evaluating the utility of next-generation GWAS of common and rare genetic variation for complex trait gene mapping, and will ultimately provide a more comprehensive view of the genetic architecture of common human diseases.

Name Department Institution Country
Professor Mark McCarthy Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics Oxford University, Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism United Kingdom
Professor Cecilia Lindgren Big Data Institute Oxford University, Henry Wellcome Building of Genomic Medicine United Kingdom
Professor Krina T Zondervan Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics Oxford University, Henry Wellcome Building of Genomic Medicine United Kingdom
Turcot V, Lu Y, Highland HM, Schurmann C, Justice AE, Fine RS, Bradfield JP, Esko T, Giri A, Graff M et al. 2018. Publisher Correction: Protein-altering variants associated with body mass index implicate pathways that control energy intake and expenditure in obesity. Nat Genet, 50 (5), pp. 765-766. | Show Abstract | Read more

In the published version of this paper, the name of author Emanuele Di Angelantonio was misspelled. This error has now been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the article.

Turcot V, Lu Y, Highland HM, Schurmann C, Justice AE, Fine RS, Bradfield JP, Esko T, Giri A, Graff M et al. 2018. Publisher Correction: Protein-altering variants associated with body mass index implicate pathways that control energy intake and expenditure in obesity. Nat Genet, 50 (5), pp. 766-767. | Show Abstract | Read more

In the version of this article originally published, one of the two authors with the name Wei Zhao was omitted from the author list and the affiliations for both authors were assigned to the single Wei Zhao in the author list. In addition, the ORCID for Wei Zhao (Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA) was incorrectly assigned to author Wei Zhou. The errors have been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the article.

Painter JN, O'Mara TA, Morris AP, Cheng THT, Gorman M, Martin L, Hodson S, Jones A, Martin NG, Gordon S et al. 2018. Genetic overlap between endometriosis and endometrial cancer: evidence from cross-disease genetic correlation and GWAS meta-analyses. Cancer Med, 7 (5), pp. 1978-1987. | Show Abstract | Read more

Epidemiological, biological, and molecular data suggest links between endometriosis and endometrial cancer, with recent epidemiological studies providing evidence for an association between a previous diagnosis of endometriosis and risk of endometrial cancer. We used genetic data as an alternative approach to investigate shared biological etiology of these two diseases. Genetic correlation analysis of summary level statistics from genomewide association studies (GWAS) using LD Score regression revealed moderate but significant genetic correlation (rg  = 0.23, P = 9.3 × 10-3 ), and SNP effect concordance analysis provided evidence for significant SNP pleiotropy (P = 6.0 × 10-3 ) and concordance in effect direction (P = 2.0 × 10-3 ) between the two diseases. Cross-disease GWAS meta-analysis highlighted 13 distinct loci associated at P ≤ 10-5 with both endometriosis and endometrial cancer, with one locus (SNP rs2475335) located within PTPRD associated at a genomewide significant level (P = 4.9 × 10-8 , OR = 1.11, 95% CI = 1.07-1.15). PTPRD acts in the STAT3 pathway, which has been implicated in both endometriosis and endometrial cancer. This study demonstrates the value of cross-disease genetic analysis to support epidemiological observations and to identify biological pathways of relevance to multiple diseases.

Mahajan A, Wessel J, Willems SM, Zhao W, Robertson NR, Chu AY, Gan W, Kitajima H, Taliun D, Rayner NW et al. 2018. Refining the accuracy of validated target identification through coding variant fine-mapping in type 2 diabetes. Nat Genet, 50 (4), pp. 559-571. | Show Abstract | Read more

We aggregated coding variant data for 81,412 type 2 diabetes cases and 370,832 controls of diverse ancestry, identifying 40 coding variant association signals (P < 2.2 × 10-7); of these, 16 map outside known risk-associated loci. We make two important observations. First, only five of these signals are driven by low-frequency variants: even for these, effect sizes are modest (odds ratio ≤1.29). Second, when we used large-scale genome-wide association data to fine-map the associated variants in their regional context, accounting for the global enrichment of complex trait associations in coding sequence, compelling evidence for coding variant causality was obtained for only 16 signals. At 13 others, the associated coding variants clearly represent 'false leads' with potential to generate erroneous mechanistic inference. Coding variant associations offer a direct route to biological insight for complex diseases and identification of validated therapeutic targets; however, appropriate mechanistic inference requires careful specification of their causal contribution to disease predisposition.

Small KS, Todorčević M, Civelek M, El-Sayed Moustafa JS, Wang X, Simon MM, Fernandez-Tajes J, Mahajan A, Horikoshi M, Hugill A et al. 2018. Regulatory variants at KLF14 influence type 2 diabetes risk via a female-specific effect on adipocyte size and body composition. Nat Genet, 50 (4), pp. 572-580. | Show Abstract | Read more

Individual risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) is modified by perturbations to the mass, distribution and function of adipose tissue. To investigate the mechanisms underlying these associations, we explored the molecular, cellular and whole-body effects of T2D-associated alleles near KLF14. We show that KLF14 diabetes-risk alleles act in adipose tissue to reduce KLF14 expression and modulate, in trans, the expression of 385 genes. We demonstrate, in human cellular studies, that reduced KLF14 expression increases pre-adipocyte proliferation but disrupts lipogenesis, and in mice, that adipose tissue-specific deletion of Klf14 partially recapitulates the human phenotype of insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and T2D. We show that carriers of the KLF14 T2D risk allele shift body fat from gynoid stores to abdominal stores and display a marked increase in adipocyte cell size, and that these effects on fat distribution, and the T2D association, are female specific. The metabolic risk associated with variation at this imprinted locus depends on the sex both of the subject and of the parent from whom the risk allele derives.

Jiang J, Thalamuthu A, Ho JE, Mahajan A, Ek WE, Brown DA, Breit SN, Wang TJ, Gyllensten U, Chen M-H et al. 2018. A Meta-Analysis of Genome-Wide Association Studies of Growth Differentiation Factor-15 Concentration in Blood. Front Genet, 9 (MAR), pp. 97. | Show Abstract | Read more

Blood levels of growth differentiation factor-15 (GDF-15), also known as macrophage inhibitory cytokine-1 (MIC-1), have been associated with various pathological processes and diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Prior studies suggest genetic factors play a role in regulating blood MIC-1/GDF-15 concentration. In the current study, we conducted the largest genome-wide association study (GWAS) to date using a sample of ∼5,400 community-based Caucasian participants, to determine the genetic variants associated with MIC-1/GDF-15 blood concentration. Conditional and joint (COJO), gene-based association, and gene-set enrichment analyses were also carried out to identify novel loci, genes, and pathways. Consistent with prior results, a locus on chromosome 19, which includes nine single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (top SNP, rs888663, p = 1.690 × 10-35), was significantly associated with blood MIC-1/GDF-15 concentration, and explained 21.47% of its variance. COJO analysis showed evidence for two independent signals within this locus. Gene-based analysis confirmed the chromosome 19 locus association and in addition, a putative locus on chromosome 1. Gene-set enrichment analyses showed that the"COPI-mediated anterograde transport" gene-set was associated with MIC-1/GDF15 blood concentration with marginal significance after FDR correction (p = 0.067). In conclusion, a locus on chromosome 19 was associated with MIC-1/GDF-15 blood concentration with genome-wide significance, with evidence for a new locus (chromosome 1). Future studies using independent cohorts are needed to confirm the observed associations especially for the chromosomes 1 locus, and to further investigate and identify the causal SNPs that contribute to MIC-1/GDF-15 levels.

Chen X, Gustafsson S, Whitington T, Borné Y, Lorentzen E, Sun J, Almgren P, Su J, Karlsson R, Song J et al. 2018. A genome-wide association study of IgM antibody against phosphorylcholine: shared genetics and phenotypic relationship to chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Hum Mol Genet, 27 (10), pp. 1809-1818. | Show Abstract | Read more

Phosphorylcholine (PC) is an epitope on oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL), apoptotic cells and several pathogens like Streptococcus pneumoniae. Immunoglobulin M against PC (IgM anti-PC) has the ability to inhibit uptake of oxLDL by macrophages and increase clearance of apoptotic cells. From our genome-wide association studies (GWASs) in four European-ancestry cohorts, six single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 11q24.1 were discovered (in 3002 individuals) and replicated (in 646 individuals) to be associated with serum level of IgM anti-PC (the leading SNP rs35923643-G, combined β = 0.19, 95% confidence interval 0.13-0.24, P = 4.3 × 10-11). The haplotype tagged by rs35923643-G (or its proxy SNP rs735665-A) is also known as the top risk allele for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and a main increasing allele for general IgM. By using summary GWAS results of IgM anti-PC and CLL in the polygenic risk score (PRS) analysis, PRS on the basis of IgM anti-PC risk alleles positively associated with CLL risk (explained 0.6% of CLL variance, P = 1.2 × 10-15). Functional prediction suggested that rs35923643-G might impede the binding of Runt-related transcription factor 3, a tumor suppressor playing a central role in the immune regulation of cancers. Contrary to the expectations from the shared genetics between IgM anti-PC and CLL, an inverse relationship at the phenotypic level was found in a nested case-control study (30 CLL cases with 90 age- and sex-matched controls), potentially reflecting reverse causation. The suggested function of the top variant as well as the phenotypic association between IgM anti-PC and CLL risk needs replication and motivates further studies.

Malik R, Chauhan G, Traylor M, Sargurupremraj M, Okada Y, Mishra A, Rutten-Jacobs L, Giese A-K, van der Laan SW, Gretarsdottir S et al. 2018. Multiancestry genome-wide association study of 520,000 subjects identifies 32 loci associated with stroke and stroke subtypes. Nat Genet, 50 (4), pp. 524-537. | Show Abstract | Read more

Stroke has multiple etiologies, but the underlying genes and pathways are largely unknown. We conducted a multiancestry genome-wide-association meta-analysis in 521,612 individuals (67,162 cases and 454,450 controls) and discovered 22 new stroke risk loci, bringing the total to 32. We further found shared genetic variation with related vascular traits, including blood pressure, cardiac traits, and venous thromboembolism, at individual loci (n = 18), and using genetic risk scores and linkage-disequilibrium-score regression. Several loci exhibited distinct association and pleiotropy patterns for etiological stroke subtypes. Eleven new susceptibility loci indicate mechanisms not previously implicated in stroke pathophysiology, with prioritization of risk variants and genes accomplished through bioinformatics analyses using extensive functional datasets. Stroke risk loci were significantly enriched in drug targets for antithrombotic therapy.

Sung YJ, Winkler TW, de Las Fuentes L, Bentley AR, Brown MR, Kraja AT, Schwander K, Ntalla I, Guo X, Franceschini N et al. 2018. A Large-Scale Multi-ancestry Genome-wide Study Accounting for Smoking Behavior Identifies Multiple Significant Loci for Blood Pressure. Am J Hum Genet, 102 (3), pp. 375-400. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome-wide association analysis advanced understanding of blood pressure (BP), a major risk factor for vascular conditions such as coronary heart disease and stroke. Accounting for smoking behavior may help identify BP loci and extend our knowledge of its genetic architecture. We performed genome-wide association meta-analyses of systolic and diastolic BP incorporating gene-smoking interactions in 610,091 individuals. Stage 1 analysis examined ∼18.8 million SNPs and small insertion/deletion variants in 129,913 individuals from four ancestries (European, African, Asian, and Hispanic) with follow-up analysis of promising variants in 480,178 additional individuals from five ancestries. We identified 15 loci that were genome-wide significant (p < 5 × 10-8) in stage 1 and formally replicated in stage 2. A combined stage 1 and 2 meta-analysis identified 66 additional genome-wide significant loci (13, 35, and 18 loci in European, African, and trans-ancestry, respectively). A total of 56 known BP loci were also identified by our results (p < 5 × 10-8). Of the newly identified loci, ten showed significant interaction with smoking status, but none of them were replicated in stage 2. Several loci were identified in African ancestry, highlighting the importance of genetic studies in diverse populations. The identified loci show strong evidence for regulatory features and support shared pathophysiology with cardiometabolic and addiction traits. They also highlight a role in BP regulation for biological candidates such as modulators of vascular structure and function (CDKN1B, BCAR1-CFDP1, PXDN, EEA1), ciliopathies (SDCCAG8, RPGRIP1L), telomere maintenance (TNKS, PINX1, AKTIP), and central dopaminergic signaling (MSRA, EBF2).

Flannick J, Fuchsberger C, Mahajan A, Teslovich TM, Agarwala V, Gaulton KJ, Caulkins L, Koesterer R, Ma C, Moutsianas L et al. 2018. Erratum: Sequence data and association statistics from 12,940 type 2 diabetes cases and controls. Sci Data, 5 pp. 180002. | Show Abstract | Read more

This corrects the article DOI: 10.1038/sdata.2017.179.

Jun G, Manning A, Almeida M, Zawistowski M, Wood AR, Teslovich TM, Fuchsberger C, Feng S, Cingolani P, Gaulton KJ et al. 2018. Evaluating the contribution of rare variants to type 2 diabetes and related traits using pedigrees. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 115 (2), pp. 379-384. | Show Abstract | Read more

A major challenge in evaluating the contribution of rare variants to complex disease is identifying enough copies of the rare alleles to permit informative statistical analysis. To investigate the contribution of rare variants to the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and related traits, we performed deep whole-genome analysis of 1,034 members of 20 large Mexican-American families with high prevalence of T2D. If rare variants of large effect accounted for much of the diabetes risk in these families, our experiment was powered to detect association. Using gene expression data on 21,677 transcripts for 643 pedigree members, we identified evidence for large-effect rare-variant cis-expression quantitative trait loci that could not be detected in population studies, validating our approach. However, we did not identify any rare variants of large effect associated with T2D, or the related traits of fasting glucose and insulin, suggesting that large-effect rare variants account for only a modest fraction of the genetic risk of these traits in this sample of families. Reliable identification of large-effect rare variants will require larger samples of extended pedigrees or different study designs that further enrich for such variants.

Turcot V, Lu Y, Highland HM, Schurmann C, Justice AE, Fine RS, Bradfield JP, Esko T, Giri A, Graff M et al. 2018. Protein-altering variants associated with body mass index implicate pathways that control energy intake and expenditure in obesity. Nat Genet, 50 (1), pp. 26-41. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified >250 loci for body mass index (BMI), implicating pathways related to neuronal biology. Most GWAS loci represent clusters of common, noncoding variants from which pinpointing causal genes remains challenging. Here we combined data from 718,734 individuals to discover rare and low-frequency (minor allele frequency (MAF) < 5%) coding variants associated with BMI. We identified 14 coding variants in 13 genes, of which 8 variants were in genes (ZBTB7B, ACHE, RAPGEF3, RAB21, ZFHX3, ENTPD6, ZFR2 and ZNF169) newly implicated in human obesity, 2 variants were in genes (MC4R and KSR2) previously observed to be mutated in extreme obesity and 2 variants were in GIPR. The effect sizes of rare variants are ~10 times larger than those of common variants, with the largest effect observed in carriers of an MC4R mutation introducing a stop codon (p.Tyr35Ter, MAF = 0.01%), who weighed ~7 kg more than non-carriers. Pathway analyses based on the variants associated with BMI confirm enrichment of neuronal genes and provide new evidence for adipocyte and energy expenditure biology, widening the potential of genetically supported therapeutic targets in obesity.

Flannick J, Fuchsberger C, Mahajan A, Teslovich TM, Agarwala V, Gaulton KJ, Caulkins L, Koesterer R, Ma C, Moutsianas L et al. 2017. Sequence data and association statistics from 12,940 type 2 diabetes cases and controls. Sci Data, 4 pp. 170179. | Show Abstract | Read more

To investigate the genetic basis of type 2 diabetes (T2D) to high resolution, the GoT2D and T2D-GENES consortia catalogued variation from whole-genome sequencing of 2,657 European individuals and exome sequencing of 12,940 individuals of multiple ancestries. Over 27M SNPs, indels, and structural variants were identified, including 99% of low-frequency (minor allele frequency [MAF] 0.1-5%) non-coding variants in the whole-genome sequenced individuals and 99.7% of low-frequency coding variants in the whole-exome sequenced individuals. Each variant was tested for association with T2D in the sequenced individuals, and, to increase power, most were tested in larger numbers of individuals (>80% of low-frequency coding variants in ~82 K Europeans via the exome chip, and ~90% of low-frequency non-coding variants in ~44 K Europeans via genotype imputation). The variants, genotypes, and association statistics from these analyses provide the largest reference to date of human genetic information relevant to T2D, for use in activities such as T2D-focused genotype imputation, functional characterization of variants or genes, and other novel analyses to detect associations between sequence variation and T2D.

Liu DJ, Peloso GM, Yu H, Butterworth AS, Wang X, Mahajan A, Saleheen D, Emdin C, Alam D, Alves AC et al. 2017. Exome-wide association study of plasma lipids in >300,000 individuals. Nat Genet, 49 (12), pp. 1758-1766. | Show Abstract | Read more

We screened variants on an exome-focused genotyping array in >300,000 participants (replication in >280,000 participants) and identified 444 independent variants in 250 loci significantly associated with total cholesterol (TC), high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and/or triglycerides (TG). At two loci (JAK2 and A1CF), experimental analysis in mice showed lipid changes consistent with the human data. We also found that: (i) beta-thalassemia trait carriers displayed lower TC and were protected from coronary artery disease (CAD); (ii) excluding the CETP locus, there was not a predictable relationship between plasma HDL-C and risk for age-related macular degeneration; (iii) only some mechanisms of lowering LDL-C appeared to increase risk for type 2 diabetes (T2D); and (iv) TG-lowering alleles involved in hepatic production of TG-rich lipoproteins (TM6SF2 and PNPLA3) tracked with higher liver fat, higher risk for T2D, and lower risk for CAD, whereas TG-lowering alleles involved in peripheral lipolysis (LPL and ANGPTL4) had no effect on liver fat but decreased risks for both T2D and CAD.

Zillikens MC, Demissie S, Hsu Y-H, Yerges-Armstrong LM, Chou W-C, Stolk L, Livshits G, Broer L, Johnson T, Koller DL et al. 2017. Erratum: Large meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies identifies five loci for lean body mass. Nat Commun, 8 (1), pp. 1414. | Show Abstract | Read more

A correction to this article has been published and is linked from the HTML version of this article.

Scott RA, Scott LJ, Mägi R, Marullo L, Gaulton KJ, Kaakinen M, Pervjakova N, Pers TH, Johnson AD, Eicher JD et al. 2017. An Expanded Genome-Wide Association Study of Type 2 Diabetes in Europeans. Diabetes, 66 (11), pp. 2888-2902. | Show Abstract | Read more

To characterize type 2 diabetes (T2D)-associated variation across the allele frequency spectrum, we conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association data from 26,676 T2D case and 132,532 control subjects of European ancestry after imputation using the 1000 Genomes multiethnic reference panel. Promising association signals were followed up in additional data sets (of 14,545 or 7,397 T2D case and 38,994 or 71,604 control subjects). We identified 13 novel T2D-associated loci (P < 5 × 10-8), including variants near the GLP2R, GIP, and HLA-DQA1 genes. Our analysis brought the total number of independent T2D associations to 128 distinct signals at 113 loci. Despite substantially increased sample size and more complete coverage of low-frequency variation, all novel associations were driven by common single nucleotide variants. Credible sets of potentially causal variants were generally larger than those based on imputation with earlier reference panels, consistent with resolution of causal signals to common risk haplotypes. Stratification of T2D-associated loci based on T2D-related quantitative trait associations revealed tissue-specific enrichment of regulatory annotations in pancreatic islet enhancers for loci influencing insulin secretion and in adipocytes, monocytes, and hepatocytes for insulin action-associated loci. These findings highlight the predominant role played by common variants of modest effect and the diversity of biological mechanisms influencing T2D pathophysiology.

Strawbridge RJ, Silveira A, Hoed MD, Gustafsson S, Luan J, Rybin D, Dupuis J, Li-Gao R, Kavousi M, Dehghan A et al. 2017. Identification of a novel proinsulin-associated SNP and demonstration that proinsulin is unlikely to be a causal factor in subclinical vascular remodelling using Mendelian randomisation. Atherosclerosis, 266 pp. 196-204. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Increased proinsulin relative to insulin levels have been associated with subclinical atherosclerosis (measured by carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT)) and are predictive of future cardiovascular disease (CVD), independently of established risk factors. The mechanisms linking proinsulin to atherosclerosis and CVD are unclear. A genome-wide meta-analysis has identified nine loci associated with circulating proinsulin levels. Using proinsulin-associated SNPs, we set out to use a Mendelian randomisation approach to test the hypothesis that proinsulin plays a causal role in subclinical vascular remodelling. METHODS: We studied the high CVD-risk IMPROVE cohort (n = 3345), which has detailed biochemical phenotyping and repeated, state-of-the-art, high-resolution carotid ultrasound examinations. Genotyping was performed using Illumina Cardio-Metabo and Immuno arrays, which include reported proinsulin-associated loci. Participants with type 2 diabetes (n = 904) were omitted from the analysis. Linear regression was used to identify proinsulin-associated genetic variants. RESULTS: We identified a proinsulin locus on chromosome 15 (rs8029765) and replicated it in data from 20,003 additional individuals. An 11-SNP score, including the previously identified and the chromosome 15 proinsulin-associated loci, was significantly and negatively associated with baseline IMTmean and IMTmax (the primary cIMT phenotypes) but not with progression measures. However, MR-Eggers refuted any significant effect of the proinsulin-associated 11-SNP score, and a non-pleiotropic SNP score of three variants (including rs8029765) demonstrated no effect on baseline or progression cIMT measures. CONCLUSIONS: We identified a novel proinsulin-associated locus and demonstrated that whilst proinsulin levels are associated with cIMT measures, proinsulin per se is unlikely to have a causative effect on cIMT.

Rahmioglu N, Drong AW, Lockstone H, Tapmeier T, Hellner K, Saare M, Laisk-Podar T, Dew C, Tough E, Nicholson G et al. 2017. Variability of genome-wide DNA methylation and mRNA expression profiles in reproductive and endocrine disease related tissues. Epigenetics, 12 (10), pp. 897-908. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome-wide association studies in the fields of reproductive medicine and endocrinology are yielding robust genetic variants associated with disease. Integrated genomic, transcriptomic, and epigenomic molecular profiling studies are common methodologies used to understand the biologic pathways perturbed by these variants. However, molecular profiling resources do not include the tissue most relevant to many female reproductive traits, the endometrium, while the parameters influencing variability of results from its molecular profiling are unclear. We investigated the sources of DNA methylation and RNA expression profile variability in endometrium (n = 135), endometriotic disease tissue (endometriosis), and subcutaneous abdominal fat samples from 24 women, quantifying between-individual, within-tissue (cellular heterogeneity), and technical variation. DNA samples (n = 96) were analyzed using Illumina HumanMethlylation450 BeadChip arrays; RNA samples (n = 39) were analyzed using H12-expression arrays. Variance-component analyses showed that, for the top 10-50% variable DNA methylation/RNA expression sites, between-individual variation far exceeded within-tissue and technical variation. Menstrual-phase accounted for most variability in methylation/expression patterns in endometrium (Pm = 7.8 × 10-3, Pe = 8.4 × 10-5) but not in fat and endometriotic tissue; age was significantly associated with DNA methylation profile of endometrium (Pm = 9 × 10-5) and endometriotic disease tissue (Pm = 2.4 × 10-5); and smoking was significantly associated with DNA methylation in adipose tissue (Pm = 1.8 × 10-3). Hierarchical cluster analysis showed significantly different methylation signatures between endometrium and endometriotic tissue enriched for WNT signaling, angiogenesis, cadherin signaling, and gonadotropin-releasing-hormone-receptor pathways. Differential DNA methylation/expression analyses suggested detection of a limited number of sites with large fold changes (FC > 4), but power calculations accounting for different sources of variability showed that for robust detection >500 tissue samples are required. These results enable appropriate study design for large-scale expression and methylation tissue-based profiling relevant to many reproductive and endocrine traits.

Kraja AT, Cook JP, Warren HR, Surendran P, Liu C, Evangelou E, Manning AK, Grarup N, Drenos F, Sim X et al. 2017. New Blood Pressure-Associated Loci Identified in Meta-Analyses of 475 000 Individuals. Circ Cardiovasc Genet, 10 (5), | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Genome-wide association studies have recently identified >400 loci that harbor DNA sequence variants that influence blood pressure (BP). Our earlier studies identified and validated 56 single nucleotide variants (SNVs) associated with BP from meta-analyses of exome chip genotype data. An additional 100 variants yielded suggestive evidence of association. METHODS AND RESULTS: Here, we augment the sample with 140 886 European individuals from the UK Biobank, in whom 77 of the 100 suggestive SNVs were available for association analysis with systolic BP or diastolic BP or pulse pressure. We performed 2 meta-analyses, one in individuals of European, South Asian, African, and Hispanic descent (pan-ancestry, ≈475 000), and the other in the subset of individuals of European descent (≈423 000). Twenty-one SNVs were genome-wide significant (P<5×10-8) for BP, of which 4 are new BP loci: rs9678851 (missense, SLC4A1AP), rs7437940 (AFAP1), rs13303 (missense, STAB1), and rs1055144 (7p15.2). In addition, we identified a potentially independent novel BP-associated SNV, rs3416322 (missense, SYNPO2L) at a known locus, uncorrelated with the previously reported SNVs. Two SNVs are associated with expression levels of nearby genes, and SNVs at 3 loci are associated with other traits. One SNV with a minor allele frequency <0.01, (rs3025380 at DBH) was genome-wide significant. CONCLUSIONS: We report 4 novel loci associated with BP regulation, and 1 independent variant at an established BP locus. This analysis highlights several candidate genes with variation that alter protein function or gene expression for potential follow-up.

Wheeler E, Leong A, Liu C-T, Hivert M-F, Strawbridge RJ, Podmore C, Li M, Yao J, Sim X, Hong J et al. 2017. Impact of common genetic determinants of Hemoglobin A1c on type 2 diabetes risk and diagnosis in ancestrally diverse populations: A transethnic genome-wide meta-analysis. PLoS Med, 14 (9), pp. e1002383. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) is used to diagnose type 2 diabetes (T2D) and assess glycemic control in patients with diabetes. Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified 18 HbA1c-associated genetic variants. These variants proved to be classifiable by their likely biological action as erythrocytic (also associated with erythrocyte traits) or glycemic (associated with other glucose-related traits). In this study, we tested the hypotheses that, in a very large scale GWAS, we would identify more genetic variants associated with HbA1c and that HbA1c variants implicated in erythrocytic biology would affect the diagnostic accuracy of HbA1c. We therefore expanded the number of HbA1c-associated loci and tested the effect of genetic risk-scores comprised of erythrocytic or glycemic variants on incident diabetes prediction and on prevalent diabetes screening performance. Throughout this multiancestry study, we kept a focus on interancestry differences in HbA1c genetics performance that might influence race-ancestry differences in health outcomes. METHODS & FINDINGS: Using genome-wide association meta-analyses in up to 159,940 individuals from 82 cohorts of European, African, East Asian, and South Asian ancestry, we identified 60 common genetic variants associated with HbA1c. We classified variants as implicated in glycemic, erythrocytic, or unclassified biology and tested whether additive genetic scores of erythrocytic variants (GS-E) or glycemic variants (GS-G) were associated with higher T2D incidence in multiethnic longitudinal cohorts (N = 33,241). Nineteen glycemic and 22 erythrocytic variants were associated with HbA1c at genome-wide significance. GS-G was associated with higher T2D risk (incidence OR = 1.05, 95% CI 1.04-1.06, per HbA1c-raising allele, p = 3 × 10-29); whereas GS-E was not (OR = 1.00, 95% CI 0.99-1.01, p = 0.60). In Europeans and Asians, erythrocytic variants in aggregate had only modest effects on the diagnostic accuracy of HbA1c. Yet, in African Americans, the X-linked G6PD G202A variant (T-allele frequency 11%) was associated with an absolute decrease in HbA1c of 0.81%-units (95% CI 0.66-0.96) per allele in hemizygous men, and 0.68%-units (95% CI 0.38-0.97) in homozygous women. The G6PD variant may cause approximately 2% (N = 0.65 million, 95% CI 0.55-0.74) of African American adults with T2D to remain undiagnosed when screened with HbA1c. Limitations include the smaller sample sizes for non-European ancestries and the inability to classify approximately one-third of the variants. Further studies in large multiethnic cohorts with HbA1c, glycemic, and erythrocytic traits are required to better determine the biological action of the unclassified variants. CONCLUSIONS: As G6PD deficiency can be clinically silent until illness strikes, we recommend investigation of the possible benefits of screening for the G6PD genotype along with using HbA1c to diagnose T2D in populations of African ancestry or groups where G6PD deficiency is common. Screening with direct glucose measurements, or genetically-informed HbA1c diagnostic thresholds in people with G6PD deficiency, may be required to avoid missed or delayed diagnoses.

Mägi R, Horikoshi M, Sofer T, Mahajan A, Kitajima H, Franceschini N, McCarthy MI, COGENT-Kidney Consortium, T2D-GENES Consortium, Morris AP. 2017. Trans-ethnic meta-regression of genome-wide association studies accounting for ancestry increases power for discovery and improves fine-mapping resolution. Hum Mol Genet, 26 (18), pp. 3639-3650. | Show Abstract | Read more

Trans-ethnic meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) across diverse populations can increase power to detect complex trait loci when the underlying causal variants are shared between ancestry groups. However, heterogeneity in allelic effects between GWAS at these loci can occur that is correlated with ancestry. Here, a novel approach is presented to detect SNP association and quantify the extent of heterogeneity in allelic effects that is correlated with ancestry. We employ trans-ethnic meta-regression to model allelic effects as a function of axes of genetic variation, derived from a matrix of mean pairwise allele frequency differences between GWAS, and implemented in the MR-MEGA software. Through detailed simulations, we demonstrate increased power to detect association for MR-MEGA over fixed- and random-effects meta-analysis across a range of scenarios of heterogeneity in allelic effects between ethnic groups. We also demonstrate improved fine-mapping resolution, in loci containing a single causal variant, compared to these meta-analysis approaches and PAINTOR, and equivalent performance to MANTRA at reduced computational cost. Application of MR-MEGA to trans-ethnic GWAS of kidney function in 71,461 individuals indicates stronger signals of association than fixed-effects meta-analysis when heterogeneity in allelic effects is correlated with ancestry. Application of MR-MEGA to fine-mapping four type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci in 22,086 cases and 42,539 controls highlights: (i) strong evidence for heterogeneity in allelic effects that is correlated with ancestry only at the index SNP for the association signal at the CDKAL1 locus; and (ii) 99% credible sets with six or fewer variants for five distinct association signals.

Wain LV, Vaez A, Jansen R, Joehanes R, van der Most PJ, Erzurumluoglu AM, O'Reilly PF, Cabrera CP, Warren HR, Rose LM et al. 2017. Novel Blood Pressure Locus and Gene Discovery Using Genome-Wide Association Study and Expression Data Sets From Blood and the Kidney. Hypertension, 70 (3), pp. E4-+. | Show Abstract | Read more

Elevated blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and has a substantial genetic contribution. Genetic variation influencing blood pressure has the potential to identify new pharmacological targets for the treatment of hypertension. To discover additional novel blood pressure loci, we used 1000 Genomes Project-based imputation in 150 134 European ancestry individuals and sought significant evidence for independent replication in a further 228 245 individuals. We report 6 new signals of association in or near HSPB7, TNXB, LRP12, LOC283335, SEPT9, and AKT2, and provide new replication evidence for a further 2 signals in EBF2 and NFKBIA Combining large whole-blood gene expression resources totaling 12 607 individuals, we investigated all novel and previously reported signals and identified 48 genes with evidence for involvement in blood pressure regulation that are significant in multiple resources. Three novel kidney-specific signals were also detected. These robustly implicated genes may provide new leads for therapeutic innovation.

Zillikens MC, Demissie S, Hsu Y-H, Yerges-Armstrong LM, Chou W-C, Stolk L, Livshits G, Broer L, Johnson T, Koller DL et al. 2017. Large meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies identifies five loci for lean body mass. Nat Commun, 8 (1), pp. 80. | Show Abstract | Read more

Lean body mass, consisting mostly of skeletal muscle, is important for healthy aging. We performed a genome-wide association study for whole body (20 cohorts of European ancestry with n = 38,292) and appendicular (arms and legs) lean body mass (n = 28,330) measured using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry or bioelectrical impedance analysis, adjusted for sex, age, height, and fat mass. Twenty-one single-nucleotide polymorphisms were significantly associated with lean body mass either genome wide (p < 5 × 10-8) or suggestively genome wide (p < 2.3 × 10-6). Replication in 63,475 (47,227 of European ancestry) individuals from 33 cohorts for whole body lean body mass and in 45,090 (42,360 of European ancestry) subjects from 25 cohorts for appendicular lean body mass was successful for five single-nucleotide polymorphisms in/near HSD17B11, VCAN, ADAMTSL3, IRS1, and FTO for total lean body mass and for three single-nucleotide polymorphisms in/near VCAN, ADAMTSL3, and IRS1 for appendicular lean body mass. Our findings provide new insight into the genetics of lean body mass.Lean body mass is a highly heritable trait and is associated with various health conditions. Here, Kiel and colleagues perform a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies for whole body lean body mass and find five novel genetic loci to be significantly associated.

Nolte IM, Munoz ML, Tragante V, Amare AT, Jansen R, Vaez A, von der Heyde B, Avery CL, Bis JC, Dierckx B et al. 2017. Genetic loci associated with heart rate variability and their effects on cardiac disease risk. Nat Commun, 8 pp. 15805. | Show Abstract | Read more

Reduced cardiac vagal control reflected in low heart rate variability (HRV) is associated with greater risks for cardiac morbidity and mortality. In two-stage meta-analyses of genome-wide association studies for three HRV traits in up to 53,174 individuals of European ancestry, we detect 17 genome-wide significant SNPs in eight loci. HRV SNPs tag non-synonymous SNPs (in NDUFA11 and KIAA1755), expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) (influencing GNG11, RGS6 and NEO1), or are located in genes preferentially expressed in the sinoatrial node (GNG11, RGS6 and HCN4). Genetic risk scores account for 0.9 to 2.6% of the HRV variance. Significant genetic correlation is found for HRV with heart rate (-0.74<rg<-0.55) and blood pressure (-0.35<rg<-0.20). These findings provide clinically relevant biological insight into heritable variation in vagal heart rhythm regulation, with a key role for genetic variants (GNG11, RGS6) that influence G-protein heterotrimer action in GIRK-channel induced pacemaker membrane hyperpolarization.

Shungin D, Deng WQ, Varga TV, Luan J, Mihailov E, Metspalu A, GIANT Consortium, Morris AP, Forouhi NG, Lindgren C et al. 2017. Ranking and characterization of established BMI and lipid associated loci as candidates for gene-environment interactions. PLoS Genet, 13 (6), pp. e1006812. | Show Abstract | Read more

Phenotypic variance heterogeneity across genotypes at a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) may reflect underlying gene-environment (G×E) or gene-gene interactions. We modeled variance heterogeneity for blood lipids and BMI in up to 44,211 participants and investigated relationships between variance effects (Pv), G×E interaction effects (with smoking and physical activity), and marginal genetic effects (Pm). Correlations between Pv and Pm were stronger for SNPs with established marginal effects (Spearman's ρ = 0.401 for triglycerides, and ρ = 0.236 for BMI) compared to all SNPs. When Pv and Pm were compared for all pruned SNPs, only BMI was statistically significant (Spearman's ρ = 0.010). Overall, SNPs with established marginal effects were overrepresented in the nominally significant part of the Pv distribution (Pbinomial <0.05). SNPs from the top 1% of the Pm distribution for BMI had more significant Pv values (PMann-Whitney = 1.46×10-5), and the odds ratio of SNPs with nominally significant (<0.05) Pm and Pv was 1.33 (95% CI: 1.12, 1.57) for BMI. Moreover, BMI SNPs with nominally significant G×E interaction P-values (Pint<0.05) were enriched with nominally significant Pv values (Pbinomial = 8.63×10-9 and 8.52×10-7 for SNP × smoking and SNP × physical activity, respectively). We conclude that some loci with strong marginal effects may be good candidates for G×E, and variance-based prioritization can be used to identify them.

Christophersen IE, Rienstra M, Roselli C, Yin X, Geelhoed B, Barnard J, Lin H, Arking DE, Smith AV, Albert CM et al. 2017. Large-scale analyses of common and rare variants identify 12 new loci associated with atrial fibrillation. Nat Genet, 49 (6), pp. 946-952. | Show Abstract | Read more

Atrial fibrillation affects more than 33 million people worldwide and increases the risk of stroke, heart failure, and death. Fourteen genetic loci have been associated with atrial fibrillation in European and Asian ancestry groups. To further define the genetic basis of atrial fibrillation, we performed large-scale, trans-ancestry meta-analyses of common and rare variant association studies. The genome-wide association studies (GWAS) included 17,931 individuals with atrial fibrillation and 115,142 referents; the exome-wide association studies (ExWAS) and rare variant association studies (RVAS) involved 22,346 cases and 132,086 referents. We identified 12 new genetic loci that exceeded genome-wide significance, implicating genes involved in cardiac electrical and structural remodeling. Our results nearly double the number of known genetic loci for atrial fibrillation, provide insights into the molecular basis of atrial fibrillation, and may facilitate the identification of new potential targets for drug discovery.

Tachmazidou I, Süveges D, Min JL, Ritchie GRS, Steinberg J, Walter K, Iotchkova V, Schwartzentruber J, Huang J, Memari Y et al. 2017. Whole-Genome Sequencing Coupled to Imputation Discovers Genetic Signals for Anthropometric Traits. Am J Hum Genet, 100 (6), pp. 865-884. | Show Abstract | Read more

Deep sequence-based imputation can enhance the discovery power of genome-wide association studies by assessing previously unexplored variation across the common- and low-frequency spectra. We applied a hybrid whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and deep imputation approach to examine the broader allelic architecture of 12 anthropometric traits associated with height, body mass, and fat distribution in up to 267,616 individuals. We report 106 genome-wide significant signals that have not been previously identified, including 9 low-frequency variants pointing to functional candidates. Of the 106 signals, 6 are in genomic regions that have not been implicated with related traits before, 28 are independent signals at previously reported regions, and 72 represent previously reported signals for a different anthropometric trait. 71% of signals reside within genes and fine mapping resolves 23 signals to one or two likely causal variants. We confirm genetic overlap between human monogenic and polygenic anthropometric traits and find signal enrichment in cis expression QTLs in relevant tissues. Our results highlight the potential of WGS strategies to enhance biologically relevant discoveries across the frequency spectrum.

Sapkota Y, Steinthorsdottir V, Morris AP, Fassbender A, Rahmioglu N, De Vivo I, Buring JE, Zhang F, Edwards TL, Jones S et al. 2017. Meta-analysis identifies five novel loci associated with endometriosis highlighting key genes involved in hormone metabolism. Nat Commun, 8 pp. 15539. | Show Abstract | Read more

Endometriosis is a heritable hormone-dependent gynecological disorder, associated with severe pelvic pain and reduced fertility; however, its molecular mechanisms remain largely unknown. Here we perform a meta-analysis of 11 genome-wide association case-control data sets, totalling 17,045 endometriosis cases and 191,596 controls. In addition to replicating previously reported loci, we identify five novel loci significantly associated with endometriosis risk (P<5 × 10-8), implicating genes involved in sex steroid hormone pathways (FN1, CCDC170, ESR1, SYNE1 and FSHB). Conditional analysis identified five secondary association signals, including two at the ESR1 locus, resulting in 19 independent single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) robustly associated with endometriosis, which together explain up to 5.19% of variance in endometriosis. These results highlight novel variants in or near specific genes with important roles in sex steroid hormone signalling and function, and offer unique opportunities for more targeted functional research efforts.

Windholz J, Kovacs P, Schlicke M, Franke C, Mahajan A, Morris AP, Lemke JR, Klammt J, Kiess W, Schöneberg T et al. 2017. Copy number variations in "classical" obesity candidate genes are not frequently associated with severe early-onset obesity in children. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab, 30 (5), pp. 507-515. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Obesity is genetically heterogeneous and highly heritable, although polymorphisms explain the phenotype in only a small proportion of obese children. We investigated the presence of copy number variations (CNVs) in "classical" genes known to be associated with (monogenic) early-onset obesity in children. METHODS: In 194 obese Caucasian children selected for early-onset and severe obesity from our obesity cohort we screened for deletions and/or duplications by multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification reaction (MLPA). As we found one MLPA probe to interfere with a polymorphism in SIM1 we investigated its association with obesity and other phenotypic traits in our extended cohort of 2305 children. RESULTS: In the selected subset of most severely obese children, we did not find CNV with MLPA in POMC, LEP, LEPR, MC4R, MC3R or MC2R genes. However, one SIM1 probe located at exon 9 gave signals suggestive for SIM1 insufficiency in 52 patients. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis identified this as a false positive result due to interference with single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs3734354/rs3734355. We, therefore, investigated for associations of this polymorphism with obesity and metabolic traits in our extended cohort. We found rs3734354/rs3734355 to be associated with body mass index-standard deviation score (BMI-SDS) (p = 0.003), but not with parameters of insulin metabolism, blood pressure or food intake. CONCLUSIONS: In our modest sample of severely obese children, we were unable to find CNVs in well-established monogenic obesity genes. Nevertheless, we found an association of rs3734354 in SIM1 with obesity of early-onset type in children, although not with obesity-related traits.

Wild PS, Felix JF, Schillert A, Teumer A, Chen M-H, Leening MJG, Völker U, Großmann V, Brody JA, Irvin MR et al. 2017. Large-scale genome-wide analysis identifies genetic variants associated with cardiac structure and function. J Clin Invest, 127 (5), pp. 1798-1812. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Understanding the genetic architecture of cardiac structure and function may help to prevent and treat heart disease. This investigation sought to identify common genetic variations associated with inter-individual variability in cardiac structure and function. METHODS: A GWAS meta-analysis of echocardiographic traits was performed, including 46,533 individuals from 30 studies (EchoGen consortium). The analysis included 16 traits of left ventricular (LV) structure, and systolic and diastolic function. RESULTS: The discovery analysis included 21 cohorts for structural and systolic function traits (n = 32,212) and 17 cohorts for diastolic function traits (n = 21,852). Replication was performed in 5 cohorts (n = 14,321) and 6 cohorts (n = 16,308), respectively. Besides 5 previously reported loci, the combined meta-analysis identified 10 additional genome-wide significant SNPs: rs12541595 near MTSS1 and rs10774625 in ATXN2 for LV end-diastolic internal dimension; rs806322 near KCNRG, rs4765663 in CACNA1C, rs6702619 near PALMD, rs7127129 in TMEM16A, rs11207426 near FGGY, rs17608766 in GOSR2, and rs17696696 in CFDP1 for aortic root diameter; and rs12440869 in IQCH for Doppler transmitral A-wave peak velocity. Findings were in part validated in other cohorts and in GWAS of related disease traits. The genetic loci showed associations with putative signaling pathways, and with gene expression in whole blood, monocytes, and myocardial tissue. CONCLUSION: The additional genetic loci identified in this large meta-analysis of cardiac structure and function provide insights into the underlying genetic architecture of cardiac structure and warrant follow-up in future functional studies. FUNDING: For detailed information per study, see Acknowledgments.

Justice AE, Winkler TW, Feitosa MF, Graff M, Fisher VA, Young K, Barata L, Deng X, Czajkowski J, Hadley D et al. 2017. Genome-wide meta-analysis of 241,258 adults accounting for smoking behaviour identifies novel loci for obesity traits. Nat Commun, 8 pp. 14977. | Show Abstract | Read more

Few genome-wide association studies (GWAS) account for environmental exposures, like smoking, potentially impacting the overall trait variance when investigating the genetic contribution to obesity-related traits. Here, we use GWAS data from 51,080 current smokers and 190,178 nonsmokers (87% European descent) to identify loci influencing BMI and central adiposity, measured as waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio both adjusted for BMI. We identify 23 novel genetic loci, and 9 loci with convincing evidence of gene-smoking interaction (GxSMK) on obesity-related traits. We show consistent direction of effect for all identified loci and significance for 18 novel and for 5 interaction loci in an independent study sample. These loci highlight novel biological functions, including response to oxidative stress, addictive behaviour, and regulatory functions emphasizing the importance of accounting for environment in genetic analyses. Our results suggest that tobacco smoking may alter the genetic susceptibility to overall adiposity and body fat distribution.

Uimari O, Rahmioglu N, Nyholt DR, Vincent K, Missmer SA, Becker C, Morris AP, Montgomery GW, Zondervan KT. 2017. Genome-wide genetic analyses highlight mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling in the pathogenesis of endometriosis. Hum Reprod, 32 (4), pp. 780-793. | Show Abstract | Read more

Study question: Do genome-wide association study (GWAS) data for endometriosis provide insight into novel biological pathways associated with its pathogenesis? Summary answer: GWAS analysis uncovered multiple pathways that are statistically enriched for genetic association signals, analysis of Stage A disease highlighted a novel variant in MAP3K4, while top pathways significantly associated with all endometriosis and Stage A disease included several mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-related pathways. What is known already: Endometriosis is a complex disease with an estimated heritability of 50%. To date, GWAS revealed 10 genomic regions associated with endometriosis, explaining <4% of heritability, while half of the heritability is estimated to be due to common risk variants. Pathway analyses combine the evidence of single variants into gene-based measures, leveraging the aggregate effect of variants in genes and uncovering biological pathways involved in disease pathogenesis. Study design size, duration: Pathway analysis was conducted utilizing the International Endogene Consortium GWAS data, comprising 3194 surgically confirmed endometriosis cases and 7060 controls of European ancestry with genotype data imputed up to 1000 Genomes Phase three reference panel. GWAS was performed for all endometriosis cases and for Stage A (revised American Fertility Society (rAFS) I/II, n = 1686) and B (rAFS III/IV, n = 1364) cases separately. The identified significant pathways were compared with pathways previously investigated in the literature through candidate association studies. Participants/materials, setting, methods: The most comprehensive biological pathway databases, MSigDB (including BioCarta, KEGG, PID, SA, SIG, ST and GO) and PANTHER were utilized to test for enrichment of genetic variants associated with endometriosis. Statistical enrichment analysis was performed using the MAGENTA (Meta-Analysis Gene-set Enrichment of variaNT Associations) software. Main results and the role of chance: The first genome-wide association analysis for Stage A endometriosis revealed a novel locus, rs144240142 (P = 6.45 × 10-8, OR = 1.71, 95% CI = 1.23-2.37), an intronic single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) within MAP3K4. This SNP was not associated with Stage B disease (P = 0.086). MAP3K4 was also shown to be differentially expressed in eutopic endometrium between Stage A endometriosis cases and controls (P = 3.8 × 10-4), but not with Stage B disease (P = 0.26). A total of 14 pathways enriched with genetic endometriosis associations were identified (false discovery rate (FDR)-P < 0.05). The pathways associated with any endometriosis were Grb2-Sos provides linkage to MAPK signaling for integrins pathway (P = 2.8 × 10-5, FDR-P = 3.0 × 10-3), Wnt signaling (P = 0.026, FDR-P = 0.026) and p130Cas linkage to MAPK signaling for integrins pathway (P = 6.0 × 10-4, FDR-P = 0.029); with Stage A endometriosis: extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)1 ERK2 MAPK (P = 5.0 × 10-4, FDR-P = 5.0 × 10-4) and with Stage B endometriosis: two overlapping pathways that related to extracellular matrix biology-Core matrisome (P = 1.4 × 10-3, FDR-P = 0.013) and ECM glycoproteins (P = 1.8 × 10-3, FDR-P = 7.1 × 10-3). Genes arising from endometriosis candidate gene studies performed to date were enriched for Interleukin signaling pathway (P = 2.3 × 10-12), Apoptosis signaling pathway (P = 9.7 × 10-9) and Gonadotropin releasing hormone receptor pathway (P = 1.2 × 10-6); however, these pathways did not feature in the results based on GWAS data. Large scale data: Not applicable. Limitations, reasons for caution: The analysis is restricted to (i) variants in/near genes that can be assigned to pathways, excluding intergenic variants; (ii) the gene-based pathway definition as registered in the databases; (iii) women of European ancestry. Wider implications of the findings: The top ranked pathways associated with overall and Stage A endometriosis in particular involve integrin-mediated MAPK activation and intracellular ERK/MAPK acting downstream in the MAPK cascade, both acting in the control of cell division, gene expression, cell movement and survival. Other top enriched pathways in Stage B disease include ECM glycoprotein pathways important for extracellular structure and biochemical support. The results highlight the need for increased efforts to understand the functional role of these pathways in endometriosis pathogenesis, including the investigation of the biological effects of the genetic variants on downstream molecular processes in tissue relevant to endometriosis. Additionally, our results offer further support for the hypothesis of at least partially distinct causal pathophysiology for minimal/mild (rAFS I/II) vs. moderate/severe (rAFS III/IV) endometriosis. Study funding/competing interest(s): The genome-wide association data and Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) were generated through funding from the Wellcome Trust (WT084766/Z/08/Z, 076113 and 085475) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia (241944, 339462, 389927, 389875, 389891, 389892, 389938, 443036, 442915, 442981, 496610, 496739, 552485 and 552498). N.R. was funded by a grant from the Medical Research Council UK (MR/K011480/1). A.P.M. is a Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow in Basic Biomedical Science (grant WT098017). All authors declare there are no conflicts of interest.

Folkersen L, Fauman E, Sabater-Lleal M, Strawbridge RJ, Frånberg M, Sennblad B, Baldassarre D, Veglia F, Humphries SE, Rauramaa R et al. 2017. Mapping of 79 loci for 83 plasma protein biomarkers in cardiovascular disease. PLoS Genet, 13 (4), pp. e1006706. | Show Abstract | Read more

Recent advances in highly multiplexed immunoassays have allowed systematic large-scale measurement of hundreds of plasma proteins in large cohort studies. In combination with genotyping, such studies offer the prospect to 1) identify mechanisms involved with regulation of protein expression in plasma, and 2) determine whether the plasma proteins are likely to be causally implicated in disease. We report here the results of genome-wide association (GWA) studies of 83 proteins considered relevant to cardiovascular disease (CVD), measured in 3,394 individuals with multiple CVD risk factors. We identified 79 genome-wide significant (p<5e-8) association signals, 55 of which replicated at P<0.0007 in separate validation studies (n = 2,639 individuals). Using automated text mining, manual curation, and network-based methods incorporating information on expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL), we propose plausible causal mechanisms for 25 trans-acting loci, including a potential post-translational regulation of stem cell factor by matrix metalloproteinase 9 and receptor-ligand pairs such as RANK-RANK ligand. Using public GWA study data, we further evaluate all 79 loci for their causal effect on coronary artery disease, and highlight several potentially causal associations. Overall, a majority of the plasma proteins studied showed evidence of regulation at the genetic level. Our results enable future studies of the causal architecture of human disease, which in turn should aid discovery of new drug targets.

Manning A, Highland HM, Gasser J, Sim X, Tukiainen T, Fontanillas P, Grarup N, Rivas MA, Mahajan A, Locke AE et al. 2017. A Low-Frequency Inactivating AKT2 Variant Enriched in the Finnish Population Is Associated With Fasting Insulin Levels and Type 2 Diabetes Risk. Diabetes, 66 (7), pp. 2019-2032. | Show Abstract | Read more

To identify novel coding association signals and facilitate characterization of mechanisms influencing glycemic traits and type 2 diabetes risk, we analyzed 109,215 variants derived from exome array genotyping together with an additional 390,225 variants from exome sequence in up to 39,339 normoglycemic individuals from five ancestry groups. We identified a novel association between the coding variant (p.Pro50Thr) in AKT2 and fasting plasma insulin (FI), a gene in which rare fully penetrant mutations are causal for monogenic glycemic disorders. The low-frequency allele is associated with a 12% increase in FI levels. This variant is present at 1.1% frequency in Finns but virtually absent in individuals from other ancestries. Carriers of the FI-increasing allele had increased 2-h insulin values, decreased insulin sensitivity, and increased risk of type 2 diabetes (odds ratio 1.05). In cellular studies, the AKT2-Thr50 protein exhibited a partial loss of function. We extend the allelic spectrum for coding variants in AKT2 associated with disorders of glucose homeostasis and demonstrate bidirectional effects of variants within the pleckstrin homology domain of AKT2.

Hu Y, Tanaka T, Zhu J, Guan W, Wu JHY, Psaty BM, McKnight B, King IB, Sun Q, Richard M et al. 2017. Discovery and fine-mapping of loci associated with MUFAs through trans-ethnic meta-analysis in Chinese and European populations. J Lipid Res, 58 (5), pp. 974-981. | Show Abstract | Read more

MUFAs are unsaturated FAs with one double bond and are derived from endogenous synthesis and dietary intake. Accumulating evidence has suggested that plasma and erythrocyte MUFA levels are associated with cardiometabolic disorders, including CVD, T2D, and metabolic syndrome (MS). Previous genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have identified seven loci for plasma and erythrocyte palmitoleic and oleic acid levels in populations of European origin. To identify additional MUFA-associated loci and the potential functional variant at each locus, we performed ethnic-specific GWAS meta-analyses and trans-ethnic meta-analyses in more than 15,000 participants of Chinese and European ancestry. We identified novel genome-wide significant associations for vaccenic acid at FADS1/2 and PKD2L1 [log10(Bayes factor) ≥ 8.07] and for gondoic acid at FADS1/2 and GCKR [log10(Bayes factor) ≥ 6.22], and also observed improved fine-mapping resolutions at FADS1/2 and GCKR loci. The greatest improvement was observed at GCKR, where the number of variants in the 99% credible set was reduced from 16 (covering 94.8 kb) to 5 (covering 19.6 kb, including a missense variant rs1260326) after trans-ethnic meta-analysis. We also confirmed the previously reported associations of PKD2L1, FADS1/2, GCKR, and HIF1AN with palmitoleic acid and of FADS1/2 and LPCAT3 with oleic acid in the Chinese-specific GWAS and the trans-ethnic meta-analyses. Pathway-based analyses suggested that the identified loci were in unsaturated FA metabolism and signaling pathways. Our findings provide novel insight into the genetic basis relevant to MUFA metabolism and biology.

Wain LV, Shrine N, Artigas MS, Erzurumluoglu AM, Noyvert B, Bossini-Castillo L, Obeidat M, Henry AP, Portelli MA, Hall RJ et al. 2017. Genome-wide association analyses for lung function and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease identify new loci and potential druggable targets. Nat Genet, 49 (3), pp. 416-425. | Show Abstract | Read more

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by reduced lung function and is the third leading cause of death globally. Through genome-wide association discovery in 48,943 individuals, selected from extremes of the lung function distribution in UK Biobank, and follow-up in 95,375 individuals, we increased the yield of independent signals for lung function from 54 to 97. A genetic risk score was associated with COPD susceptibility (odds ratio per 1 s.d. of the risk score (∼6 alleles) (95% confidence interval) = 1.24 (1.20-1.27), P = 5.05 × 10-49), and we observed a 3.7-fold difference in COPD risk between individuals in the highest and lowest genetic risk score deciles in UK Biobank. The 97 signals show enrichment in genes for development, elastic fibers and epigenetic regulation pathways. We highlight targets for drugs and compounds in development for COPD and asthma (genes in the inositol phosphate metabolism pathway and CHRM3) and describe targets for potential drug repositioning from other clinical indications.

Cook JP, Mahajan A, Morris AP. 2017. Guidance for the utility of linear models in meta-analysis of genetic association studies of binary phenotypes. Eur J Hum Genet, 25 (2), pp. 240-245. | Show Abstract | Read more

Linear mixed models are increasingly used for the analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of binary phenotypes because they can efficiently and robustly account for population stratification and relatedness through inclusion of random effects for a genetic relationship matrix. However, the utility of linear (mixed) models in the context of meta-analysis of GWAS of binary phenotypes has not been previously explored. In this investigation, we present simulations to compare the performance of linear and logistic regression models under alternative weighting schemes in a fixed-effects meta-analysis framework, considering designs that incorporate variable case-control imbalance, confounding factors and population stratification. Our results demonstrate that linear models can be used for meta-analysis of GWAS of binary phenotypes, without loss of power, even in the presence of extreme case-control imbalance, provided that one of the following schemes is used: (i) effective sample size weighting of Z-scores or (ii) inverse-variance weighting of allelic effect sizes after conversion onto the log-odds scale. Our conclusions thus provide essential recommendations for the development of robust protocols for meta-analysis of binary phenotypes with linear models.

Marouli E, Graff M, Medina-Gomez C, Lo KS, Wood AR, Kjaer TR, Fine RS, Lu Y, Schurmann C, Highland HM et al. 2017. Rare and low-frequency coding variants alter human adult height. Nature, 542 (7640), pp. 186-190. | Show Abstract | Read more

Height is a highly heritable, classic polygenic trait with approximately 700 common associated variants identified through genome-wide association studies so far. Here, we report 83 height-associated coding variants with lower minor-allele frequencies (in the range of 0.1-4.8%) and effects of up to 2 centimetres per allele (such as those in IHH, STC2, AR and CRISPLD2), greater than ten times the average effect of common variants. In functional follow-up studies, rare height-increasing alleles of STC2 (giving an increase of 1-2 centimetres per allele) compromised proteolytic inhibition of PAPP-A and increased cleavage of IGFBP-4 in vitro, resulting in higher bioavailability of insulin-like growth factors. These 83 height-associated variants overlap genes that are mutated in monogenic growth disorders and highlight new biological candidates (such as ADAMTS3, IL11RA and NOX4) and pathways (such as proteoglycan and glycosaminoglycan synthesis) involved in growth. Our results demonstrate that sufficiently large sample sizes can uncover rare and low-frequency variants of moderate-to-large effect associated with polygenic human phenotypes, and that these variants implicate relevant genes and pathways.

Warren HR, Evangelou E, Cabrera CP, Gao H, Ren M, Mifsud B, Ntalla I, Surendran P, Liu C, Cook JP et al. 2017. Genome-wide association analysis identifies novel blood pressure loci and offers biological insights into cardiovascular risk. Nat Genet, 49 (3), pp. 403-415. | Show Abstract | Read more

Elevated blood pressure is the leading heritable risk factor for cardiovascular disease worldwide. We report genetic association of blood pressure (systolic, diastolic, pulse pressure) among UK Biobank participants of European ancestry with independent replication in other cohorts, and robust validation of 107 independent loci. We also identify new independent variants at 11 previously reported blood pressure loci. In combination with results from a range of in silico functional analyses and wet bench experiments, our findings highlight new biological pathways for blood pressure regulation enriched for genes expressed in vascular tissues and identify potential therapeutic targets for hypertension. Results from genetic risk score models raise the possibility of a precision medicine approach through early lifestyle intervention to offset the impact of blood pressure-raising genetic variants on future cardiovascular disease risk.

Mägi R, Suleimanov YV, Clarke GM, Kaakinen M, Fischer K, Prokopenko I, Morris AP. 2017. SCOPA and META-SCOPA: software for the analysis and aggregation of genome-wide association studies of multiple correlated phenotypes. BMC Bioinformatics, 18 (1), pp. 25. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have been successful in identifying loci contributing genetic effects to a wide range of complex human diseases and quantitative traits. The traditional approach to GWAS analysis is to consider each phenotype separately, despite the fact that many diseases and quantitative traits are correlated with each other, and often measured in the same sample of individuals. Multivariate analyses of correlated phenotypes have been demonstrated, by simulation, to increase power to detect association with SNPs, and thus may enable improved detection of novel loci contributing to diseases and quantitative traits. RESULTS: We have developed the SCOPA software to enable GWAS analysis of multiple correlated phenotypes. The software implements "reverse regression" methodology, which treats the genotype of an individual at a SNP as the outcome and the phenotypes as predictors in a general linear model. SCOPA can be applied to quantitative traits and categorical phenotypes, and can accommodate imputed genotypes under a dosage model. The accompanying META-SCOPA software enables meta-analysis of association summary statistics from SCOPA across GWAS. Application of SCOPA to two GWAS of high-and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides and body mass index, and subsequent meta-analysis with META-SCOPA, highlighted stronger association signals than univariate phenotype analysis at established lipid and obesity loci. The META-SCOPA meta-analysis also revealed a novel signal of association at genome-wide significance for triglycerides mapping to GPC5 (lead SNP rs71427535, p = 1.1x10-8), which has not been reported in previous large-scale GWAS of lipid traits. CONCLUSIONS: The SCOPA and META-SCOPA software enable discovery and dissection of multiple phenotype association signals through implementation of a powerful reverse regression approach.

Chu AY, Deng X, Fisher VA, Drong A, Zhang Y, Feitosa MF, Liu C-T, Weeks O, Choh AC, Duan Q et al. 2017. Multiethnic genome-wide meta-analysis of ectopic fat depots identifies loci associated with adipocyte development and differentiation. Nat Genet, 49 (1), pp. 125-130. | Show Abstract | Read more

Variation in body fat distribution contributes to the metabolic sequelae of obesity. The genetic determinants of body fat distribution are poorly understood. The goal of this study was to gain new insights into the underlying genetics of body fat distribution by conducting sample-size-weighted fixed-effects genome-wide association meta-analyses in up to 9,594 women and 8,738 men of European, African, Hispanic and Chinese ancestry, with and without sex stratification, for six traits associated with ectopic fat (hereinafter referred to as ectopic-fat traits). In total, we identified seven new loci associated with ectopic-fat traits (ATXN1, UBE2E2, EBF1, RREB1, GSDMB, GRAMD3 and ENSA; P < 5 × 10-8; false discovery rate < 1%). Functional analysis of these genes showed that loss of function of either Atxn1 or Ube2e2 in primary mouse adipose progenitor cells impaired adipocyte differentiation, suggesting physiological roles for ATXN1 and UBE2E2 in adipogenesis. Future studies are necessary to further explore the mechanisms by which these genes affect adipocyte biology and how their perturbations contribute to systemic metabolic disease.

van Rooij FJA, Qayyum R, Smith AV, Zhou Y, Trompet S, Tanaka T, Keller MF, Chang L-C, Schmidt H, Yang M-L et al. 2017. Genome-wide Trans-ethnic Meta-analysis Identifies Seven Genetic Loci Influencing Erythrocyte Traits and a Role for RBPMS in Erythropoiesis. Am J Hum Genet, 100 (1), pp. 51-63. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have identified loci for erythrocyte traits in primarily European ancestry populations. We conducted GWAS meta-analyses of six erythrocyte traits in 71,638 individuals from European, East Asian, and African ancestries using a Bayesian approach to account for heterogeneity in allelic effects and variation in the structure of linkage disequilibrium between ethnicities. We identified seven loci for erythrocyte traits including a locus (RBPMS/GTF2E2) associated with mean corpuscular hemoglobin and mean corpuscular volume. Statistical fine-mapping at this locus pointed to RBPMS at this locus and excluded nearby GTF2E2. Using zebrafish morpholino to evaluate loss of function, we observed a strong in vivo erythropoietic effect for RBPMS but not for GTF2E2, supporting the statistical fine-mapping at this locus and demonstrating that RBPMS is a regulator of erythropoiesis. Our findings show the utility of trans-ethnic GWASs for discovery and characterization of genetic loci influencing hematologic traits.

Ried JS, Jeff M J, Chu AY, Bragg-Gresham JL, van Dongen J, Huffman JE, Ahluwalia TS, Cadby G, Eklund N, Eriksson J et al. 2016. A principal component meta-analysis on multiple anthropometric traits identifies novel loci for body shape. Nat Commun, 7 (1), pp. 13357. | Show Abstract | Read more

Large consortia have revealed hundreds of genetic loci associated with anthropometric traits, one trait at a time. We examined whether genetic variants affect body shape as a composite phenotype that is represented by a combination of anthropometric traits. We developed an approach that calculates averaged PCs (AvPCs) representing body shape derived from six anthropometric traits (body mass index, height, weight, waist and hip circumference, waist-to-hip ratio). The first four AvPCs explain >99% of the variability, are heritable, and associate with cardiometabolic outcomes. We performed genome-wide association analyses for each body shape composite phenotype across 65 studies and meta-analysed summary statistics. We identify six novel loci: LEMD2 and CD47 for AvPC1, RPS6KA5/C14orf159 and GANAB for AvPC3, and ARL15 and ANP32 for AvPC4. Our findings highlight the value of using multiple traits to define complex phenotypes for discovery, which are not captured by single-trait analyses, and may shed light onto new pathways.

Lind L, Ng E, Ingelsson E, Lindgren C, Salihovic S, van Bavel B, Mahajan A, Lampa E, Morris AP, Lind PM. 2017. Genetic and methylation variation in the CYP2B6 gene is related to circulating p,p'-dde levels in a population-based sample. Environ Int, 98 pp. 212-218. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVES: Since the metabolism of the organochlorine pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) is not fully known in humans, we evaluated if circulating levels of a major breakdown product of DDT, p,p'-DDE, were related to genome-wide genetic and methylation variation in a population-based sample. METHODS: In the population-based Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors (PIVUS) study (1016 subjects all aged 70), circulating levels of p,p'-DDE were analyzed by high-resolution chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRGC/HRMS). Genetic variants were genotyped and imputed (1000 Genomes reference, March 2012 release). Methylation sites were assayed using the Illumina HumanMethylation450 array in whole blood. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) approach was applied. RESULTS: Evidence for genome-wide significant association with p,p'-DDE levels was observed only for a locus at chromosome 19 corresponding to the CYP2B6 gene (lead SNP rs7260538). Subjects being homozygote for the G allele showed a median level of 472ng/g lipid, while the corresponding level for those being homozygote for the T allele was 192ng/g lipid (p=1.5×10-31). An analysis conditioned on the lead SNP disclosed a distinct signal in the same gene (rs7255374, position chr19:41520351; p=2.2×10-8). A whole-genome methylation analysis showed one significant relationship vs. p,p'-DDE levels (p=6.2×10-9) located 7kb downstream the CYP2B6 gene (cg27089200, position chr19:41531976). This CpG-site was also related to the lead SNP (p=3.8×10-35), but mediated only 4% of the effect of the lead SNP on p,p'-DDE levels. CONCLUSION: Circulating levels of p,p'-DDE were related to genetic variation in the CYP2B6 gene in the general elderly population. DNA methylation in this gene is not closely linked to the p,p'-DDE levels.

Loley C, Alver M, Assimes TL, Bjonnes A, Goel A, Gustafsson S, Hernesniemi J, Hopewell JC, Kanoni S, Kleber ME et al. 2016. No Association of Coronary Artery Disease with X-Chromosomal Variants in Comprehensive International Meta-Analysis. Sci Rep, 6 (1), pp. 35278. | Show Abstract | Read more

In recent years, genome-wide association studies have identified 58 independent risk loci for coronary artery disease (CAD) on the autosome. However, due to the sex-specific data structure of the X chromosome, it has been excluded from most of these analyses. While females have 2 copies of chromosome X, males have only one. Also, one of the female X chromosomes may be inactivated. Therefore, special test statistics and quality control procedures are required. Thus, little is known about the role of X-chromosomal variants in CAD. To fill this gap, we conducted a comprehensive X-chromosome-wide meta-analysis including more than 43,000 CAD cases and 58,000 controls from 35 international study cohorts. For quality control, sex-specific filters were used to adequately take the special structure of X-chromosomal data into account. For single study analyses, several logistic regression models were calculated allowing for inactivation of one female X-chromosome, adjusting for sex and investigating interactions between sex and genetic variants. Then, meta-analyses including all 35 studies were conducted using random effects models. None of the investigated models revealed genome-wide significant associations for any variant. Although we analyzed the largest-to-date sample, currently available methods were not able to detect any associations of X-chromosomal variants with CAD.

Ehret GB, Ferreira T, Chasman DI, Jackson AU, Schmidt EM, Johnson T, Thorleifsson G, Luan J, Donnelly LA, Kanoni S et al. 2016. The genetics of blood pressure regulation and its target organs from association studies in 342,415 individuals. Nat Genet, 48 (10), pp. 1171-1184. | Show Abstract | Read more

To dissect the genetic architecture of blood pressure and assess effects on target organ damage, we analyzed 128,272 SNPs from targeted and genome-wide arrays in 201,529 individuals of European ancestry, and genotypes from an additional 140,886 individuals were used for validation. We identified 66 blood pressure-associated loci, of which 17 were new; 15 harbored multiple distinct association signals. The 66 index SNPs were enriched for cis-regulatory elements, particularly in vascular endothelial cells, consistent with a primary role in blood pressure control through modulation of vascular tone across multiple tissues. The 66 index SNPs combined in a risk score showed comparable effects in 64,421 individuals of non-European descent. The 66-SNP blood pressure risk score was significantly associated with target organ damage in multiple tissues but with minor effects in the kidney. Our findings expand current knowledge of blood pressure-related pathways and highlight tissues beyond the classical renal system in blood pressure regulation.

Surendran P, Drenos F, Young R, Warren H, Cook JP, Manning AK, Grarup N, Sim X, Barnes DR, Witkowska K et al. 2016. Trans-ancestry meta-analyses identify rare and common variants associated with blood pressure and hypertension. Nat Genet, 48 (10), pp. 1151-1161. | Show Abstract | Read more

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and premature death. However, there is limited knowledge on specific causal genes and pathways. To better understand the genetics of blood pressure, we genotyped 242,296 rare, low-frequency and common genetic variants in up to 192,763 individuals and used ∼155,063 samples for independent replication. We identified 30 new blood pressure- or hypertension-associated genetic regions in the general population, including 3 rare missense variants in RBM47, COL21A1 and RRAS with larger effects (>1.5 mm Hg/allele) than common variants. Multiple rare nonsense and missense variant associations were found in A2ML1, and a low-frequency nonsense variant in ENPEP was identified. Our data extend the spectrum of allelic variation underlying blood pressure traits and hypertension, provide new insights into the pathophysiology of hypertension and indicate new targets for clinical intervention.

Horikoshi M, Beaumont RN, Day FR, Warrington NM, Kooijman MN, Fernandez-Tajes J, Feenstra B, van Zuydam NR, Gaulton KJ, Grarup N et al. 2016. Genome-wide associations for birth weight and correlations with adult disease. Nature, 538 (7624), pp. 248-252. | Show Abstract | Read more

Birth weight (BW) has been shown to be influenced by both fetal and maternal factors and in observational studies is reproducibly associated with future risk of adult metabolic diseases including type 2 diabetes (T2D) and cardiovascular disease. These life-course associations have often been attributed to the impact of an adverse early life environment. Here, we performed a multi-ancestry genome-wide association study (GWAS) meta-analysis of BW in 153,781 individuals, identifying 60 loci where fetal genotype was associated with BW (P < 5 × 10-8). Overall, approximately 15% of variance in BW was captured by assays of fetal genetic variation. Using genetic association alone, we found strong inverse genetic correlations between BW and systolic blood pressure (Rg = -0.22, P = 5.5 × 10-13), T2D (Rg = -0.27, P = 1.1 × 10-6) and coronary artery disease (Rg = -0.30, P = 6.5 × 10-9). In addition, using large -cohort datasets, we demonstrated that genetic factors were the major contributor to the negative covariance between BW and future cardiometabolic risk. Pathway analyses indicated that the protein products of genes within BW-associated regions were enriched for diverse processes including insulin signalling, glucose homeostasis, glycogen biosynthesis and chromatin remodelling. There was also enrichment of associations with BW in known imprinted regions (P = 1.9 × 10-4). We demonstrate that life-course associations between early growth phenotypes and adult cardiometabolic disease are in part the result of shared genetic effects and identify some of the pathways through which these causal genetic effects are mediated.

Mahajan A, Rodan AR, Le TH, Gaulton KJ, Haessler J, Stilp AM, Kamatani Y, Zhu G, Sofer T, Puri S et al. 2016. Trans-ethnic Fine Mapping Highlights Kidney-Function Genes Linked to Salt Sensitivity. Am J Hum Genet, 99 (3), pp. 636-646. | Show Abstract | Read more

We analyzed genome-wide association studies (GWASs), including data from 71,638 individuals from four ancestries, for estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), a measure of kidney function used to define chronic kidney disease (CKD). We identified 20 loci attaining genome-wide-significant evidence of association (p < 5 × 10(-8)) with kidney function and highlighted that allelic effects on eGFR at lead SNPs are homogeneous across ancestries. We leveraged differences in the pattern of linkage disequilibrium between diverse populations to fine-map the 20 loci through construction of "credible sets" of variants driving eGFR association signals. Credible variants at the 20 eGFR loci were enriched for DNase I hypersensitivity sites (DHSs) in human kidney cells. DHS credible variants were expression quantitative trait loci for NFATC1 and RGS14 (at the SLC34A1 locus) in multiple tissues. Loss-of-function mutations in ancestral orthologs of both genes in Drosophila melanogaster were associated with altered sensitivity to salt stress. Renal mRNA expression of Nfatc1 and Rgs14 in a salt-sensitive mouse model was also reduced after exposure to a high-salt diet or induced CKD. Our study (1) demonstrates the utility of trans-ethnic fine mapping through integration of GWASs involving diverse populations with genomic annotation from relevant tissues to define molecular mechanisms by which association signals exert their effect and (2) suggests that salt sensitivity might be an important marker for biological processes that affect kidney function and CKD in humans.

Fuchsberger C, Flannick J, Teslovich TM, Mahajan A, Agarwala V, Gaulton KJ, Ma C, Fontanillas P, Moutsianas L, McCarthy DJ et al. 2016. The genetic architecture of type 2 diabetes. Nature, 536 (7614), pp. 41-47. | Show Abstract | Read more

The genetic architecture of common traits, including the number, frequency, and effect sizes of inherited variants that contribute to individual risk, has been long debated. Genome-wide association studies have identified scores of common variants associated with type 2 diabetes, but in aggregate, these explain only a fraction of the heritability of this disease. Here, to test the hypothesis that lower-frequency variants explain much of the remainder, the GoT2D and T2D-GENES consortia performed whole-genome sequencing in 2,657 European individuals with and without diabetes, and exome sequencing in 12,940 individuals from five ancestry groups. To increase statistical power, we expanded the sample size via genotyping and imputation in a further 111,548 subjects. Variants associated with type 2 diabetes after sequencing were overwhelmingly common and most fell within regions previously identified by genome-wide association studies. Comprehensive enumeration of sequence variation is necessary to identify functional alleles that provide important clues to disease pathophysiology, but large-scale sequencing does not support the idea that lower-frequency variants have a major role in predisposition to type 2 diabetes.

van der Laan SW, Fall T, Soumaré A, Teumer A, Sedaghat S, Baumert J, Zabaneh D, van Setten J, Isgum I, Galesloot TE et al. 2016. Cystatin C and Cardiovascular Disease: A Mendelian Randomization Study. J Am Coll Cardiol, 68 (9), pp. 934-945. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Epidemiological studies show that high circulating cystatin C is associated with risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), independent of creatinine-based renal function measurements. It is unclear whether this relationship is causal, arises from residual confounding, and/or is a consequence of reverse causation. OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to use Mendelian randomization to investigate whether cystatin C is causally related to CVD in the general population. METHODS: We incorporated participant data from 16 prospective cohorts (n = 76,481) with 37,126 measures of cystatin C and added genetic data from 43 studies (n = 252,216) with 63,292 CVD events. We used the common variant rs911119 in CST3 as an instrumental variable to investigate the causal role of cystatin C in CVD, including coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, and heart failure. RESULTS: Cystatin C concentrations were associated with CVD risk after adjusting for age, sex, and traditional risk factors (relative risk: 1.82 per doubling of cystatin C; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.56 to 2.13; p = 2.12 × 10(-14)). The minor allele of rs911119 was associated with decreased serum cystatin C (6.13% per allele; 95% CI: 5.75 to 6.50; p = 5.95 × 10(-211)), explaining 2.8% of the observed variation in cystatin C. Mendelian randomization analysis did not provide evidence for a causal role of cystatin C, with a causal relative risk for CVD of 1.00 per doubling cystatin C (95% CI: 0.82 to 1.22; p = 0.994), which was statistically different from the observational estimate (p = 1.6 × 10(-5)). A causal effect of cystatin C was not detected for any individual component of CVD. CONCLUSIONS: Mendelian randomization analyses did not support a causal role of cystatin C in the etiology of CVD. As such, therapeutics targeted at lowering circulating cystatin C are unlikely to be effective in preventing CVD.

Walford GA, Gustafsson S, Rybin D, Stančáková A, Chen H, Liu C-T, Hong J, Jensen RA, Rice K, Morris AP et al. 2016. Genome-Wide Association Study of the Modified Stumvoll Insulin Sensitivity Index Identifies BCL2 and FAM19A2 as Novel Insulin Sensitivity Loci. Diabetes, 65 (10), pp. 3200-3211. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have found few common variants that influence fasting measures of insulin sensitivity. We hypothesized that a GWAS of an integrated assessment of fasting and dynamic measures of insulin sensitivity would detect novel common variants. We performed a GWAS of the modified Stumvoll Insulin Sensitivity Index (ISI) within the Meta-Analyses of Glucose and Insulin-Related Traits Consortium. Discovery for genetic association was performed in 16,753 individuals, and replication was attempted for the 23 most significant novel loci in 13,354 independent individuals. Association with ISI was tested in models adjusted for age, sex, and BMI and in a model analyzing the combined influence of the genotype effect adjusted for BMI and the interaction effect between the genotype and BMI on ISI (model 3). In model 3, three variants reached genome-wide significance: rs13422522 (NYAP2; P = 8.87 × 10(-11)), rs12454712 (BCL2; P = 2.7 × 10(-8)), and rs10506418 (FAM19A2; P = 1.9 × 10(-8)). The association at NYAP2 was eliminated by conditioning on the known IRS1 insulin sensitivity locus; the BCL2 and FAM19A2 associations were independent of known cardiometabolic loci. In conclusion, we identified two novel loci and replicated known variants associated with insulin sensitivity. Further studies are needed to clarify the causal variant and function at the BCL2 and FAM19A2 loci.

Zondervan KT, Rahmioglu N, Morris AP, Nyholt DR, Montgomery GW, Becker CM, Missmer SA. 2016. Beyond Endometriosis Genome-Wide Association Study: From Genomics to Phenomics to the Patient. Semin Reprod Med, 34 (4), pp. 242-254. | Show Abstract | Read more

Endometriosis is a heritable, complex chronic inflammatory disease, for which much of the causal pathogenic mechanism remains unknown. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to date have identified 12 single nucleotide polymorphisms at 10 independent genetic loci associated with endometriosis. Most of these were more strongly associated with revised American Fertility Society stage III/IV, rather than stage I/II. The loci are almost all located in intergenic regions that are known to play a role in the regulation of expression of target genes yet to be identified. To identify the target genes and pathways perturbed by the implicated variants, studies are required involving functional genomic annotation of the surrounding chromosomal regions, in terms of transcription factor binding, epigenetic modification (e.g., DNA methylation and histone modification) sites, as well as their correlation with RNA transcription. These studies need to be conducted in tissue types relevant to endometriosis-in particular, endometrium. In addition, to allow biologically and clinically relevant interpretation of molecular profiling data, they need to be combined and correlated with detailed, systematically collected phenotypic information (surgical and clinical). The WERF Endometriosis Phenome and Biobanking Harmonisation Project is a global standardization initiative that has produced consensus data and sample collection protocols for endometriosis research. These now pave the way for collaborative studies integrating phenomic with genomic data, to identify informative subtypes of endometriosis that will enhance understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms of the disease and discovery of novel, targeted treatments.

Liu C-T, Raghavan S, Maruthur N, Kabagambe EK, Hong J, Ng MCY, Hivert M-F, Lu Y, An P, Bentley AR et al. 2016. Trans-ethnic Meta-analysis and Functional Annotation Illuminates the Genetic Architecture of Fasting Glucose and Insulin. Am J Hum Genet, 99 (1), pp. 56-75. | Show Abstract | Read more

Knowledge of the genetic basis of the type 2 diabetes (T2D)-related quantitative traits fasting glucose (FG) and insulin (FI) in African ancestry (AA) individuals has been limited. In non-diabetic subjects of AA (n = 20,209) and European ancestry (EA; n = 57,292), we performed trans-ethnic (AA+EA) fine-mapping of 54 established EA FG or FI loci with detailed functional annotation, assessed their relevance in AA individuals, and sought previously undescribed loci through trans-ethnic (AA+EA) meta-analysis. We narrowed credible sets of variants driving association signals for 22/54 EA-associated loci; 18/22 credible sets overlapped with active islet-specific enhancers or transcription factor (TF) binding sites, and 21/22 contained at least one TF motif. Of the 54 EA-associated loci, 23 were shared between EA and AA. Replication with an additional 10,096 AA individuals identified two previously undescribed FI loci, chrX FAM133A (rs213676) and chr5 PELO (rs6450057). Trans-ethnic analyses with regulatory annotation illuminate the genetic architecture of glycemic traits and suggest gene regulation as a target to advance precision medicine for T2D. Our approach to utilize state-of-the-art functional annotation and implement trans-ethnic association analysis for discovery and fine-mapping offers a framework for further follow-up and characterization of GWAS signals of complex trait loci.

Pervjakova N, Kasela S, Morris AP, Kals M, Metspalu A, Lindgren CM, Salumets A, Mägi R. 2016. Imprinted genes and imprinting control regions show predominant intermediate methylation in adult somatic tissues. Epigenomics, 8 (6), pp. 789-799. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic feature characterized by parent-specific monoallelic gene expression. The aim of this study was to compare the DNA methylation status of imprinted genes and imprinting control regions (ICRs), harboring differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in a comprehensive panel of 18 somatic tissues. The germline DMRs analyzed were divided into ubiquitously imprinted and placenta-specific DMRs, which show identical and different methylation imprints in adult somatic and placental tissues, respectively. We showed that imprinted genes and ICR DMRs maintain methylation patterns characterized by intermediate methylation levels in somatic tissues, which are pronounced in a specific region of the promoter area, located 200-1500 bp from the transcription start site. This intermediate methylation is concordant with gene expression from a single unmethylated allele and silencing of a reciprocal parental allele through DNA methylation. The only exceptions were seen for ICR DMRs of placenta-specific imprinted genes, which showed low levels of methylation, suggesting that these genes escape parent-specific epigenetic regulation in somatic tissues.

Scott RA, Freitag DF, Li L, Chu AY, Surendran P, Young R, Grarup N, Stancáková A, Chen Y, Varga TV et al. 2016. A genomic approach to therapeutic target validation identifies a glucose-lowering GLP1R variant protective for coronary heart disease. Sci Transl Med, 8 (341), pp. 341ra76. | Show Abstract | Read more

Regulatory authorities have indicated that new drugs to treat type 2 diabetes (T2D) should not be associated with an unacceptable increase in cardiovascular risk. Human genetics may be able to guide development of antidiabetic therapies by predicting cardiovascular and other health endpoints. We therefore investigated the association of variants in six genes that encode drug targets for obesity or T2D with a range of metabolic traits in up to 11,806 individuals by targeted exome sequencing and follow-up in 39,979 individuals by targeted genotyping, with additional in silico follow-up in consortia. We used these data to first compare associations of variants in genes encoding drug targets with the effects of pharmacological manipulation of those targets in clinical trials. We then tested the association of those variants with disease outcomes, including coronary heart disease, to predict cardiovascular safety of these agents. A low-frequency missense variant (Ala316Thr; rs10305492) in the gene encoding glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP1R), the target of GLP1R agonists, was associated with lower fasting glucose and T2D risk, consistent with GLP1R agonist therapies. The minor allele was also associated with protection against heart disease, thus providing evidence that GLP1R agonists are not likely to be associated with an unacceptable increase in cardiovascular risk. Our results provide an encouraging signal that these agents may be associated with benefit, a question currently being addressed in randomized controlled trials. Genetic variants associated with metabolic traits and multiple disease outcomes can be used to validate therapeutic targets at an early stage in the drug development process.

Prins BP, Abbasi A, Wong A, Vaez A, Nolte I, Franceschini N, Stuart PE, Guterriez Achury J, Mistry V, Bradfield JP et al. 2016. Investigating the Causal Relationship of C-Reactive Protein with 32 Complex Somatic and Psychiatric Outcomes: A Large-Scale Cross-Consortium Mendelian Randomization Study. PLoS Med, 13 (6), pp. e1001976. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: C-reactive protein (CRP) is associated with immune, cardiometabolic, and psychiatric traits and diseases. Yet it is inconclusive whether these associations are causal. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We performed Mendelian randomization (MR) analyses using two genetic risk scores (GRSs) as instrumental variables (IVs). The first GRS consisted of four single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the CRP gene (GRSCRP), and the second consisted of 18 SNPs that were significantly associated with CRP levels in the largest genome-wide association study (GWAS) to date (GRSGWAS). To optimize power, we used summary statistics from GWAS consortia and tested the association of these two GRSs with 32 complex somatic and psychiatric outcomes, with up to 123,865 participants per outcome from populations of European ancestry. We performed heterogeneity tests to disentangle the pleiotropic effect of IVs. A Bonferroni-corrected significance level of less than 0.0016 was considered statistically significant. An observed p-value equal to or less than 0.05 was considered nominally significant evidence for a potential causal association, yet to be confirmed. The strengths (F-statistics) of the IVs were 31.92-3,761.29 and 82.32-9,403.21 for GRSCRP and GRSGWAS, respectively. CRP GRSGWAS showed a statistically significant protective relationship of a 10% genetically elevated CRP level with the risk of schizophrenia (odds ratio [OR] 0.86 [95% CI 0.79-0.94]; p < 0.001). We validated this finding with individual-level genotype data from the schizophrenia GWAS (OR 0.96 [95% CI 0.94-0.98]; p < 1.72 × 10-6). Further, we found that a standardized CRP polygenic risk score (CRPPRS) at p-value thresholds of 1 × 10-4, 0.001, 0.01, 0.05, and 0.1 using individual-level data also showed a protective effect (OR < 1.00) against schizophrenia; the first CRPPRS (built of SNPs with p < 1 × 10-4) showed a statistically significant (p < 2.45 × 10-4) protective effect with an OR of 0.97 (95% CI 0.95-0.99). The CRP GRSGWAS showed that a 10% increase in genetically determined CRP level was significantly associated with coronary artery disease (OR 0.88 [95% CI 0.84-0.94]; p < 2.4 × 10-5) and was nominally associated with the risk of inflammatory bowel disease (OR 0.85 [95% CI 0.74-0.98]; p < 0.03), Crohn disease (OR 0.81 [95% CI 0.70-0.94]; p < 0.005), psoriatic arthritis (OR 1.36 [95% CI 1.00-1.84]; p < 0.049), knee osteoarthritis (OR 1.17 [95% CI 1.01-1.36]; p < 0.04), and bipolar disorder (OR 1.21 [95% CI 1.05-1.40]; p < 0.007) and with an increase of 0.72 (95% CI 0.11-1.34; p < 0.02) mm Hg in systolic blood pressure, 0.45 (95% CI 0.06-0.84; p < 0.02) mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure, 0.01 ml/min/1.73 m2 (95% CI 0.003-0.02; p < 0.005) in estimated glomerular filtration rate from serum creatinine, 0.01 g/dl (95% CI 0.0004-0.02; p < 0.04) in serum albumin level, and 0.03 g/dl (95% CI 0.008-0.05; p < 0.009) in serum protein level. However, after adjustment for heterogeneity, neither GRS showed a significant effect of CRP level (at p < 0.0016) on any of these outcomes, including coronary artery disease, nor on the other 20 complex outcomes studied. Our study has two potential limitations: the limited variance explained by our genetic instruments modeling CRP levels in blood and the unobserved bias introduced by the use of summary statistics in our MR analyses. CONCLUSIONS: Genetically elevated CRP levels showed a significant potentially protective causal relationship with risk of schizophrenia. We observed nominal evidence at an observed p < 0.05 using either GRSCRP or GRSGWAS-with persistence after correction for heterogeneity-for a causal relationship of elevated CRP levels with psoriatic osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, knee osteoarthritis, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, serum albumin, and bipolar disorder. These associations remain yet to be confirmed. We cannot verify any causal effect of CRP level on any of the other common somatic and neuropsychiatric outcomes investigated in the present study. This implies that interventions that lower CRP level are unlikely to result in decreased risk for the majority of common complex outcomes.

Cook JP, Morris AP. 2016. Multi-ethnic genome-wide association study identifies novel locus for type 2 diabetes susceptibility. Eur J Hum Genet, 24 (8), pp. 1175-1180. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have traditionally been undertaken in homogeneous populations from the same ancestry group. However, with the increasing availability of GWAS in large-scale multi-ethnic cohorts, we have evaluated a framework for detecting association of genetic variants with complex traits, allowing for population structure, and developed a powerful test of heterogeneity in allelic effects between ancestry groups. We have applied the methodology to identify and characterise loci associated with susceptibility to type 2 diabetes (T2D) using GWAS data from the Resource for Genetic Epidemiology on Adult Health and Aging, a large multi-ethnic population-based cohort, created for investigating the genetic and environmental basis of age-related diseases. We identified a novel locus for T2D susceptibility at genome-wide significance (P<5 × 10(-8)) that maps to TOMM40-APOE, a region previously implicated in lipid metabolism and Alzheimer's disease. We have also confirmed previous reports that single-nucleotide polymorphisms at the TCF7L2 locus demonstrate the greatest extent of heterogeneity in allelic effects between ethnic groups, with the lowest risk observed in populations of East Asian ancestry.

Tyrrell J, Richmond RC, Palmer TM, Feenstra B, Rangarajan J, Metrustry S, Cavadino A, Paternoster L, Armstrong LL, De Silva NMG et al. 2016. Genetic Evidence for Causal Relationships Between Maternal Obesity-Related Traits and Birth Weight. JAMA, 315 (11), pp. 1129-1140. | Show Abstract | Read more

IMPORTANCE: Neonates born to overweight or obese women are larger and at higher risk of birth complications. Many maternal obesity-related traits are observationally associated with birth weight, but the causal nature of these associations is uncertain. OBJECTIVE: To test for genetic evidence of causal associations of maternal body mass index (BMI) and related traits with birth weight. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Mendelian randomization to test whether maternal BMI and obesity-related traits are potentially causally related to offspring birth weight. Data from 30,487 women in 18 studies were analyzed. Participants were of European ancestry from population- or community-based studies in Europe, North America, or Australia and were part of the Early Growth Genetics Consortium. Live, term, singleton offspring born between 1929 and 2013 were included. EXPOSURES: Genetic scores for BMI, fasting glucose level, type 2 diabetes, systolic blood pressure (SBP), triglyceride level, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) level, vitamin D status, and adiponectin level. MAIN OUTCOME AND MEASURE: Offspring birth weight from 18 studies. RESULTS: Among the 30,487 newborns the mean birth weight in the various cohorts ranged from 3325 g to 3679 g. The maternal genetic score for BMI was associated with a 2-g (95% CI, 0 to 3 g) higher offspring birth weight per maternal BMI-raising allele (P = .008). The maternal genetic scores for fasting glucose and SBP were also associated with birth weight with effect sizes of 8 g (95% CI, 6 to 10 g) per glucose-raising allele (P = 7 × 10(-14)) and -4 g (95% CI, -6 to -2 g) per SBP-raising allele (P = 1×10(-5)), respectively. A 1-SD ( ≈ 4 points) genetically higher maternal BMI was associated with a 55-g higher offspring birth weight (95% CI, 17 to 93 g). A 1-SD ( ≈ 7.2 mg/dL) genetically higher maternal fasting glucose concentration was associated with 114-g higher offspring birth weight (95% CI, 80 to 147 g). However, a 1-SD ( ≈ 10 mm Hg) genetically higher maternal SBP was associated with a 208-g lower offspring birth weight (95% CI, -394 to -21 g). For BMI and fasting glucose, genetic associations were consistent with the observational associations, but for systolic blood pressure, the genetic and observational associations were in opposite directions. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this mendelian randomization study, genetically elevated maternal BMI and blood glucose levels were potentially causally associated with higher offspring birth weight, whereas genetically elevated maternal SBP was potentially causally related to lower birth weight. If replicated, these findings may have implications for counseling and managing pregnancies to avoid adverse weight-related birth outcomes.

Horikoshi M, Pasquali L, Wiltshire S, Huyghe JR, Mahajan A, Asimit JL, Ferreira T, Locke AE, Robertson NR, Wang X et al. 2016. Transancestral fine-mapping of four type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci highlights potential causal regulatory mechanisms. Hum Mol Genet, 25 (10), pp. 2070-2081. | Show Abstract | Read more

To gain insight into potential regulatory mechanisms through which the effects of variants at four established type 2 diabetes (T2D) susceptibility loci (CDKAL1, CDKN2A-B, IGF2BP2 and KCNQ1) are mediated, we undertook transancestral fine-mapping in 22 086 cases and 42 539 controls of East Asian, European, South Asian, African American and Mexican American descent. Through high-density imputation and conditional analyses, we identified seven distinct association signals at these four loci, each with allelic effects on T2D susceptibility that were homogenous across ancestry groups. By leveraging differences in the structure of linkage disequilibrium between diverse populations, and increased sample size, we localised the variants most likely to drive each distinct association signal. We demonstrated that integration of these genetic fine-mapping data with genomic annotation can highlight potential causal regulatory elements in T2D-relevant tissues. These analyses provide insight into the mechanisms through which T2D association signals are mediated, and suggest future routes to understanding the biology of specific disease susceptibility loci.

Asimit JL, Hatzikotoulas K, McCarthy M, Morris AP, Zeggini E. 2016. Trans-ethnic study design approaches for fine-mapping. Eur J Hum Genet, 24 (9), pp. 1330-1336. | Show Abstract | Read more

Studies that traverse ancestrally diverse populations may increase power to detect novel loci and improve fine-mapping resolution of causal variants by leveraging linkage disequilibrium differences between ethnic groups. The inclusion of African ancestry samples may yield further improvements because of low linkage disequilibrium and high genetic heterogeneity. We investigate the fine-mapping resolution of trans-ethnic fixed-effects meta-analysis for five type II diabetes loci, under various settings of ancestral composition (European, East Asian, African), allelic heterogeneity, and causal variant minor allele frequency. In particular, three settings of ancestral composition were compared: (1) single ancestry (European), (2) moderate ancestral diversity (European and East Asian), and (3) high ancestral diversity (European, East Asian, and African). Our simulations suggest that the European/Asian and European ancestry-only meta-analyses consistently attain similar fine-mapping resolution. The inclusion of African ancestry samples in the meta-analysis leads to a marked improvement in fine-mapping resolution.

Lu Y, Day FR, Gustafsson S, Buchkovich ML, Na J, Bataille V, Cousminer DL, Dastani Z, Drong AW, Esko T et al. 2016. New loci for body fat percentage reveal link between adiposity and cardiometabolic disease risk. Nat Commun, 7 (1), pp. 10495. | Show Abstract | Read more

To increase our understanding of the genetic basis of adiposity and its links to cardiometabolic disease risk, we conducted a genome-wide association meta-analysis of body fat percentage (BF%) in up to 100,716 individuals. Twelve loci reached genome-wide significance (P<5 × 10(-8)), of which eight were previously associated with increased overall adiposity (BMI, BF%) and four (in or near COBLL1/GRB14, IGF2BP1, PLA2G6, CRTC1) were novel associations with BF%. Seven loci showed a larger effect on BF% than on BMI, suggestive of a primary association with adiposity, while five loci showed larger effects on BMI than on BF%, suggesting association with both fat and lean mass. In particular, the loci more strongly associated with BF% showed distinct cross-phenotype association signatures with a range of cardiometabolic traits revealing new insights in the link between adiposity and disease risk.

Kilpeläinen TO, Carli JFM, Skowronski AA, Sun Q, Kriebel J, Feitosa MF, Hedman ÅK, Drong AW, Hayes JE, Zhao J et al. 2016. Genome-wide meta-analysis uncovers novel loci influencing circulating leptin levels. Nat Commun, 7 (1), pp. 10494. | Show Abstract | Read more

Leptin is an adipocyte-secreted hormone, the circulating levels of which correlate closely with overall adiposity. Although rare mutations in the leptin (LEP) gene are well known to cause leptin deficiency and severe obesity, no common loci regulating circulating leptin levels have been uncovered. Therefore, we performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of circulating leptin levels from 32,161 individuals and followed up loci reaching P<10(-6) in 19,979 additional individuals. We identify five loci robustly associated (P<5 × 10(-8)) with leptin levels in/near LEP, SLC32A1, GCKR, CCNL1 and FTO. Although the association of the FTO obesity locus with leptin levels is abolished by adjustment for BMI, associations of the four other loci are independent of adiposity. The GCKR locus was found associated with multiple metabolic traits in previous GWAS and the CCNL1 locus with birth weight. Knockdown experiments in mouse adipose tissue explants show convincing evidence for adipogenin, a regulator of adipocyte differentiation, as the novel causal gene in the SLC32A1 locus influencing leptin levels. Our findings provide novel insights into the regulation of leptin production by adipose tissue and open new avenues for examining the influence of variation in leptin levels on adiposity and metabolic health.

Knowles JW, Xie W, Zhang Z, Chennamsetty I, Assimes TL, Paananen J, Hansson O, Pankow J, Goodarzi MO, Carcamo-Orive I et al. 2016. Identification and validation of N-acetyltransferase 2 as an insulin sensitivity gene. J Clin Invest, 126 (1), pp. 403. | Read more

Ek WE, Hedman ÅK, Enroth S, Morris AP, Lindgren CM, Mahajan A, Gustafsson S, Gyllensten U, Lind L, Johansson Å. 2016. Genome-wide DNA methylation study identifies genes associated with the cardiovascular biomarker GDF-15. Hum Mol Genet, 25 (4), pp. 817-827. | Show Abstract | Read more

Growth-differentiation factor 15 (GDF-15) is expressed in low to moderate levels in most healthy tissues and increases in response to inflammation. GDF-15 is associated with cardiovascular dysfunction and over-expressed in the myocardium of patients with myocardial infarction (MI). However, little is known about the function of GDF-15 in cardiovascular disease, and the underlying regulatory network of GDF-15 is not known. To investigate a possible association between GDF-15 levels and DNA methylation, we performed a genome-wide DNA methylation study of white blood cells in a population-based study (N = 717). Significant loci where replicated in an independent cohort (N = 963). We also performed a gene ontology (GO) enrichment analysis. We identified and replicated 16 CpG-sites (false discovery rate [FDR] < 0.05), at 11 independent loci including MIR21. MIR21 encodes a microRNA (miR-21) that has previously been shown to be associated with the development of heart disease. Interestingly, GDF15 mRNA contains a binding site for miR-21. Four sites were also differentially methylated in blood from participants previously diagnosed with MI and 14 enriched GO terms (FDR < 0.05, enrichment > 2) were identified, including 'cardiac muscle cell differentiation'. This study shows that GDF-15 levels are associated with differences in DNA methylation in blood cells, and a subset of the loci are also differentially methylated in participants with MI. However, there might be interactions between GDF-15 levels and methylation in other tissues not addressed in this study. These results provide novel links between GDF-15 and cardiovascular disease.

Soler Artigas M, Wain LV, Miller S, Kheirallah AK, Huffman JE, Ntalla I, Shrine N, Obeidat M, Trochet H, McArdle WL et al. 2015. Sixteen new lung function signals identified through 1000 Genomes Project reference panel imputation. Nat Commun, 6 (1), pp. 8658. | Show Abstract | Read more

Lung function measures are used in the diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In 38,199 European ancestry individuals, we studied genome-wide association of forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC) and FEV1/FVC with 1000 Genomes Project (phase 1)-imputed genotypes and followed up top associations in 54,550 Europeans. We identify 14 novel loci (P<5 × 10(-8)) in or near ENSA, RNU5F-1, KCNS3, AK097794, ASTN2, LHX3, CCDC91, TBX3, TRIP11, RIN3, TEKT5, LTBP4, MN1 and AP1S2, and two novel signals at known loci NPNT and GPR126, providing a basis for new understanding of the genetic determinants of these traits and pulmonary diseases in which they are altered.

Asimit JL, Panoutsopoulou K, Wheeler E, Berndt SI, GIANT consortium, the arcOGEN consortium, Cordell HJ, Morris AP, Zeggini E, Barroso I. 2015. A Bayesian Approach to the Overlap Analysis of Epidemiologically Linked Traits. Genet Epidemiol, 39 (8), pp. 624-634. | Show Abstract | Read more

Diseases often cooccur in individuals more often than expected by chance, and may be explained by shared underlying genetic etiology. A common approach to genetic overlap analyses is to use summary genome-wide association study data to identify single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are associated with multiple traits at a selected P-value threshold. However, P-values do not account for differences in power, whereas Bayes' factors (BFs) do, and may be approximated using summary statistics. We use simulation studies to compare the power of frequentist and Bayesian approaches with overlap analyses, and to decide on appropriate thresholds for comparison between the two methods. It is empirically illustrated that BFs have the advantage over P-values of a decreasing type I error rate as study size increases for single-disease associations. Consequently, the overlap analysis of traits from different-sized studies encounters issues in fair P-value threshold selection, whereas BFs are adjusted automatically. Extensive simulations show that Bayesian overlap analyses tend to have higher power than those that assess association strength with P-values, particularly in low-power scenarios. Calibration tables between BFs and P-values are provided for a range of sample sizes, as well as an approximation approach for sample sizes that are not in the calibration table. Although P-values are sometimes thought more intuitive, these tables assist in removing the opaqueness of Bayesian thresholds and may also be used in the selection of a BF threshold to meet a certain type I error rate. An application of our methods is used to identify variants associated with both obesity and osteoarthritis.

Gaulton KJ, Ferreira T, Lee Y, Raimondo A, Mägi R, Reschen ME, Mahajan A, Locke A, Rayner NW, Robertson N et al. 2015. Genetic fine mapping and genomic annotation defines causal mechanisms at type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci. Nat Genet, 47 (12), pp. 1415-1425. | Show Abstract | Read more

We performed fine mapping of 39 established type 2 diabetes (T2D) loci in 27,206 cases and 57,574 controls of European ancestry. We identified 49 distinct association signals at these loci, including five mapping in or near KCNQ1. 'Credible sets' of the variants most likely to drive each distinct signal mapped predominantly to noncoding sequence, implying that association with T2D is mediated through gene regulation. Credible set variants were enriched for overlap with FOXA2 chromatin immunoprecipitation binding sites in human islet and liver cells, including at MTNR1B, where fine mapping implicated rs10830963 as driving T2D association. We confirmed that the T2D risk allele for this SNP increases FOXA2-bound enhancer activity in islet- and liver-derived cells. We observed allele-specific differences in NEUROD1 binding in islet-derived cells, consistent with evidence that the T2D risk allele increases islet MTNR1B expression. Our study demonstrates how integration of genetic and genomic information can define molecular mechanisms through which variants underlying association signals exert their effects on disease.

Winkler TW, Justice AE, Graff M, Barata L, Feitosa MF, Chu S, Czajkowski J, Esko T, Fall T, Kilpeläinen TO et al. 2015. The Influence of Age and Sex on Genetic Associations with Adult Body Size and Shape: A Large-Scale Genome-Wide Interaction Study. PLoS Genet, 11 (10), pp. e1005378. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified more than 100 genetic variants contributing to BMI, a measure of body size, or waist-to-hip ratio (adjusted for BMI, WHRadjBMI), a measure of body shape. Body size and shape change as people grow older and these changes differ substantially between men and women. To systematically screen for age- and/or sex-specific effects of genetic variants on BMI and WHRadjBMI, we performed meta-analyses of 114 studies (up to 320,485 individuals of European descent) with genome-wide chip and/or Metabochip data by the Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits (GIANT) Consortium. Each study tested the association of up to ~2.8M SNPs with BMI and WHRadjBMI in four strata (men ≤50y, men >50y, women ≤50y, women >50y) and summary statistics were combined in stratum-specific meta-analyses. We then screened for variants that showed age-specific effects (G x AGE), sex-specific effects (G x SEX) or age-specific effects that differed between men and women (G x AGE x SEX). For BMI, we identified 15 loci (11 previously established for main effects, four novel) that showed significant (FDR<5%) age-specific effects, of which 11 had larger effects in younger (<50y) than in older adults (≥50y). No sex-dependent effects were identified for BMI. For WHRadjBMI, we identified 44 loci (27 previously established for main effects, 17 novel) with sex-specific effects, of which 28 showed larger effects in women than in men, five showed larger effects in men than in women, and 11 showed opposite effects between sexes. No age-dependent effects were identified for WHRadjBMI. This is the first genome-wide interaction meta-analysis to report convincing evidence of age-dependent genetic effects on BMI. In addition, we confirm the sex-specificity of genetic effects on WHRadjBMI. These results may provide further insights into the biology that underlies weight change with age or the sexually dimorphism of body shape.

Wain LV, Shrine N, Miller S, Jackson VE, Ntalla I, Soler Artigas M, Billington CK, Kheirallah AK, Allen R, Cook JP et al. 2015. Novel insights into the genetics of smoking behaviour, lung function, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (UK BiLEVE): a genetic association study in UK Biobank. Lancet Respir Med, 3 (10), pp. 769-781. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Understanding the genetic basis of airflow obstruction and smoking behaviour is key to determining the pathophysiology of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We used UK Biobank data to study the genetic causes of smoking behaviour and lung health. METHODS: We sampled individuals of European ancestry from UK Biobank, from the middle and extremes of the forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) distribution among heavy smokers (mean 35 pack-years) and never smokers. We developed a custom array for UK Biobank to provide optimum genome-wide coverage of common and low-frequency variants, dense coverage of genomic regions already implicated in lung health and disease, and to assay rare coding variants relevant to the UK population. We investigated whether there were shared genetic causes between different phenotypes defined by extremes of FEV1. We also looked for novel variants associated with extremes of FEV1 and smoking behaviour and assessed regions of the genome that had already shown evidence for a role in lung health and disease. We set genome-wide significance at p<5 × 10(-8). FINDINGS: UK Biobank participants were recruited from March 15, 2006, to July 7, 2010. Sample selection for the UK BiLEVE study started on Nov 22, 2012, and was completed on Dec 20, 2012. We selected 50,008 unique samples: 10,002 individuals with low FEV1, 10,000 with average FEV1, and 5002 with high FEV1 from each of the heavy smoker and never smoker groups. We noted a substantial sharing of genetic causes of low FEV1 between heavy smokers and never smokers (p=2.29 × 10(-16)) and between individuals with and without doctor-diagnosed asthma (p=6.06 × 10(-11)). We discovered six novel genome-wide significant signals of association with extremes of FEV1, including signals at four novel loci (KANSL1, TSEN54, TET2, and RBM19/TBX5) and independent signals at two previously reported loci (NPNT and HLA-DQB1/HLA-DQA2). These variants also showed association with COPD, including in individuals with no history of smoking. The number of copies of a 150 kb region containing the 5' end of KANSL1, a gene that is important for epigenetic gene regulation, was associated with extremes of FEV1. We also discovered five new genome-wide significant signals for smoking behaviour, including a variant in NCAM1 (chromosome 11) and a variant on chromosome 2 (between TEX41 and PABPC1P2) that has a trans effect on expression of NCAM1 in brain tissue. INTERPRETATION: By sampling from the extremes of the lung function distribution in UK Biobank, we identified novel genetic causes of lung function and smoking behaviour. These results provide new insight into the specific mechanisms underlying airflow obstruction, COPD, and tobacco addiction, and show substantial shared genetic architecture underlying airflow obstruction across individuals, irrespective of smoking behaviour and other airway disease. FUNDING: Medical Research Council.

Nikpay M, Goel A, Won H-H, Hall LM, Willenborg C, Kanoni S, Saleheen D, Kyriakou T, Nelson CP, Hopewell JC et al. 2015. A comprehensive 1,000 Genomes-based genome-wide association meta-analysis of coronary artery disease. Nat Genet, 47 (10), pp. 1121-1130. | Show Abstract | Read more

Existing knowledge of genetic variants affecting risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) is largely based on genome-wide association study (GWAS) analysis of common SNPs. Leveraging phased haplotypes from the 1000 Genomes Project, we report a GWAS meta-analysis of ∼185,000 CAD cases and controls, interrogating 6.7 million common (minor allele frequency (MAF) > 0.05) and 2.7 million low-frequency (0.005 < MAF < 0.05) variants. In addition to confirming most known CAD-associated loci, we identified ten new loci (eight additive and two recessive) that contain candidate causal genes newly implicating biological processes in vessel walls. We observed intralocus allelic heterogeneity but little evidence of low-frequency variants with larger effects and no evidence of synthetic association. Our analysis provides a comprehensive survey of the fine genetic architecture of CAD, showing that genetic susceptibility to this common disease is largely determined by common SNPs of small effect size.

van de Bunt M, Cortes A, IGAS Consortium, Brown MA, Morris AP, McCarthy MI. 2015. Evaluating the Performance of Fine-Mapping Strategies at Common Variant GWAS Loci. PLoS Genet, 11 (9), pp. e1005535. | Show Abstract | Read more

The growing availability of high-quality genomic annotation has increased the potential for mechanistic insights when the specific variants driving common genome-wide association signals are accurately localized. A range of fine-mapping strategies have been advocated, and specific successes reported, but the overall performance of such approaches, in the face of the extensive linkage disequilibrium that characterizes the human genome, is not well understood. Using simulations based on sequence data from the 1000 Genomes Project, we quantify the extent to which fine-mapping, here conducted using an approximate Bayesian approach, can be expected to lead to useful improvements in causal variant localization. We show that resolution is highly variable between loci, and that performance is severely degraded as the statistical power to detect association is reduced. We confirm that, where causal variants are shared between ancestry groups, further improvements in performance can be obtained in a trans-ethnic fine-mapping design. Finally, using empirical data from a recently published genome-wide association study for ankylosing spondylitis, we provide empirical confirmation of the behaviour of the approximate Bayesian approach and demonstrate that seven of twenty-six loci can be fine-mapped to fewer than ten variants.

Lu Y, Cuellar-Partida G, Painter JN, Nyholt DR, Australian Ovarian Cancer Study, International Endogene Consortium (IEC), Morris AP, Fasching PA, Hein A, Burghaus S et al. 2015. Shared genetics underlying epidemiological association between endometriosis and ovarian cancer. Hum Mol Genet, 24 (20), pp. 5955-5964. | Show Abstract | Read more

Epidemiological studies have demonstrated associations between endometriosis and certain histotypes of ovarian cancer, including clear cell, low-grade serous and endometrioid carcinomas. We aimed to determine whether the observed associations might be due to shared genetic aetiology. To address this, we used two endometriosis datasets genotyped on common arrays with full-genome coverage (3194 cases and 7060 controls) and a large ovarian cancer dataset genotyped on the customized Illumina Infinium iSelect (iCOGS) arrays (10 065 cases and 21 663 controls). Previous work has suggested that a large number of genetic variants contribute to endometriosis and ovarian cancer (all histotypes combined) susceptibility. Here, using the iCOGS data, we confirmed polygenic architecture for most histotypes of ovarian cancer. This led us to evaluate if the polygenic effects are shared across diseases. We found evidence for shared genetic risks between endometriosis and all histotypes of ovarian cancer, except for the intestinal mucinous type. Clear cell carcinoma showed the strongest genetic correlation with endometriosis (0.51, 95% CI = 0.18-0.84). Endometrioid and low-grade serous carcinomas had similar correlation coefficients (0.48, 95% CI = 0.07-0.89 and 0.40, 95% CI = 0.05-0.75, respectively). High-grade serous carcinoma, which often arises from the fallopian tubes, showed a weaker genetic correlation with endometriosis (0.25, 95% CI = 0.11-0.39), despite the absence of a known epidemiological association. These results suggest that the epidemiological association between endometriosis and ovarian adenocarcinoma may be attributable to shared genetic susceptibility loci.

Liu JZ, van Sommeren S, Huang H, Ng SC, Alberts R, Takahashi A, Ripke S, Lee JC, Jostins L, Shah T et al. 2015. Association analyses identify 38 susceptibility loci for inflammatory bowel disease and highlight shared genetic risk across populations. Nat Genet, 47 (9), pp. 979-986. | Show Abstract | Read more

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Here we report the first trans-ancestry association study of IBD, with genome-wide or Immunochip genotype data from an extended cohort of 86,640 European individuals and Immunochip data from 9,846 individuals of East Asian, Indian or Iranian descent. We implicate 38 loci in IBD risk for the first time. For the majority of the IBD risk loci, the direction and magnitude of effect are consistent in European and non-European cohorts. Nevertheless, we observe genetic heterogeneity between divergent populations at several established risk loci driven by differences in allele frequency (NOD2) or effect size (TNFSF15 and ATG16L1) or a combination of these factors (IL23R and IRGM). Our results provide biological insights into the pathogenesis of IBD and demonstrate the usefulness of trans-ancestry association studies for mapping loci associated with complex diseases and understanding genetic architecture across diverse populations.

Joshi PK, Esko T, Mattsson H, Eklund N, Gandin I, Nutile T, Jackson AU, Schurmann C, Smith AV, Zhang W et al. 2015. Directional dominance on stature and cognition in diverse human populations. Nature, 523 (7561), pp. 459-462. | Show Abstract | Read more

Homozygosity has long been associated with rare, often devastating, Mendelian disorders, and Darwin was one of the first to recognize that inbreeding reduces evolutionary fitness. However, the effect of the more distant parental relatedness that is common in modern human populations is less well understood. Genomic data now allow us to investigate the effects of homozygosity on traits of public health importance by observing contiguous homozygous segments (runs of homozygosity), which are inferred to be homozygous along their complete length. Given the low levels of genome-wide homozygosity prevalent in most human populations, information is required on very large numbers of people to provide sufficient power. Here we use runs of homozygosity to study 16 health-related quantitative traits in 354,224 individuals from 102 cohorts, and find statistically significant associations between summed runs of homozygosity and four complex traits: height, forced expiratory lung volume in one second, general cognitive ability and educational attainment (P < 1 × 10(-300), 2.1 × 10(-6), 2.5 × 10(-10) and 1.8 × 10(-10), respectively). In each case, increased homozygosity was associated with decreased trait value, equivalent to the offspring of first cousins being 1.2 cm shorter and having 10 months' less education. Similar effect sizes were found across four continental groups and populations with different degrees of genome-wide homozygosity, providing evidence that homozygosity, rather than confounding, directly contributes to phenotypic variance. Contrary to earlier reports in substantially smaller samples, no evidence was seen of an influence of genome-wide homozygosity on blood pressure and low density lipoprotein cholesterol, or ten other cardio-metabolic traits. Since directional dominance is predicted for traits under directional evolutionary selection, this study provides evidence that increased stature and cognitive function have been positively selected in human evolution, whereas many important risk factors for late-onset complex diseases may not have been.

Horikoshi M, Mӓgi R, van de Bunt M, Surakka I, Sarin A-P, Mahajan A, Marullo L, Thorleifsson G, Hӓgg S, Hottenga J-J et al. 2015. Discovery and Fine-Mapping of Glycaemic and Obesity-Related Trait Loci Using High-Density Imputation. PLoS Genet, 11 (7), pp. e1005230. | Show Abstract | Read more

Reference panels from the 1000 Genomes (1000G) Project Consortium provide near complete coverage of common and low-frequency genetic variation with minor allele frequency ≥0.5% across European ancestry populations. Within the European Network for Genetic and Genomic Epidemiology (ENGAGE) Consortium, we have undertaken the first large-scale meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS), supplemented by 1000G imputation, for four quantitative glycaemic and obesity-related traits, in up to 87,048 individuals of European ancestry. We identified two loci for body mass index (BMI) at genome-wide significance, and two for fasting glucose (FG), none of which has been previously reported in larger meta-analysis efforts to combine GWAS of European ancestry. Through conditional analysis, we also detected multiple distinct signals of association mapping to established loci for waist-hip ratio adjusted for BMI (RSPO3) and FG (GCK and G6PC2). The index variant for one association signal at the G6PC2 locus is a low-frequency coding allele, H177Y, which has recently been demonstrated to have a functional role in glucose regulation. Fine-mapping analyses revealed that the non-coding variants most likely to drive association signals at established and novel loci were enriched for overlap with enhancer elements, which for FG mapped to promoter and transcription factor binding sites in pancreatic islets, in particular. Our study demonstrates that 1000G imputation and genetic fine-mapping of common and low-frequency variant association signals at GWAS loci, integrated with genomic annotation in relevant tissues, can provide insight into the functional and regulatory mechanisms through which their effects on glycaemic and obesity-related traits are mediated.

Surakka I, Horikoshi M, Mägi R, Sarin A-P, Mahajan A, Lagou V, Marullo L, Ferreira T, Miraglio B, Timonen S et al. 2015. The impact of low-frequency and rare variants on lipid levels. Nat Genet, 47 (6), pp. 589-597. | Show Abstract | Read more

Using a genome-wide screen of 9.6 million genetic variants achieved through 1000 Genomes Project imputation in 62,166 samples, we identify association to lipid traits in 93 loci, including 79 previously identified loci with new lead SNPs and 10 new loci, 15 loci with a low-frequency lead SNP and 10 loci with a missense lead SNP, and 2 loci with an accumulation of rare variants. In six loci, SNPs with established function in lipid genetics (CELSR2, GCKR, LIPC and APOE) or candidate missense mutations with predicted damaging function (CD300LG and TM6SF2) explained the locus associations. The low-frequency variants increased the proportion of variance explained, particularly for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and total cholesterol. Altogether, our results highlight the impact of low-frequency variants in complex traits and show that imputation offers a cost-effective alternative to resequencing.

Sapkota Y, Attia J, Gordon SD, Henders AK, Holliday EG, Rahmioglu N, MacGregor S, Martin NG, McEvoy M, Morris AP et al. 2015. Genetic burden associated with varying degrees of disease severity in endometriosis. Mol Hum Reprod, 21 (7), pp. 594-602. | Show Abstract | Read more

Endometriosis is primarily characterized by the presence of tissue resembling endometrium outside the uterine cavity and is usually diagnosed by laparoscopy. The most commonly used classification of disease, the revised American Fertility Society (rAFS) system to grade endometriosis into different stages based on disease severity (I to IV), has been questioned as it does not correlate well with underlying symptoms, posing issues in diagnosis and choice of treatment. Using two independent European genome-wide association (GWA) datasets and top-level classification of the endometriosis cases based on rAFS [minimal or mild (Stage A) and moderate-to-severe (Stage B) disease], we previously showed that Stage B endometriosis has greater contribution of common genetic variation to its aetiology than Stage A disease. Herein, we extend our previous analysis to four endometriosis stages [minimal (Stage I), mild (Stage II), moderate (Stage III) and severe (Stage IV) disease] based on the rAFS classification system and compared the genetic burden across stages. Our results indicate that genetic burden increases from minimal to severe endometriosis. For the minimal disease, genetic factors may contribute to a lesser extent than other disease categories. Mild and moderate endometriosis appeared genetically similar, making it difficult to tease them apart. Consistent with our previous reports, moderate and severe endometriosis showed greater genetic burden than minimal or mild disease. Overall, our results provide new insights into the genetic architecture of endometriosis and further investigation in larger samples may help to understand better the aetiology of varying degrees of endometriosis, enabling improved diagnostic and treatment modalities.

Ng E, Salihovic S, Lind PM, Mahajan A, Syvänen A-C, Axelsson T, Ingelsson E, Lindgren CM, van Bavel B, Morris AP, Lind L. 2015. Genome-wide association study of plasma levels of polychlorinated biphenyls disclose an association with the CYP2B6 gene in a population-based sample. Environ Res, 140 pp. 95-101. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of man-made environmental pollutants which accumulate in humans with adverse health effects. To date, very little effort has been devoted to the study of the metabolism of PCBs on a genome-wide level. OBJECTIVES: Here, we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to identify genomic regions involved in the metabolism of PCBs. METHODS: Plasma levels of 16 PCBs ascertained in a cohort of elderly individuals from Sweden (n=1016) were measured using gas chromatography-high resolution mass spectrophotometry (GC-HRMS). DNA samples were genotyped on the Infinium Omni Express bead microarray, and imputed up to reference panels from the 1000 Genomes Project. Association testing was performed in a linear regression framework under an additive model. RESULTS: Plasma levels of PCB-99 demonstrated genome-wide significant association with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) mapping to chromosome 19q13.2. The SNP with the strongest association was rs8109848 (p=3.7×10(-13)), mapping to an intronic region of CYP2B6. Moreover, when all PCBs were conditioned on PCB-99, further signals were revealed for PCBs -74, -105 and -118, mapping to the same genomic region. The lead SNPs were rs8109848 (p=3.8×10(-12)) for PCB-118, rs4802104 (p=1.4×10(-9)) for PCB-74 and rs4803413 (p=2.5×10(-9)) for PCB-105, all of which map to CYP2B6. CONCLUSIONS: In our study, we found plasma levels of four lower-chlorinated PCBs to be significantly associated with the genetic region mapping to the CYP2B6 locus. These findings show that CYP2B6 is of importance for the metabolism of PCBs in humans, and may help to identify individuals who may be susceptible to PCB toxicity.

Knowles JW, Xie W, Zhang Z, Chennamsetty I, Assimes TL, Paananen J, Hansson O, Pankow J, Goodarzi MO, Carcamo-Orive I et al. 2015. Identification and validation of N-acetyltransferase 2 as an insulin sensitivity gene. J Clin Invest, 125 (4), pp. 1739-1751. | Show Abstract | Read more

Decreased insulin sensitivity, also referred to as insulin resistance (IR), is a fundamental abnormality in patients with type 2 diabetes and a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. While IR predisposition is heritable, the genetic basis remains largely unknown. The GENEticS of Insulin Sensitivity consortium conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for direct measures of insulin sensitivity, such as euglycemic clamp or insulin suppression test, in 2,764 European individuals, with replication in an additional 2,860 individuals. The presence of a nonsynonymous variant of N-acetyltransferase 2 (NAT2) [rs1208 (803A>G, K268R)] was strongly associated with decreased insulin sensitivity that was independent of BMI. The rs1208 "A" allele was nominally associated with IR-related traits, including increased fasting glucose, hemoglobin A1C, total and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and coronary artery disease. NAT2 acetylates arylamine and hydrazine drugs and carcinogens, but predicted acetylator NAT2 phenotypes were not associated with insulin sensitivity. In a murine adipocyte cell line, silencing of NAT2 ortholog Nat1 decreased insulin-mediated glucose uptake, increased basal and isoproterenol-stimulated lipolysis, and decreased adipocyte differentiation, while Nat1 overexpression produced opposite effects. Nat1-deficient mice had elevations in fasting blood glucose, insulin, and triglycerides and decreased insulin sensitivity, as measured by glucose and insulin tolerance tests, with intermediate effects in Nat1 heterozygote mice. Our results support a role for NAT2 in insulin sensitivity.

Locke AE, Kahali B, Berndt SI, Justice AE, Pers TH, Day FR, Powell C, Vedantam S, Buchkovich ML, Yang J et al. 2015. Genetic studies of body mass index yield new insights for obesity biology. Nature, 518 (7538), pp. 197-206. | Show Abstract | Read more

Obesity is heritable and predisposes to many diseases. To understand the genetic basis of obesity better, here we conduct a genome-wide association study and Metabochip meta-analysis of body mass index (BMI), a measure commonly used to define obesity and assess adiposity, in up to 339,224 individuals. This analysis identifies 97 BMI-associated loci (P < 5 × 10(-8)), 56 of which are novel. Five loci demonstrate clear evidence of several independent association signals, and many loci have significant effects on other metabolic phenotypes. The 97 loci account for ∼2.7% of BMI variation, and genome-wide estimates suggest that common variation accounts for >20% of BMI variation. Pathway analyses provide strong support for a role of the central nervous system in obesity susceptibility and implicate new genes and pathways, including those related to synaptic function, glutamate signalling, insulin secretion/action, energy metabolism, lipid biology and adipogenesis.

Shungin D, Winkler TW, Croteau-Chonka DC, Ferreira T, Locke AE, Mägi R, Strawbridge RJ, Pers TH, Fischer K, Justice AE et al. 2015. New genetic loci link adipose and insulin biology to body fat distribution. Nature, 518 (7538), pp. 187-196. | Show Abstract | Read more

Body fat distribution is a heritable trait and a well-established predictor of adverse metabolic outcomes, independent of overall adiposity. To increase our understanding of the genetic basis of body fat distribution and its molecular links to cardiometabolic traits, here we conduct genome-wide association meta-analyses of traits related to waist and hip circumferences in up to 224,459 individuals. We identify 49 loci (33 new) associated with waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for body mass index (BMI), and an additional 19 loci newly associated with related waist and hip circumference measures (P < 5 × 10(-8)). In total, 20 of the 49 waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for BMI loci show significant sexual dimorphism, 19 of which display a stronger effect in women. The identified loci were enriched for genes expressed in adipose tissue and for putative regulatory elements in adipocytes. Pathway analyses implicated adipogenesis, angiogenesis, transcriptional regulation and insulin resistance as processes affecting fat distribution, providing insight into potential pathophysiological mechanisms.

den Hoed M, Strawbridge RJ, Almgren P, Gustafsson S, Axelsson T, Engström G, de Faire U, Hedblad B, Humphries SE, Lindgren CM et al. 2015. GWAS-identified loci for coronary heart disease are associated with intima-media thickness and plaque presence at the carotid artery bulb. Atherosclerosis, 239 (2), pp. 304-310. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Large-scale genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have so far identified 45 loci that are robustly associated with coronary heart disease (CHD) in data from adult men and women of European descent. OBJECTIVES: To examine whether the CHD-associated loci are associated with measures of atherosclerosis in data from up to 9582 individuals of European ancestry. METHODS: Forty-five SNPs representing the CHD-associated loci were genotyped in middle-aged to elderly individuals of European descent from four independent population-based studies (IMPROVE, MDC-CC, ULSAM and PIVUS). Intima-media thickness (IMT) was measured by external B-mode ultrasonography at the far wall of the bulb (sinus) and common carotid artery. Plaque presence was defined as a maximal IMT of the bulb >1.5 mm. We meta-analysed single-SNP associations across the four studies, and combined them in a genetic predisposition score. We subsequently examined the association of the genetic predisposition score with prevalent CHD and the three indices of atherosclerosis, adjusting for sex, age and Framingham risk factors. RESULTS: As anticipated, the genetic predisposition score was associated with prevalent CHD, with each additional risk allele increasing the odds of disease by 5.5% (p = 4.1 × 10(-6)). Moreover, each additional CHD-risk allele across the 45 loci was associated with a 0.24% increase in IMT (p = 4.0 × 10(-3)), and with a 2.8% increased odds of plaque presence (p = 7.4 × 10(-6)) at the far wall of the bulb. The genetic predisposition score was not associated with IMT of the common carotid artery (p = 0.47). CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that the association between the 45 previously identified loci and CHD at least partly acts through atherosclerosis.

Mahajan A, Sim X, Ng HJ, Manning A, Rivas MA, Highland HM, Locke AE, Grarup N, Im HK, Cingolani P et al. 2015. Identification and functional characterization of G6PC2 coding variants influencing glycemic traits define an effector transcript at the G6PC2-ABCB11 locus. PLoS Genet, 11 (1), pp. e1004876. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome wide association studies (GWAS) for fasting glucose (FG) and insulin (FI) have identified common variant signals which explain 4.8% and 1.2% of trait variance, respectively. It is hypothesized that low-frequency and rare variants could contribute substantially to unexplained genetic variance. To test this, we analyzed exome-array data from up to 33,231 non-diabetic individuals of European ancestry. We found exome-wide significant (P<5×10-7) evidence for two loci not previously highlighted by common variant GWAS: GLP1R (p.Ala316Thr, minor allele frequency (MAF)=1.5%) influencing FG levels, and URB2 (p.Glu594Val, MAF = 0.1%) influencing FI levels. Coding variant associations can highlight potential effector genes at (non-coding) GWAS signals. At the G6PC2/ABCB11 locus, we identified multiple coding variants in G6PC2 (p.Val219Leu, p.His177Tyr, and p.Tyr207Ser) influencing FG levels, conditionally independent of each other and the non-coding GWAS signal. In vitro assays demonstrate that these associated coding alleles result in reduced protein abundance via proteasomal degradation, establishing G6PC2 as an effector gene at this locus. Reconciliation of single-variant associations and functional effects was only possible when haplotype phase was considered. In contrast to earlier reports suggesting that, paradoxically, glucose-raising alleles at this locus are protective against type 2 diabetes (T2D), the p.Val219Leu G6PC2 variant displayed a modest but directionally consistent association with T2D risk. Coding variant associations for glycemic traits in GWAS signals highlight PCSK1, RREB1, and ZHX3 as likely effector transcripts. These coding variant association signals do not have a major impact on the trait variance explained, but they do provide valuable biological insights.

Morris AP. 2015. Erratum to: Fine Mapping of Type 2 Diabetes Susceptibility Loci. Curr Diab Rep, 15 (1), pp. 575. | Read more




Surakka I, Horikoshi M, Mägi R, Sarin AP, Mahajan A, Lagou V, Marullo L, Ferreira T, Miraglio B, Timonen S et al. 2015. The impact of low-frequency and rare variants on lipid levels Nature Genetics, 47 (6), pp. 589-597. | Show Abstract | Read more

© 2015 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved. Using a genome-wide screen of 9.6 million genetic variants achieved through 1000 Genomes Project imputation in 62,166 samples, we identify association to lipid traits in 93 loci, including 79 previously identified loci with new lead SNPs and 10 new loci, 15 loci with a low-frequency lead SNP and 10 loci with a missense lead SNP, and 2 loci with an accumulation of rare variants. In six loci, SNPs with established function in lipid genetics (CELSR2, GCKR, LIPC and APOE) or candidate missense mutations with predicted damaging function (CD300LG and TM6SF2) explained the locus associations. The low-frequency variants increased the proportion of variance explained, particularly for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and total cholesterol. Altogether, our results highlight the impact of low-frequency variants in complex traits and show that imputation offers a cost-effective alternative to resequencing.

Dumanski JP, Rasi C, Lönn M, Davies H, Ingelsson M, Giedraitis V, Lannfelt L, Magnusson PKE, Lindgren CM, Morris AP et al. 2015. Mutagenesis. Smoking is associated with mosaic loss of chromosome Y. Science, 347 (6217), pp. 81-83. | Show Abstract | Read more

Tobacco smoking is a risk factor for numerous disorders, including cancers affecting organs outside the respiratory tract. Epidemiological data suggest that smoking is a greater risk factor for these cancers in males compared with females. This observation, together with the fact that males have a higher incidence of and mortality from most non-sex-specific cancers, remains unexplained. Loss of chromosome Y (LOY) in blood cells is associated with increased risk of nonhematological tumors. We demonstrate here that smoking is associated with LOY in blood cells in three independent cohorts [TwinGene: odds ratio (OR) = 4.3, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 2.8 to 6.7; Uppsala Longitudinal Study of Adult Men: OR = 2.4, 95% CI = 1.6 to 3.6; and Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors: OR = 3.5, 95% CI = 1.4 to 8.4] encompassing a total of 6014 men. The data also suggest that smoking has a transient and dose-dependent mutagenic effect on LOY status. The finding that smoking induces LOY thus links a preventable risk factor with the most common acquired human mutation.

Yuan W, Xia Y, Bell CG, Yet I, Ferreira T, Ward KJ, Gao F, Loomis AK, Hyde CL, Wu H et al. 2014. An integrated epigenomic analysis for type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci in monozygotic twins. Nat Commun, 5 (1), pp. 5719. | Show Abstract | Read more

DNA methylation has a great potential for understanding the aetiology of common complex traits such as Type 2 diabetes (T2D). Here we perform genome-wide methylated DNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (MeDIP-seq) in whole-blood-derived DNA from 27 monozygotic twin pairs and follow up results with replication and integrated omics analyses. We identify predominately hypermethylated T2D-related differentially methylated regions (DMRs) and replicate the top signals in 42 unrelated T2D cases and 221 controls. The strongest signal is in the promoter of the MALT1 gene, involved in insulin and glycaemic pathways, and related to taurocholate levels in blood. Integrating the DNA methylome findings with T2D GWAS meta-analysis results reveals a strong enrichment for DMRs in T2D-susceptibility loci. We also detect signals specific to T2D-discordant twins in the GPR61 and PRKCB genes. These replicated T2D associations reflect both likely causal and consequential pathways of the disease. The analysis indicates how an integrated genomics and epigenomics approach, utilizing an MZ twin design, can provide pathogenic insights as well as potential drug targets and biomarkers for T2D and other complex traits.

Morris AP. 2014. Fine mapping of type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci. Curr Diab Rep, 14 (11), pp. 549. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome-wide association studies of type 2 diabetes have been extremely successful in discovering loci that contribute genetic effects to susceptibility to the disease. However, at the vast majority of these loci, the variants and transcripts through which these effects on type 2 diabetes are mediated are unknown, limiting progress in defining the pathophysiological basis of the disease. In this review, we will describe available approaches for assaying genetic variation across loci and discuss statistical methods to determine the most likely causal variants in the region. We will consider the utility of trans-ethnic meta-analysis for fine mapping by leveraging the differences in the structure of linkage disequilibrium between diverse populations. Finally, we will discuss progress in fine-mapping type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci to date and consider the prospects for future efforts to localise causal variants for the disease.

Xi B, Takeuchi F, Meirhaeghe A, Kato N, Chambers JC, Morris AP, Cho YS, Zhang W, Mohlke KL, Kooner JS et al. 2014. Associations of genetic variants in/near body mass index-associated genes with type 2 diabetes: a systematic meta-analysis. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf), 81 (5), pp. 702-710. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: Genome-wide association studies have identified many obesity/body mass index (BMI)-associated loci in Europeans and East Asians. Since then, a large number of studies have investigated the role of BMI-associated loci in the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D). However, the results have been inconsistent. The objective of this study was to investigate the associations of eleven obesity/BMI loci with T2D risk and explore how BMI influences this risk. METHODS: We retrieved published literature from PubMed and Embase. The pooled odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using fixed- or random-effect models. RESULTS: In the meta-analysis of 42 studies for 11 obesity/BMI-associated loci, we observed a statistically significant association of the FTO rs9939609 polymorphism (66 425 T2D cases/239 689 normoglycaemic subjects; P = 1·00 × 10(-41) ) and six other variants with T2D risk (17 915 T2D cases/27 531 normoglycaemic individuals: n = 40 629-130 001; all P < 0·001 for SH2B1 rs7498665, FAIM2 rs7138803, TMEM18 rs7561317, GNPDA2 rs10938397, BDNF rs925946 and NEGR1 rs2568958). After adjustment for BMI, the association remained statistically significant for four of the seven variants (all P < 0·05 for FTO rs9939609, SH2B1 rs7498665, FAIM2 rs7138803, GNPDA2 rs10938397). Subgroup analysis by ethnicity demonstrated similar results. CONCLUSIONS: This meta-analysis indicates that several BMI-associated variants are significantly associated with T2D risk. Some variants increase the T2D risk independent of obesity, while others mediate this risk through obesity.

Sapkota Y, Low S-K, Attia J, Gordon SD, Henders AK, Holliday EG, MacGregor S, Martin NG, McEvoy M, Morris AP et al. 2015. Association between endometriosis and the interleukin 1A (IL1A) locus. Hum Reprod, 30 (1), pp. 239-248. | Show Abstract | Read more

STUDY QUESTION: Are single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at the interleukin 1A (IL1A) gene locus associated with endometriosis risk? SUMMARY ANSWER: We found evidence for strong association between IL1A SNPs and endometriosis risk. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Genetic factors contribute substantially to the complex aetiology of endometriosis and the disease has an estimated heritability of ∼51%. We, and others, have conducted genome-wide association (GWA) studies for endometriosis, which identified a total of nine independent risk loci. Recently, two small Japanese studies reported eight SNPs (rs6542095, rs11677416, rs3783550, rs3783525, rs3783553, rs2856836, rs1304037 and rs17561) at the IL1A gene locus as suggestively associated with endometriosis risk. There is also evidence of a link between inflammation and endometriosis. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: We sought to further investigate the eight IL1A SNPs for association with endometriosis using an independent sample of 3908 endometriosis cases and 8568 controls of European and Japanese ancestry. The study was conducted between October 2013 and July 2014. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: By leveraging GWA data from our previous multi-ethnic GWA meta-analysis for endometriosis, we imputed variants in the IL1A region, using a recent 1000 Genomes reference panel. After combining summary statistics for the eight SNPs from our European and Japanese imputed data with the published results, a fixed-effect meta-analysis was performed. An additional meta-analysis restricted to endometriosis cases with moderate-to-severe (revised American Fertility Society stage 3 or 4) disease versus controls was also performed. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: All eight IL1A SNPs successfully replicated at P < 0.014 in the European imputed data with concordant direction and similar size to the effects reported in the original Japanese studies. Of these, three SNPs (rs6542095, rs3783550 and rs3783525) also showed association with endometriosis at a nominal P < 0.05 in our independent Japanese sample. Fixed-effect meta-analysis of the eight SNPs for moderate-to-severe endometriosis produced a genome-wide significant association for rs6542095 (odds ratio = 1.21; 95% confidence interval = 1.13-1.29; P = 3.43 × 10(-8)). LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: The meta-analysis for moderate-to-severe endometriosis included results of moderate-to-severe endometriosis cases from our European data sets and all endometriosis cases from the Japanese data sets, as disease stage information was not available for endometriosis cases in the Japanese data sets. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: SNP rs6542095 is located ∼2.3 kb downstream of the IL1A gene and ∼6.9 kb upstream of cytoskeleton-associated protein 2-like (CKAP2L) gene. The IL1A gene encodes the IL1a protein, a member of the interleukin 1 cytokine family which is involved in various immune responses and inflammatory processes. These results provide important replication in an independent Japanese sample and, for the first time, association of the IL1A locus in endometriosis patients of European ancestry. SNPs within the IL1A locus may regulate other genes, but if IL1A is the target, our results provide supporting evidence for a link between inflammatory responses and the pathogenesis of endometriosis. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTERESTS: The research was funded by grants from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust. None of the authors has competing interests for the study.

Rahmioglu N, Macgregor S, Drong AW, Hedman ÅK, Harris HR, Randall JC, Prokopenko I, International Endogene Consortium (IEC), The GIANT Consortium, Nyholt DR, Morris AP et al. 2015. Genome-wide enrichment analysis between endometriosis and obesity-related traits reveals novel susceptibility loci. Hum Mol Genet, 24 (4), pp. 1185-1199. | Show Abstract | Read more

Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory condition in women that results in pelvic pain and subfertility, and has been associated with decreased body mass index (BMI). Genetic variants contributing to the heritable component have started to emerge from genome-wide association studies (GWAS), although the majority remain unknown. Unexpectedly, we observed an intergenic locus on 7p15.2 that was genome-wide significantly associated with both endometriosis and fat distribution (waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for BMI; WHRadjBMI) in an independent meta-GWAS of European ancestry individuals. This led us to investigate the potential overlap in genetic variants underlying the aetiology of endometriosis, WHRadjBMI and BMI using GWAS data. Our analyses demonstrated significant enrichment of common variants between fat distribution and endometriosis (P = 3.7 × 10(-3)), which was stronger when we restricted the investigation to more severe (Stage B) cases (P = 4.5 × 10(-4)). However, no genetic enrichment was observed between endometriosis and BMI (P = 0.79). In addition to 7p15.2, we identify four more variants with statistically significant evidence of involvement in both endometriosis and WHRadjBMI (in/near KIFAP3, CAB39L, WNT4, GRB14); two of these, KIFAP3 and CAB39L, are novel associations for both traits. KIFAP3, WNT4 and 7p15.2 are associated with the WNT signalling pathway; formal pathway analysis confirmed a statistically significant (P = 6.41 × 10(-4)) overrepresentation of shared associations in developmental processes/WNT signalling between the two traits. Our results demonstrate an example of potential biological pleiotropy that was hitherto unknown, and represent an opportunity for functional follow-up of loci and further cross-phenotype comparisons to assess how fat distribution and endometriosis pathogenesis research fields can inform each other.

Wood AR, Esko T, Yang J, Vedantam S, Pers TH, Gustafsson S, Chu AY, Estrada K, Luan J, Kutalik Z et al. 2014. Defining the role of common variation in the genomic and biological architecture of adult human height. Nat Genet, 46 (11), pp. 1173-1186. | Show Abstract | Read more

Using genome-wide data from 253,288 individuals, we identified 697 variants at genome-wide significance that together explained one-fifth of the heritability for adult height. By testing different numbers of variants in independent studies, we show that the most strongly associated ∼2,000, ∼3,700 and ∼9,500 SNPs explained ∼21%, ∼24% and ∼29% of phenotypic variance. Furthermore, all common variants together captured 60% of heritability. The 697 variants clustered in 423 loci were enriched for genes, pathways and tissue types known to be involved in growth and together implicated genes and pathways not highlighted in earlier efforts, such as signaling by fibroblast growth factors, WNT/β-catenin and chondroitin sulfate-related genes. We identified several genes and pathways not previously connected with human skeletal growth, including mTOR, osteoglycin and binding of hyaluronic acid. Our results indicate a genetic architecture for human height that is characterized by a very large but finite number (thousands) of causal variants.

Morris AP, Teslovich TM, Ferreira T, Mahajan A, Lee Y, Rayner NW, Magi R, Consortium DIAGRAM. 2014. Fine-mapping type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci with high-density imputation DIABETOLOGIA, 57 pp. S50-S51.

Gaulton KJ, Morris AP, McCarthy MI, Consortium DIAGRAM. 2014. FOXA2 bound sites are enriched for type 2 diabetes risk variants DIABETOLOGIA, 57 pp. S66-S66.

Horikoshi M, Kooijman MN, Bradield JP, Strachan D, Tejedor NV, Kreiner-Moller E, Joshi P, Lindi V, Grarup N, Grant SFA et al. 2014. Meta-analysis of birth weight genome-wide association studies identifies two novel loci extending links between early growth and adult metabolic diseases DIABETOLOGIA, 57 pp. S51-S51.

Keller MF, Reiner AP, Okada Y, van Rooij FJA, Johnson AD, Chen M-H, Smith AV, Morris AP, Tanaka T, Ferrucci L et al. 2014. Trans-ethnic meta-analysis of white blood cell phenotypes. Hum Mol Genet, 23 (25), pp. 6944-6960. | Show Abstract | Read more

White blood cell (WBC) count is a common clinical measure used as a predictor of certain aspects of human health, including immunity and infection status. WBC count is also a complex trait that varies among individuals and ancestry groups. Differences in linkage disequilibrium structure and heterogeneity in allelic effects are expected to play a role in the associations observed between populations. Prior genome-wide association study (GWAS) meta-analyses have identified genomic loci associated with WBC and its subtypes, but much of the heritability of these phenotypes remains unexplained. Using GWAS summary statistics for over 50 000 individuals from three diverse populations (Japanese, African-American and European ancestry), a Bayesian model methodology was employed to account for heterogeneity between ancestry groups. This approach was used to perform a trans-ethnic meta-analysis of total WBC, neutrophil and monocyte counts. Ten previously known associations were replicated and six new loci were identified, including several regions harboring genes related to inflammation and immune cell function. Ninety-five percent credible interval regions were calculated to narrow the association signals and fine-map the putatively causal variants within loci. Finally, a conditional analysis was performed on the most significant SNPs identified by the trans-ethnic meta-analysis (MA), and nine secondary signals within loci previously associated with WBC or its subtypes were identified. This work illustrates the potential of trans-ethnic analysis and ascribes a critical role to multi-ethnic cohorts and consortia in exploring complex phenotypes with respect to variants that lie outside the European-biased GWAS pool.

Kraja AT, Chasman DI, North KE, Reiner AP, Yanek LR, Kilpeläinen TO, Smith JA, Dehghan A, Dupuis J, Johnson AD et al. 2014. Pleiotropic genes for metabolic syndrome and inflammation. Mol Genet Metab, 112 (4), pp. 317-338. | Show Abstract | Read more

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) has become a health and financial burden worldwide. The MetS definition captures clustering of risk factors that predict higher risk for diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. Our study hypothesis is that additional to genes influencing individual MetS risk factors, genetic variants exist that influence MetS and inflammatory markers forming a predisposing MetS genetic network. To test this hypothesis a staged approach was undertaken. (a) We analyzed 17 metabolic and inflammatory traits in more than 85,500 participants from 14 large epidemiological studies within the Cross Consortia Pleiotropy Group. Individuals classified with MetS (NCEP definition), versus those without, showed on average significantly different levels for most inflammatory markers studied. (b) Paired average correlations between 8 metabolic traits and 9 inflammatory markers from the same studies as above, estimated with two methods, and factor analyses on large simulated data, helped in identifying 8 combinations of traits for follow-up in meta-analyses, out of 130,305 possible combinations between metabolic traits and inflammatory markers studied. (c) We performed correlated meta-analyses for 8 metabolic traits and 6 inflammatory markers by using existing GWAS published genetic summary results, with about 2.5 million SNPs from twelve predominantly largest GWAS consortia. These analyses yielded 130 unique SNPs/genes with pleiotropic associations (a SNP/gene associating at least one metabolic trait and one inflammatory marker). Of them twenty-five variants (seven loci newly reported) are proposed as MetS candidates. They map to genes MACF1, KIAA0754, GCKR, GRB14, COBLL1, LOC646736-IRS1, SLC39A8, NELFE, SKIV2L, STK19, TFAP2B, BAZ1B, BCL7B, TBL2, MLXIPL, LPL, TRIB1, ATXN2, HECTD4, PTPN11, ZNF664, PDXDC1, FTO, MC4R and TOMM40. Based on large data evidence, we conclude that inflammation is a feature of MetS and several gene variants show pleiotropic genetic associations across phenotypes and might explain a part of MetS correlated genetic architecture. These findings warrant further functional investigation.

Loth DW, Soler Artigas M, Gharib SA, Wain LV, Franceschini N, Koch B, Pottinger TD, Smith AV, Duan Q, Oldmeadow C et al. 2014. Genome-wide association analysis identifies six new loci associated with forced vital capacity. Nat Genet, 46 (7), pp. 669-677. | Show Abstract | Read more

Forced vital capacity (FVC), a spirometric measure of pulmonary function, reflects lung volume and is used to diagnose and monitor lung diseases. We performed genome-wide association study meta-analysis of FVC in 52,253 individuals from 26 studies and followed up the top associations in 32,917 additional individuals of European ancestry. We found six new regions associated at genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10(-8)) with FVC in or near EFEMP1, BMP6, MIR129-2-HSD17B12, PRDM11, WWOX and KCNJ2. Two loci previously associated with spirometric measures (GSTCD and PTCH1) were related to FVC. Newly implicated regions were followed up in samples from African-American, Korean, Chinese and Hispanic individuals. We detected transcripts for all six newly implicated genes in human lung tissue. The new loci may inform mechanisms involved in lung development and the pathogenesis of restrictive lung disease.

Tang W, Kowgier M, Loth DW, Soler Artigas M, Joubert BR, Hodge E, Gharib SA, Smith AV, Ruczinski I, Gudnason V et al. 2014. Large-scale genome-wide association studies and meta-analyses of longitudinal change in adult lung function. PLoS One, 9 (7), pp. e100776. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified numerous loci influencing cross-sectional lung function, but less is known about genes influencing longitudinal change in lung function. METHODS: We performed GWAS of the rate of change in forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1) in 14 longitudinal, population-based cohort studies comprising 27,249 adults of European ancestry using linear mixed effects model and combined cohort-specific results using fixed effect meta-analysis to identify novel genetic loci associated with longitudinal change in lung function. Gene expression analyses were subsequently performed for identified genetic loci. As a secondary aim, we estimated the mean rate of decline in FEV1 by smoking pattern, irrespective of genotypes, across these 14 studies using meta-analysis. RESULTS: The overall meta-analysis produced suggestive evidence for association at the novel IL16/STARD5/TMC3 locus on chromosome 15 (P  =  5.71 × 10(-7)). In addition, meta-analysis using the five cohorts with ≥3 FEV1 measurements per participant identified the novel ME3 locus on chromosome 11 (P  =  2.18 × 10(-8)) at genome-wide significance. Neither locus was associated with FEV1 decline in two additional cohort studies. We confirmed gene expression of IL16, STARD5, and ME3 in multiple lung tissues. Publicly available microarray data confirmed differential expression of all three genes in lung samples from COPD patients compared with controls. Irrespective of genotypes, the combined estimate for FEV1 decline was 26.9, 29.2 and 35.7 mL/year in never, former, and persistent smokers, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: In this large-scale GWAS, we identified two novel genetic loci in association with the rate of change in FEV1 that harbor candidate genes with biologically plausible functional links to lung function.

Lind L, Penell J, Syvänen A-C, Axelsson T, Ingelsson E, Morris AP, Lindgren C, Salihovic S, van Bavel B, Lind PM. 2014. Genetic variation in the CYP1A1 gene is related to circulating PCB118 levels in a population-based sample. Environ Res, 133 pp. 135-140. | Show Abstract | Read more

Several of the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), i.e. the dioxin-like PCBs, are known to induce the P450 enzymes CYP1A1, CYP1A2 and CYP1B1 by activating the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (Ah)-receptor. We evaluated if circulating levels of PCBs in a population sample were related to genetic variation in the genes encoding these CYPs. In the population-based Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors (PIVUS) study (1016 subjects all aged 70), 21 SNPs in the CYP1A1, CYP1A2 and CYP1B1 genes were genotyped. Sixteen PCB congeners were analysed by high-resolution chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRGC/ HRMS). Of the investigated relationships between SNPs in the CYP1A1, CYP1A2 and CYP1B1 and six PCBs (congeners 118, 126, 156, 169, 170 and 206) that captures >80% of the variation of all PCBs measured, only the relationship between CYP1A1 rs2470893 was significantly related to PCB118 levels following strict adjustment for multiple testing (p=0.00011). However, there were several additional SNPs in the CYP1A2 and CYP1B1 that showed nominally significant associations with PCB118 levels (p-values in the 0.003-0.05 range). Further, several SNPs in the CYP1B1 gene were related to both PCB156 and PCB206 with p-values in the 0.005-0.05 range. Very few associations with p<0.05 were seen for PCB126, PCB169 or PCB170. Genetic variation in the CYP1A1 was related to circulating PCB118 levels in the general elderly population. Genetic variation in CYP1A2 and CYP1B1 might also be associated with other PCBs.

Moutsianas L, Morris AP. 2014. Methodology for the analysis of rare genetic variation in genome-wide association and re-sequencing studies of complex human traits. Brief Funct Genomics, 13 (5), pp. 362-370. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome-wide association studies have been successful in identifying common variants that impact complex human traits and diseases. However, despite this success, the joint effects of these variants explain only a small proportion of the genetic variance in these phenotypes, leading to speculation that rare genetic variation might account for much of the 'missing heritability'. Consequently, there has been an exciting period of research and development into the methodology for the analysis of rare genetic variants, typically by considering their joint effects on complex traits within the same functional unit or genomic region. In this review, we describe a general framework for modelling the joint effects of rare genetic variants on complex traits in association studies of unrelated individuals. We summarise a range of widely used association tests that have been developed from this model and provide an overview of the relative performance of these approaches from published simulation studies.

Penell J, Lind L, Fall T, Syvänen A-C, Axelsson T, Lundmark P, Morris AP, Lindgren C, Mahajan A, Salihovic S et al. 2014. Genetic variation in the CYP2B6 gene is related to circulating 2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47) concentrations: an observational population-based study. Environ Health, 13 (1), pp. 34. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Since human CYP2B6 has been identified as the major CYP enzyme involved in the metabolism of 2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47) and that human 2B6 is a highly polymorphic CYP, with known functional variants, we evaluated if circulating concentrations of a major brominated flame retardant, BDE-47, were related to genetic variation in the CYP2B6 gene in a population sample. METHODS: In the population-based Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors (PIVUS) study (men and women all aged 70), 25 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the CYP2B6 gene were genotyped. Circulating concentrations of BDE-47 were analyzed by high-resolution gas chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRGC/ HRMS). RESULTS: Several SNPs in the CYP2B6 gene were associated with circulating concentrations of BDE-47 (P = 10-4 to 10-9). The investigated SNPs came primarily from two haplotypes, although the correlation between the haplotypes was rather high. Conditional analyses adjusting for the SNP with the strongest association with the exposure (rs2014141) did not provide evidence for independent signals. CONCLUSION: Circulating concentrations of BDE-47 were related to genetic variation in the CYP2B6 gene in an elderly population.

Langenberg C, Sharp SJ, Franks PW, Scott RA, Deloukas P, Forouhi NG, Froguel P, Groop LC, Hansen T, Palla L et al. 2014. Gene-lifestyle interaction and type 2 diabetes: the EPIC interact case-cohort study. PLoS Med, 11 (5), pp. e1001647. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Understanding of the genetic basis of type 2 diabetes (T2D) has progressed rapidly, but the interactions between common genetic variants and lifestyle risk factors have not been systematically investigated in studies with adequate statistical power. Therefore, we aimed to quantify the combined effects of genetic and lifestyle factors on risk of T2D in order to inform strategies for prevention. METHODS AND FINDINGS: The InterAct study includes 12,403 incident T2D cases and a representative sub-cohort of 16,154 individuals from a cohort of 340,234 European participants with 3.99 million person-years of follow-up. We studied the combined effects of an additive genetic T2D risk score and modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors using Prentice-weighted Cox regression and random effects meta-analysis methods. The effect of the genetic score was significantly greater in younger individuals (p for interaction  = 1.20×10-4). Relative genetic risk (per standard deviation [4.4 risk alleles]) was also larger in participants who were leaner, both in terms of body mass index (p for interaction  = 1.50×10-3) and waist circumference (p for interaction  = 7.49×10-9). Examination of absolute risks by strata showed the importance of obesity for T2D risk. The 10-y cumulative incidence of T2D rose from 0.25% to 0.89% across extreme quartiles of the genetic score in normal weight individuals, compared to 4.22% to 7.99% in obese individuals. We detected no significant interactions between the genetic score and sex, diabetes family history, physical activity, or dietary habits assessed by a Mediterranean diet score. CONCLUSIONS: The relative effect of a T2D genetic risk score is greater in younger and leaner participants. However, this sub-group is at low absolute risk and would not be a logical target for preventive interventions. The high absolute risk associated with obesity at any level of genetic risk highlights the importance of universal rather than targeted approaches to lifestyle intervention.

Forsberg LA, Rasi C, Malmqvist N, Davies H, Pasupulati S, Pakalapati G, Sandgren J, Diaz de Ståhl T, Zaghlool A, Giedraitis V et al. 2014. Mosaic loss of chromosome Y in peripheral blood is associated with shorter survival and higher risk of cancer. Nat Genet, 46 (6), pp. 624-628. | Show Abstract | Read more

Incidence and mortality for sex-unspecific cancers are higher among men, a fact that is largely unexplained. Furthermore, age-related loss of chromosome Y (LOY) is frequent in normal hematopoietic cells, but the phenotypic consequences of LOY have been elusive. From analysis of 1,153 elderly men, we report that LOY in peripheral blood was associated with risks of all-cause mortality (hazards ratio (HR) = 1.91, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.17-3.13; 637 events) and non-hematological cancer mortality (HR = 3.62, 95% CI = 1.56-8.41; 132 events). LOY affected at least 8.2% of the subjects in this cohort, and median survival times among men with LOY were 5.5 years shorter. Association of LOY with risk of all-cause mortality was validated in an independent cohort (HR = 3.66) in which 20.5% of subjects showed LOY. These results illustrate the impact of post-zygotic mosaicism on disease risk, could explain why males are more frequently affected by cancer and suggest that chromosome Y is important in processes beyond sex determination. LOY in blood could become a predictive biomarker of male carcinogenesis.

Rahmioglu N, Nyholt DR, Morris AP, Missmer SA, Montgomery GW, Zondervan KT. 2014. Genetic variants underlying risk of endometriosis: insights from meta-analysis of eight genome-wide association and replication datasets. Hum Reprod Update, 20 (5), pp. 702-716. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Endometriosis is a heritable common gynaecological condition influenced by multiple genetic and environmental factors. Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have proved successful in identifying common genetic variants of moderate effects for various complex diseases. To date, eight GWAS and replication studies from multiple populations have been published on endometriosis. In this review, we investigate the consistency and heterogeneity of the results across all the studies and their implications for an improved understanding of the aetiology of the condition. METHODS: Meta-analyses were conducted on four GWASs and four replication studies including a total of 11 506 cases and 32 678 controls, and on the subset of studies that investigated associations for revised American Fertility Society (rAFS) Stage III/IV including 2859 cases. The datasets included 9039 cases and 27 343 controls of European (Australia, Belgium, Italy, UK, USA) and 2467 cases and 5335 controls of Japanese ancestry. Fixed and Han and Elkin random-effects models, and heterogeneity statistics (Cochran's Q test), were used to investigate the evidence of the nine reported genome-wide significant loci across datasets and populations. RESULTS: Meta-analysis showed that seven out of nine loci had consistent directions of effect across studies and populations, and six out of nine remained genome-wide significant (P < 5 × 10(-8)), including rs12700667 on 7p15.2 (P = 1.6 × 10(-9)), rs7521902 near WNT4 (P = 1.8 × 10(-15)), rs10859871 near VEZT (P = 4.7 × 10(-15)), rs1537377 near CDKN2B-AS1 (P = 1.5 × 10(-8)), rs7739264 near ID4 (P = 6.2 × 10(-10)) and rs13394619 in GREB1 (P = 4.5 × 10(-8)). In addition to the six loci, two showed borderline genome-wide significant associations with Stage III/IV endometriosis, including rs1250248 in FN1 (P = 8 × 10(-8)) and rs4141819 on 2p14 (P = 9.2 × 10(-8)). Two independent inter-genic loci, rs4141819 and rs6734792 on chromosome 2, showed significant evidence of heterogeneity across datasets (P < 0.005). Eight of the nine loci had stronger effect sizes among Stage III/IV cases, implying that they are likely to be implicated in the development of moderate to severe, or ovarian, disease. While three out of nine loci were inter-genic, the remaining were in or near genes with known functions of biological relevance to endometriosis, varying from roles in developmental pathways to cellular growth/carcinogenesis. CONCLUSIONS: Our meta-analysis shows remarkable consistency in endometriosis GWAS results across studies, with little evidence of population-based heterogeneity. They also show that the phenotypic classifications used in GWAS to date have been limited. Stronger associations with Stage III/IV disease observed for most loci emphasize the importance for future studies to include detailed sub-phenotype information. Functional studies in relevant tissues are needed to understand the effect of the variants on downstream biological pathways.

Flannick J, Thorleifsson G, Beer NL, Jacobs SBR, Grarup N, Burtt NP, Mahajan A, Fuchsberger C, Atzmon G, Benediktsson R et al. 2014. Loss-of-function mutations in SLC30A8 protect against type 2 diabetes. Nat Genet, 46 (4), pp. 357-363. | Show Abstract | Read more

Loss-of-function mutations protective against human disease provide in vivo validation of therapeutic targets, but none have yet been described for type 2 diabetes (T2D). Through sequencing or genotyping of ~150,000 individuals across 5 ancestry groups, we identified 12 rare protein-truncating variants in SLC30A8, which encodes an islet zinc transporter (ZnT8) and harbors a common variant (p.Trp325Arg) associated with T2D risk and glucose and proinsulin levels. Collectively, carriers of protein-truncating variants had 65% reduced T2D risk (P = 1.7 × 10(-6)), and non-diabetic Icelandic carriers of a frameshift variant (p.Lys34Serfs*50) demonstrated reduced glucose levels (-0.17 s.d., P = 4.6 × 10(-4)). The two most common protein-truncating variants (p.Arg138* and p.Lys34Serfs*50) individually associate with T2D protection and encode unstable ZnT8 proteins. Previous functional study of SLC30A8 suggested that reduced zinc transport increases T2D risk, and phenotypic heterogeneity was observed in mouse Slc30a8 knockouts. In contrast, loss-of-function mutations in humans provide strong evidence that SLC30A8 haploinsufficiency protects against T2D, suggesting ZnT8 inhibition as a therapeutic strategy in T2D prevention.

DIAbetes Genetics Replication And Meta-analysis (DIAGRAM) Consortium, Asian Genetic Epidemiology Network Type 2 Diabetes (AGEN-T2D) Consortium, South Asian Type 2 Diabetes (SAT2D) Consortium, Mexican American Type 2 Diabetes (MAT2D) Consortium, Type 2 Diabetes Genetic Exploration by Nex-generation sequencing in muylti-Ethnic Samples (T2D-GENES) Consortium, Mahajan A, Go MJ, Zhang W, Below JE, Gaulton KJ et al. 2014. Genome-wide trans-ancestry meta-analysis provides insight into the genetic architecture of type 2 diabetes susceptibility. Nat Genet, 46 (3), pp. 234-244. | Show Abstract | Read more

To further understanding of the genetic basis of type 2 diabetes (T2D) susceptibility, we aggregated published meta-analyses of genome-wide association studies (GWAS), including 26,488 cases and 83,964 controls of European, east Asian, south Asian and Mexican and Mexican American ancestry. We observed a significant excess in the directional consistency of T2D risk alleles across ancestry groups, even at SNPs demonstrating only weak evidence of association. By following up the strongest signals of association from the trans-ethnic meta-analysis in an additional 21,491 cases and 55,647 controls of European ancestry, we identified seven new T2D susceptibility loci. Furthermore, we observed considerable improvements in the fine-mapping resolution of common variant association signals at several T2D susceptibility loci. These observations highlight the benefits of trans-ethnic GWAS for the discovery and characterization of complex trait loci and emphasize an exciting opportunity to extend insight into the genetic architecture and pathogenesis of human diseases across populations of diverse ancestry.

Morris AP. 2014. Fine Mapping Type 2 Diabetes Susceptibility Loci Frontiers in Diabetes, 23 pp. 14-28. | Show Abstract | Read more

© 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel. Genome-wide association studies of type 2 diabetes have been extremely successful in identifying loci contributing genetic effects to disease susceptibility. These loci often extend over hundreds of kilobases, contain many transcripts, and encompass hundreds of variants, many of which have the potential for direct functional impact on the disease. Consequently, the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying disease susceptibility remain obscure. In this review, we consider a range of approaches for assaying genetic variation across complex human trait loci, and discuss available methodology for fine-mapping causal variants within these regions. We then consider progress in fine-mapping type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci, evaluating the evidence for allelic heterogeneity arising from multiple causal variants at the locus, interpretations of the underlying genetic architecture of the disease, and the utility of functional annotation and biological resources to improve localisation.




Loth DW, Artigas MS, Gharib SA, Wain LV, Franceschini N, Koch B, Pottinger TD, Smith AV, Duan Q, Oldmeadow C et al. 2014. Genome-wide association analysis identifies six new loci associated with forced vital capacity Nature Genetics, 46 (7), pp. 669-677. | Show Abstract | Read more

Forced vital capacity (FVC), a spirometric measure of pulmonary function, reflects lung volume and is used to diagnose and monitor lung diseases. We performed genome-wide association study meta-analysis of FVC in 52,253 individuals from 26 studies and followed up the top associations in 32,917 additional individuals of European ancestry. We found six new regions associated at genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10-8) with FVC in or near EFEMP1, BMP6, MIR129-2-HSD17B12, PRDM11, WWOX and KCNJ2. Two loci previously associated with spirometric measures (GSTCD and PTCH1) were related to FVC. Newly implicated regions were followed up in samples from African-American, Korean, Chinese and Hispanic individuals. We detected transcripts for all six newly implicated genes in human lung tissue. The new loci may inform mechanisms involved in lung development and the pathogenesis of restrictive lung disease.© 2014 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.

Brandler WM, Morris AP, Evans DM, Scerri TS, Kemp JP, Timpson NJ, St Pourcain B, Smith GD, Ring SM, Stein J et al. 2013. Common variants in left/right asymmetry genes and pathways are associated with relative hand skill. PLoS Genet, 9 (9), pp. e1003751. | Show Abstract | Read more

Humans display structural and functional asymmetries in brain organization, strikingly with respect to language and handedness. The molecular basis of these asymmetries is unknown. We report a genome-wide association study meta-analysis for a quantitative measure of relative hand skill in individuals with dyslexia [reading disability (RD)] (n = 728). The most strongly associated variant, rs7182874 (P = 8.68 × 10(-9)), is located in PCSK6, further supporting an association we previously reported. We also confirmed the specificity of this association in individuals with RD; the same locus was not associated with relative hand skill in a general population cohort (n = 2,666). As PCSK6 is known to regulate NODAL in the development of left/right (LR) asymmetry in mice, we developed a novel approach to GWAS pathway analysis, using gene-set enrichment to test for an over-representation of highly associated variants within the orthologs of genes whose disruption in mice yields LR asymmetry phenotypes. Four out of 15 LR asymmetry phenotypes showed an over-representation (FDR ≤ 5%). We replicated three of these phenotypes; situs inversus, heterotaxia, and double outlet right ventricle, in the general population cohort (FDR ≤ 5%). Our findings lead us to propose that handedness is a polygenic trait controlled in part by the molecular mechanisms that establish LR body asymmetry early in development.

O'Seaghdha CM, Wu H, Yang Q, Kapur K, Guessous I, Zuber AM, Köttgen A, Stoudmann C, Teumer A, Kutalik Z et al. 2013. Meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies identifies six new Loci for serum calcium concentrations. PLoS Genet, 9 (9), pp. e1003796. | Show Abstract | Read more

Calcium is vital to the normal functioning of multiple organ systems and its serum concentration is tightly regulated. Apart from CASR, the genes associated with serum calcium are largely unknown. We conducted a genome-wide association meta-analysis of 39,400 individuals from 17 population-based cohorts and investigated the 14 most strongly associated loci in ≤ 21,679 additional individuals. Seven loci (six new regions) in association with serum calcium were identified and replicated. Rs1570669 near CYP24A1 (P = 9.1E-12), rs10491003 upstream of GATA3 (P = 4.8E-09) and rs7481584 in CARS (P = 1.2E-10) implicate regions involved in Mendelian calcemic disorders: Rs1550532 in DGKD (P = 8.2E-11), also associated with bone density, and rs7336933 near DGKH/KIAA0564 (P = 9.1E-10) are near genes that encode distinct isoforms of diacylglycerol kinase. Rs780094 is in GCKR. We characterized the expression of these genes in gut, kidney, and bone, and demonstrate modulation of gene expression in bone in response to dietary calcium in mice. Our results shed new light on the genetics of calcium homeostasis.

Clarke GM, Rivas MA, Morris AP. 2013. A flexible approach for the analysis of rare variants allowing for a mixture of effects on binary or quantitative traits. PLoS Genet, 9 (8), pp. e1003694. | Show Abstract | Read more

Multiple rare variants either within or across genes have been hypothesised to collectively influence complex human traits. The increasing availability of high throughput sequencing technologies offers the opportunity to study the effect of rare variants on these traits. However, appropriate and computationally efficient analytical methods are required to account for collections of rare variants that display a combination of protective, deleterious and null effects on the trait. We have developed a novel method for the analysis of rare genetic variation in a gene, region or pathway that, by simply aggregating summary statistics at each variant, can: (i) test for the presence of a mixture of effects on a trait; (ii) be applied to both binary and quantitative traits in population-based and family-based data; (iii) adjust for covariates to allow for non-genetic risk factors and; (iv) incorporate imputed genetic variation. In addition, for preliminary identification of promising genes, the method can be applied to association summary statistics, available from meta-analysis of published data, for example, without the need for individual level genotype data. Through simulation, we show that our method is immune to the presence of bi-directional effects, with no apparent loss in power across a range of different mixtures, and can achieve greater power than existing approaches as long as summary statistics at each variant are robust. We apply our method to investigate association of type-1 diabetes with imputed rare variants within genes in the major histocompatibility complex using genotype data from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium.

Clarke GM, Rivas MA, Morris AP. 2013. A Flexible Approach for the Analysis of Rare Variants Allowing for a Mixture of Effects on Binary or Quantitative Traits PLoS Genetics, 9 (8), | Show Abstract | Read more

Multiple rare variants either within or across genes have been hypothesised to collectively influence complex human traits. The increasing availability of high throughput sequencing technologies offers the opportunity to study the effect of rare variants on these traits. However, appropriate and computationally efficient analytical methods are required to account for collections of rare variants that display a combination of protective, deleterious and null effects on the trait. We have developed a novel method for the analysis of rare genetic variation in a gene, region or pathway that, by simply aggregating summary statistics at each variant, can: (i) test for the presence of a mixture of effects on a trait; (ii) be applied to both binary and quantitative traits in population-based and family-based data; (iii) adjust for covariates to allow for non-genetic risk factors and; (iv) incorporate imputed genetic variation. In addition, for preliminary identification of promising genes, the method can be applied to association summary statistics, available from meta-analysis of published data, for example, without the need for individual level genotype data. Through simulation, we show that our method is immune to the presence of bi-directional effects, with no apparent loss in power across a range of different mixtures, and can achieve greater power than existing approaches as long as summary statistics at each variant are robust. We apply our method to investigate association of type-1 diabetes with imputed rare variants within genes in the major histocompatibility complex using genotype data from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium. © 2013 Clarke et al.

Lam VKL, Ma RCW, Lee HM, Hu C, Park KS, Furuta H, Wang Y, Tam CHT, Sim X, Ng DP-K et al. 2013. Genetic associations of type 2 diabetes with islet amyloid polypeptide processing and degrading pathways in asian populations. PLoS One, 8 (6), pp. e62378. | Show Abstract | Read more

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a complex disease characterized by beta cell dysfunctions. Islet amyloid polypeptide (IAPP) is highly conserved and co-secreted with insulin with over 40% of autopsy cases of T2D showing islet amyloid formation due to IAPP aggregation. Dysregulation in IAPP processing, stabilization and degradation can cause excessive oligomerization with beta cell toxicity. Previous studies examining genetic associations of pathways implicated in IAPP metabolism have yielded conflicting results due to small sample size, insufficient interrogation of gene structure and gene-gene interactions. In this multi-staged study, we screened 89 tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 6 candidate genes implicated in IAPP metabolism and tested for independent and joint associations with T2D and beta cell dysfunctions. Positive signals in the stage-1 were confirmed by de novo and in silico analysis in a multi-centre unrelated case-control cohort. We examined the association of significant SNPs with quantitative traits in a subset of controls and performed bioinformatics and relevant functional analyses. Amongst the tag SNPs, rs1583645 in carboxypeptidase E (CPE) and rs6583813 in insulin degrading enzyme (IDE) were associated with 1.09 to 1.28 fold increased risk of T2D (P Meta = 9.4×10(-3) and 0.02 respectively) in a meta-analysis of East Asians. Using genetic risk scores (GRS) with each risk variant scoring 1, subjects with GRS≥3 (8.2% of the cohort) had 56% higher risk of T2D than those with GRS = 0 (P = 0.01). In a subcohort of control subjects, plasma IAPP increased and beta cell function index declined with GRS (P = 0.008 and 0.03 respectively). Bioinformatics and functional analyses of CPE rs1583645 predicted regulatory elements for chromatin modification and transcription factors, suggesting differential DNA-protein interactions and gene expression. Taken together, these results support the importance of dysregulation of IAPP metabolism in T2D in East Asians.

Ma RCW, Hu C, Tam CH, Zhang R, Kwan P, Leung TF, Thomas GN, Go MJ, Hara K, Sim X et al. 2013. Genome-wide association study in a Chinese population identifies a susceptibility locus for type 2 diabetes at 7q32 near PAX4. Diabetologia, 56 (6), pp. 1291-1305. | Show Abstract | Read more

AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Most genetic variants identified for type 2 diabetes have been discovered in European populations. We performed genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in a Chinese population with the aim of identifying novel variants for type 2 diabetes in Asians. METHODS: We performed a meta-analysis of three GWAS comprising 684 patients with type 2 diabetes and 955 controls of Southern Han Chinese descent. We followed up the top signals in two independent Southern Han Chinese cohorts (totalling 10,383 cases and 6,974 controls), and performed in silico replication in multiple populations. RESULTS: We identified CDKN2A/B and four novel type 2 diabetes association signals with p < 1 × 10(-5) from the meta-analysis. Thirteen variants within these four loci were followed up in two independent Chinese cohorts, and rs10229583 at 7q32 was found to be associated with type 2 diabetes in a combined analysis of 11,067 cases and 7,929 controls (p meta = 2.6 × 10(-8); OR [95% CI] 1.18 [1.11, 1.25]). In silico replication revealed consistent associations across multiethnic groups, including five East Asian populations (p meta = 2.3 × 10(-10)) and a population of European descent (p = 8.6 × 10(-3)). The rs10229583 risk variant was associated with elevated fasting plasma glucose, impaired beta cell function in controls, and an earlier age at diagnosis for the cases. The novel variant lies within an islet-selective cluster of open regulatory elements. There was significant heterogeneity of effect between Han Chinese and individuals of European descent, Malaysians and Indians. CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: Our study identifies rs10229583 near PAX4 as a novel locus for type 2 diabetes in Chinese and other populations and provides new insights into the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes.

Saxena R, Saleheen D, Been LF, Garavito ML, Braun T, Bjonnes A, Young R, Ho WK, Rasheed A, Frossard P et al. 2013. Genome-wide association study identifies a novel locus contributing to type 2 diabetes susceptibility in Sikhs of Punjabi origin from India. Diabetes, 62 (5), pp. 1746-1755. | Show Abstract | Read more

We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) and a multistage meta-analysis of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in Punjabi Sikhs from India. Our discovery GWAS in 1,616 individuals (842 case subjects) was followed by in silico replication of the top 513 independent single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (P < 10⁻³) in Punjabi Sikhs (n = 2,819; 801 case subjects). We further replicated 66 SNPs (P < 10⁻⁴) through genotyping in a Punjabi Sikh sample (n = 2,894; 1,711 case subjects). On combined meta-analysis in Sikh populations (n = 7,329; 3,354 case subjects), we identified a novel locus in association with T2D at 13q12 represented by a directly genotyped intronic SNP (rs9552911, P = 1.82 × 10⁻⁸) in the SGCG gene. Next, we undertook in silico replication (stage 2b) of the top 513 signals (P < 10⁻³) in 29,157 non-Sikh South Asians (10,971 case subjects) and de novo genotyping of up to 31 top signals (P < 10⁻⁴) in 10,817 South Asians (5,157 case subjects) (stage 3b). In combined South Asian meta-analysis, we observed six suggestive associations (P < 10⁻⁵ to < 10⁻⁷), including SNPs at HMG1L1/CTCFL, PLXNA4, SCAP, and chr5p11. Further evaluation of 31 top SNPs in 33,707 East Asians (16,746 case subjects) (stage 3c) and 47,117 Europeans (8,130 case subjects) (stage 3d), and joint meta-analysis of 128,127 individuals (44,358 case subjects) from 27 multiethnic studies, did not reveal any additional loci nor was there any evidence of replication for the new variant. Our findings provide new evidence on the presence of a population-specific signal in relation to T2D, which may provide additional insights into T2D pathogenesis.

Berndt SI, Gustafsson S, Mägi R, Ganna A, Wheeler E, Feitosa MF, Justice AE, Monda KL, Croteau-Chonka DC, Day FR et al. 2013. Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies 11 new loci for anthropometric traits and provides insights into genetic architecture. Nat Genet, 45 (5), pp. 501-512. | Show Abstract | Read more

Approaches exploiting trait distribution extremes may be used to identify loci associated with common traits, but it is unknown whether these loci are generalizable to the broader population. In a genome-wide search for loci associated with the upper versus the lower 5th percentiles of body mass index, height and waist-to-hip ratio, as well as clinical classes of obesity, including up to 263,407 individuals of European ancestry, we identified 4 new loci (IGFBP4, H6PD, RSRC1 and PPP2R2A) influencing height detected in the distribution tails and 7 new loci (HNF4G, RPTOR, GNAT2, MRPS33P4, ADCY9, HS6ST3 and ZZZ3) for clinical classes of obesity. Further, we find a large overlap in genetic structure and the distribution of variants between traits based on extremes and the general population and little etiological heterogeneity between obesity subgroups.

Huertas-Vazquez A, Nelson CP, Guo X, Reinier K, Uy-Evanado A, Teodorescu C, Ayala J, Jerger K, Chugh H, WTCCC+ et al. 2013. Novel loci associated with increased risk of sudden cardiac death in the context of coronary artery disease. PLoS One, 8 (4), pp. e59905. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified novel loci associated with sudden cardiac death (SCD). Despite this progress, identified DNA variants account for a relatively small portion of overall SCD risk, suggesting that additional loci contributing to SCD susceptibility await discovery. The objective of this study was to identify novel DNA variation associated with SCD in the context of coronary artery disease (CAD). METHODS AND FINDINGS: Using the MetaboChip custom array we conducted a case-control association analysis of 119,117 SNPs in 948 SCD cases (with underlying CAD) from the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study (Oregon-SUDS) and 3,050 controls with CAD from the Wellcome Trust Case-Control Consortium (WTCCC). Two newly identified loci were significantly associated with increased risk of SCD after correction for multiple comparisons at: rs6730157 in the RAB3GAP1 gene on chromosome 2 (P = 4.93×10(-12), OR = 1.60) and rs2077316 in the ZNF365 gene on chromosome 10 (P = 3.64×10(-8), OR = 2.41). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that RAB3GAP1 and ZNF365 are relevant candidate genes for SCD and will contribute to the mechanistic understanding of SCD susceptibility.

Albrechtsen A, Grarup N, Li Y, Sparsø T, Tian G, Cao H, Jiang T, Kim SY, Korneliussen T, Li Q et al. 2013. Exome sequencing-driven discovery of coding polymorphisms associated with common metabolic phenotypes. Diabetologia, 56 (2), pp. 298-310. | Show Abstract | Read more

AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Human complex metabolic traits are in part regulated by genetic determinants. Here we applied exome sequencing to identify novel associations of coding polymorphisms at minor allele frequencies (MAFs) >1% with common metabolic phenotypes. METHODS: The study comprised three stages. We performed medium-depth (8×) whole exome sequencing in 1,000 cases with type 2 diabetes, BMI >27.5 kg/m(2) and hypertension and in 1,000 controls (stage 1). We selected 16,192 polymorphisms nominally associated (p < 0.05) with case-control status, from four selected annotation categories or from loci reported to associate with metabolic traits. These variants were genotyped in 15,989 Danes to search for association with 12 metabolic phenotypes (stage 2). In stage 3, polymorphisms showing potential associations were genotyped in a further 63,896 Europeans. RESULTS: Exome sequencing identified 70,182 polymorphisms with MAF >1%. In stage 2 we identified 51 potential associations with one or more of eight metabolic phenotypes covered by 45 unique polymorphisms. In meta-analyses of stage 2 and stage 3 results, we demonstrated robust associations for coding polymorphisms in CD300LG (fasting HDL-cholesterol: MAF 3.5%, p = 8.5 × 10(-14)), COBLL1 (type 2 diabetes: MAF 12.5%, OR 0.88, p = 1.2 × 10(-11)) and MACF1 (type 2 diabetes: MAF 23.4%, OR 1.10, p = 8.2 × 10(-10)). CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: We applied exome sequencing as a basis for finding genetic determinants of metabolic traits and show the existence of low-frequency and common coding polymorphisms with impact on common metabolic traits. Based on our study, coding polymorphisms with MAF above 1% do not seem to have particularly high effect sizes on the measured metabolic traits.

Andreassen OA, Djurovic S, Thompson WK, Schork AJ, Kendler KS, O'Donovan MC, Rujescu D, Werge T, van de Bunt M, Morris AP et al. 2013. Improved detection of common variants associated with schizophrenia by leveraging pleiotropy with cardiovascular-disease risk factors. Am J Hum Genet, 92 (2), pp. 197-209. | Show Abstract | Read more

Several lines of evidence suggest that genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have the potential to explain more of the "missing heritability" of common complex phenotypes. However, reliable methods for identifying a larger proportion of SNPs are currently lacking. Here, we present a genetic-pleiotropy-informed method for improving gene discovery with the use of GWAS summary-statistics data. We applied this methodology to identify additional loci associated with schizophrenia (SCZ), a highly heritable disorder with significant missing heritability. Epidemiological and clinical studies suggest comorbidity between SCZ and cardiovascular-disease (CVD) risk factors, including systolic blood pressure, triglycerides, low- and high-density lipoprotein, body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio, and type 2 diabetes. Using stratified quantile-quantile plots, we show enrichment of SNPs associated with SCZ as a function of the association with several CVD risk factors and a corresponding reduction in false discovery rate (FDR). We validate this "pleiotropic enrichment" by demonstrating increased replication rate across independent SCZ substudies. Applying the stratified FDR method, we identified 25 loci associated with SCZ at a conditional FDR level of 0.01. Of these, ten loci are associated with both SCZ and CVD risk factors, mainly triglycerides and low- and high-density lipoproteins but also waist-to-hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, and body mass index. Together, these findings suggest the feasibility of using genetic-pleiotropy-informed methods for improving gene discovery in SCZ and identifying potential mechanistic relationships with various CVD risk factors.

Ma RCW, Hu C, Tam CH, Zhang R, Kwan P, Leung TF, Thomas GN, Go MJ, Hara K, Sim X et al. 2013. Genome-wide association study in a Chinese population identifies a susceptibility locus for type 2 diabetes at 7q32 near PAX4 Diabetologia, pp. 1-15.




Mägi R, Asimit JL, Day-Williams AG, Zeggini E, Morris AP. 2012. Genome-Wide Association Analysis of Imputed Rare Variants: Application to Seven Common Complex Diseases Genetic Epidemiology, 36 (8), pp. 785-796. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome-wide association studies have been successful in identifying loci contributing effects to a range of complex human traits. The majority of reproducible associations within these loci are with common variants, each of modest effect, which together explain only a small proportion of heritability. It has been suggested that much of the unexplained genetic component of complex traits can thus be attributed to rare variation. However, genome-wide association study genotyping chips have been designed primarily to capture common variation, and thus are underpowered to detect the effects of rare variants. Nevertheless, we demonstrate here, by simulation, that imputation from an existing scaffold of genome-wide genotype data up to high-density reference panels has the potential to identify rare variant associations with complex traits, without the need for costly re-sequencing experiments. By application of this approach to genome-wide association studies of seven common complex diseases, imputed up to publicly available reference panels, we identify genome-wide significant evidence of rare variant association in PRDM10 with coronary artery disease and multiple genes in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) with type 1 diabetes. The results of our analyses highlight that genome-wide association studies have the potential to offer an exciting opportunity for gene discovery through association with rare variants, conceivably leading to substantial advancements in our understanding of the genetic architecture underlying complex human traits. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.




Nyholt DR, Low SK, Anderson CA, Painter JN, Uno S, Morris AP, MacGregor S, Gordon SD, Henders AK, Martin NG et al. 2012. Genome-wide association meta-analysis identifies new endometriosis risk loci Nature Genetics, 44 (12), pp. 1355-1359. | Show Abstract | Read more

We conducted a genome-wide association meta-analysis of 4,604 endometriosis cases and 9,393 controls of Japanese and European ancestry. We show that rs12700667 on chromosome 7p15.2, previously found to associate with disease in Europeans, replicates in Japanese (P = 3.6 × 10-3), and we confirm association of rs7521902 at 1p36.12 near WNT4. In addition, we establish an association of rs13394619 in GREB1 at 2p25.1 with endometriosis and identify a newly associated locus at 12q22 near VEZT (rs10859871). Excluding cases of European ancestry of minimal or unknown severity, we identified additional previously unknown loci at 2p14 (rs4141819), 6p22.3 (rs7739264) and 9p21.3 (rs1537377). All seven SNP effects were replicated in an independent cohort and associated at P <5 × 10-8 in a combined analysis. Finally, we found a significant overlap in polygenic risk for endometriosis between the genome-wide association cohorts of European and Japanese descent (P = 8.8 × 10-11), indicating that many weakly associated SNPs represent true endometriosis risk loci and that risk prediction and future targeted disease therapy may be transferred across these populations. © 2012 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.

Scerri TS, Darki F, Newbury DF, Whitehouse AJO, Peyrard-Janvid M, Matsson H, Ang QW, Pennell CE, Ring S, Stein J et al. 2012. The dyslexia candidate locus on 2p12 is associated with general cognitive ability and white matter structure. PLoS One, 7 (11), pp. e50321. | Show Abstract | Read more

Independent studies have shown that candidate genes for dyslexia and specific language impairment (SLI) impact upon reading/language-specific traits in the general population. To further explore the effect of disorder-associated genes on cognitive functions, we investigated whether they play a role in broader cognitive traits. We tested a panel of dyslexia and SLI genetic risk factors for association with two measures of general cognitive abilities, or IQ, (verbal and non-verbal) in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort (N>5,000). Only the MRPL19/C2ORF3 locus showed statistically significant association (minimum P = 0.00009) which was further supported by independent replications following analysis in four other cohorts. In addition, a fifth independent sample showed association between the MRPL19/C2ORF3 locus and white matter structure in the posterior part of the corpus callosum and cingulum, connecting large parts of the cortex in the parietal, occipital and temporal lobes. These findings suggest that this locus, originally identified as being associated with dyslexia, is likely to harbour genetic variants associated with general cognitive abilities by influencing white matter structure in localised neuronal regions.

Travers ME, Mackay DJG, Dekker Nitert M, Morris AP, Lindgren CM, Berry A, Johnson PR, Hanley N, Groop LC, McCarthy MI, Gloyn AL. 2013. Insights into the molecular mechanism for type 2 diabetes susceptibility at the KCNQ1 locus from temporal changes in imprinting status in human islets. Diabetes, 62 (3), pp. 987-992. | Show Abstract | Read more

The molecular basis of type 2 diabetes predisposition at most established susceptibility loci remains poorly understood. KCNQ1 maps within the 11p15.5 imprinted domain, a region with an established role in congenital growth phenotypes. Variants intronic to KCNQ1 influence diabetes susceptibility when maternally inherited. By use of quantitative PCR and pyrosequencing of human adult islet and fetal pancreas samples, we investigated the imprinting status of regional transcripts and aimed to determine whether type 2 diabetes risk alleles influence regional DNA methylation and gene expression. The results demonstrate that gene expression patterns differ by developmental stage. CDKN1C showed monoallelic expression in both adult and fetal tissue, whereas PHLDA2, SLC22A18, and SLC22A18AS were biallelically expressed in both tissues. Temporal changes in imprinting were observed for KCNQ1 and KCNQ1OT1, with monoallelic expression in fetal tissues and biallelic expression in adult samples. Genotype at the type 2 diabetes risk variant rs2237895 influenced methylation levels of regulatory sequence in fetal pancreas but without demonstrable effects on gene expression. We demonstrate that CDKN1C, KCNQ1, and KCNQ1OT1 are most likely to mediate diabetes susceptibility at the KCNQ1 locus and identify temporal differences in imprinting status and methylation effects, suggesting that diabetes risk effects may be mediated in early development.

Nyholt DR, Low S-K, Anderson CA, Painter JN, Uno S, Morris AP, MacGregor S, Gordon SD, Henders AK, Martin NG et al. 2012. Genome-wide association meta-analysis identifies new endometriosis risk loci. Nat Genet, 44 (12), pp. 1355-1359. | Show Abstract | Read more

We conducted a genome-wide association meta-analysis of 4,604 endometriosis cases and 9,393 controls of Japanese and European ancestry. We show that rs12700667 on chromosome 7p15.2, previously found to associate with disease in Europeans, replicates in Japanese (P = 3.6 × 10(-3)), and we confirm association of rs7521902 at 1p36.12 near WNT4. In addition, we establish an association of rs13394619 in GREB1 at 2p25.1 with endometriosis and identify a newly associated locus at 12q22 near VEZT (rs10859871). Excluding cases of European ancestry of minimal or unknown severity, we identified additional previously unknown loci at 2p14 (rs4141819), 6p22.3 (rs7739264) and 9p21.3 (rs1537377). All seven SNP effects were replicated in an independent cohort and associated at P <5 × 10(-8) in a combined analysis. Finally, we found a significant overlap in polygenic risk for endometriosis between the genome-wide association cohorts of European and Japanese descent (P = 8.8 × 10(-11)), indicating that many weakly associated SNPs represent true endometriosis risk loci and that risk prediction and future targeted disease therapy may be transferred across these populations.

Franceschini N, van Rooij FJA, Prins BP, Feitosa MF, Karakas M, Eckfeldt JH, Folsom AR, Kopp J, Vaez A, Andrews JS et al. 2012. Discovery and fine mapping of serum protein loci through transethnic meta-analysis. Am J Hum Genet, 91 (4), pp. 744-753. | Show Abstract | Read more

Many disorders are associated with altered serum protein concentrations, including malnutrition, cancer, and cardiovascular, kidney, and inflammatory diseases. Although these protein concentrations are highly heritable, relatively little is known about their underlying genetic determinants. Through transethnic meta-analysis of European-ancestry and Japanese genome-wide association studies, we identified six loci at genome-wide significance (p < 5 × 10(-8)) for serum albumin (HPN-SCN1B, GCKR-FNDC4, SERPINF2-WDR81, TNFRSF11A-ZCCHC2, FRMD5-WDR76, and RPS11-FCGRT, in up to 53,190 European-ancestry and 9,380 Japanese individuals) and three loci for total protein (TNFRS13B, 6q21.3, and ELL2, in up to 25,539 European-ancestry and 10,168 Japanese individuals). We observed little evidence of heterogeneity in allelic effects at these loci between groups of European and Japanese ancestry but obtained substantial improvements in the resolution of fine mapping of potential causal variants by leveraging transethnic differences in the distribution of linkage disequilibrium. We demonstrated a functional role for the most strongly associated serum albumin locus, HPN, for which Hpn knockout mice manifest low plasma albumin concentrations. Other loci associated with serum albumin harbor genes related to ribosome function, protein translation, and proteasomal degradation, whereas those associated with serum total protein include genes related to immune function. Our results highlight the advantages of transethnic meta-analysis for the discovery and fine mapping of complex trait loci and have provided initial insights into the underlying genetic architecture of serum protein concentrations and their association with human disease.

Ho JE, Mahajan A, Chen M-H, Larson MG, McCabe EL, Ghorbani A, Cheng S, Johnson AD, Lindgren CM, Kempf T et al. 2012. Clinical and genetic correlates of growth differentiation factor 15 in the community. Clin Chem, 58 (11), pp. 1582-1591. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15), a stress-responsive cytokine produced in cardiovascular cells under conditions of inflammation and oxidative stress, is emerging as an important prognostic marker in individuals with and without existing cardiovascular disease (CVD). We therefore examined the clinical and genetic correlates of circulating GDF15 concentrations, which have not been investigated collectively. METHODS: Plasma GDF15 concentrations were measured in 2991 participants in the Framingham Offspring Study who were free of clinically overt CVD (mean age, 59 years; 56% women). Clinical correlates of GDF15 were examined in multivariable analyses. We then conducted a genomewide association study of the GDF15 concentration that included participants in the Framingham Offspring Study and participants in the PIVUS (Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors) study. RESULTS: GDF15 was positively associated with age, smoking, antihypertensive treatment, diabetes, worse kidney function, and use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), but it was negatively associated with total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. Clinical correlates accounted for 38% of interindividual variation in the circulating GDF15 concentration, whereas genetic factors accounted for up to 38% of the residual variability (h(2) = 0.38; P = 2.5 × 10(-11)). We identified 1 locus of genomewide significance. This locus, which is on chromosome 19p13.11 and includes the GDF15 gene, is associated with GDF15 concentration (smallest P = 2.74 × 10(-32) for rs888663). Conditional analyses revealed 2 independent association signals at this locus (rs888663 and rs1054564), which were associated with altered cis gene expression in blood cell lines. CONCLUSIONS: In ambulatory individuals, both cardiometabolic risk factors and genetic factors play important roles in determining circulating GDF15 concentrations and contribute similarly to the overall variation.




Scott RA, Lagou V, Welch RP, Wheeler E, Montasser ME, Luan J, MäGi R, Strawbridge RJ, Rehnberg E, Gustafsson S et al. 2012. Large-scale association analyses identify new loci influencing glycemic traits and provide insight into the underlying biological pathways Nature Genetics, 44 (9), pp. 991-1005. | Show Abstract | Read more

Through genome-wide association meta-analyses of up to 133,010 individuals of European ancestry without diabetes, including individuals newly genotyped using the Metabochip, we have increased the number of confirmed loci influencing glycemic traits to 53, of which 33 also increase type 2 diabetes risk (q < 0.05). Loci influencing fasting insulin concentration showed association with lipid levels and fat distribution, suggesting impact on insulin resistance. Gene-based analyses identified further biologically plausible loci, suggesting that additional loci beyond those reaching genome-wide significance are likely to represent real associations. This conclusion is supported by an excess of directionally consistent and nominally significant signals between discovery and follow-up studies. Functional analysis of these newly discovered loci will further improve our understanding of glycemic control. © 2012 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.

Morris AP, Voight BF, Teslovich TM, Ferreira T, Segrè AV, Steinthorsdottir V, Strawbridge RJ, Khan H, Grallert H, Mahajan A et al. 2012. Large-scale association analysis provides insights into the genetic architecture and pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes. Nat Genet, 44 (9), pp. 981-990. | Show Abstract | Read more

To extend understanding of the genetic architecture and molecular basis of type 2 diabetes (T2D), we conducted a meta-analysis of genetic variants on the Metabochip, including 34,840 cases and 114,981 controls, overwhelmingly of European descent. We identified ten previously unreported T2D susceptibility loci, including two showing sex-differentiated association. Genome-wide analyses of these data are consistent with a long tail of additional common variant loci explaining much of the variation in susceptibility to T2D. Exploration of the enlarged set of susceptibility loci implicates several processes, including CREBBP-related transcription, adipocytokine signaling and cell cycle regulation, in diabetes pathogenesis.

Scott RA, Lagou V, Welch RP, Wheeler E, Montasser ME, Luan J, Mägi R, Strawbridge RJ, Rehnberg E, Gustafsson S et al. 2012. Large-scale association analyses identify new loci influencing glycemic traits and provide insight into the underlying biological pathways. Nat Genet, 44 (9), pp. 991-1005. | Show Abs