register interest

Professor Mark McCarthy

Research Area: Genetics and Genomics
Technology Exchange: Bioinformatics, Computational biology, SNP typing, Statistical genetics and Transcript profiling
Scientific Themes: Endocrinology & Metabolic Medicine and Genetics & Genomics
Keywords: Diabetes, Genetics, Susceptibility-gene, Genomics and Statistical Genetics
Web Links:

The diabetes research group led by Prof Mark McCarthy (Robert Turner Professor of Diabetes) is based at both the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism (OCDEM) and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics (WTCHG). This multidisciplinary research team includes clinicians, research nurses, laboratory-based research staff and computational biologists.

The research of the group focuses on the following strands:

  • Susceptibility gene identification in type 2 diabetes and related phenotypes (including obesity and continuous measures of glycaemia) using large-scale genetic and genomic approaches. We are involved in the major international efforts to use large-scale genome wide association and next-generation sequencing efforts to map variants impacting on these phenotypes
  • Translating gene identification into biological insights and clinical advances. WE use a variety of approaches involving human, animal models and cellular systems to define the biological and clinical consequences of these discoveries.
  • Genomic epidemiology. We work to integrate genetic and genomic data to advance understanding of basic genomic processes.
  • Statistical genetics and bioinformatics. We seek to develop and apply new approaches to tackle analytical challenges.

We are leading members of several international consortia in the field of complex trait genetics including the WTCCC, ENGAGE, INTERACT, DIAGRAM, GIANT, MAGIC, SUMMIT, DIRECT, GoT2D, T2D-GENES and STEMBANCC. Within Oxford, we are active within the NIHR-funded Biomedical Research Centre. Our recent research has made a major contribution to advances in the understanding of the genetic basis of diabetes and obesity: in recent years, our work has featured in over 50 papers published in Science, Nature and Nature Genetics. Our major focus in the years ahead lies in expanding the spectrum of variation implicated in susceptibility to these and related conditions (with colleagues we are generating some of the largest sequence-based data sets worldwide) and in translating this genetic information into advances in functional understanding and clinical management.

Name Department Institution Country
Andrew Hattersley Peninsula Medical School United Kingdom
Tim Frayling Peninsula Medical SChool United Kingdom
Professor Andrew P Morris Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics Oxford University, Henry Wellcome Building of Genomic Medicine United Kingdom
Graham Hitman Barts and the London United Kingdom
Mark Walker Univ of Newcastle United Kingdom
Nick Wareham Univ of Cambridge United Kingdom
Panos Deloukas WTSI United Kingdom
Professor Tim Spector Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology Kings College, London United Kingdom
Marjo Riitta Jarvelin Imperial College/Univ of Oulu Finland
Professor Leif Groop Univ of Lund Sweden
David Altshuler Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT United States
Dr Francis S Collins NIH, Bethesda, MD United States
Michael Boehnke U of Michigan United States
Philippe Froguel Imperial College United Kingdom
Juliana Chan Chinese University of Hong Kong China
Weiping Jia Jiaotong University, Shanghai China
Joel Hirschhorn Broad Institute United States
Kari Stefansson Decode Genetics Iceland
Alvis Brazma European Bioinformatics Institute United Kingdom
Manolis Dermitzakis University of Geneva Switzerland
Dr Ines Barroso Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute United Kingdom
Prof Fredrik Karpe (RDM) OCDEM Oxford University, Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism United Kingdom
Frances Ashcroft Department of Physiology University of Oxford United Kingdom
Mike Snyder Stanford University United States
Carlos Bustamante Stanford University United States
E Shyong Tai National University of Singapore Singapore
John Chambers Imperial College United Kingdom
Jaspal Kooner Imperial College United Kingdom
Patrick MacDonald Alberta Diabetes Institute Canada
Samuli Ripatti THL Helsinki Finland
Per-Henrik Groop Folkhalsan Finland
Charles Rotimi NIH United States
Albert Amoah University of Accra Ghana
Ayesha Motala University of Kwazulu South Africa
Paul Zimmet Baker -IDI Australia
Dwaipayan Bharadwaj IGIB Delhi India
Nikhil Tandon AIIMS India
Norihiro Kato U Tokyo Japan
Day F, Karaderi T, Jones MR, Meun C, He C, Drong A, Kraft P, Lin N, Huang H, Broer L et al. 2018. Large-scale genome-wide meta-analysis of polycystic ovary syndrome suggests shared genetic architecture for different diagnosis criteria. PLoS Genet, 14 (12), pp. e1007813. | Show Abstract | Read more

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder characterized by hyperandrogenism, ovulatory dysfunction and polycystic ovarian morphology. Affected women frequently have metabolic disturbances including insulin resistance and dysregulation of glucose homeostasis. PCOS is diagnosed with two different sets of diagnostic criteria, resulting in a phenotypic spectrum of PCOS cases. The genetic similarities between cases diagnosed based on the two criteria have been largely unknown. Previous studies in Chinese and European subjects have identified 16 loci associated with risk of PCOS. We report a fixed-effect, inverse-weighted-variance meta-analysis from 10,074 PCOS cases and 103,164 controls of European ancestry and characterisation of PCOS related traits. We identified 3 novel loci (near PLGRKT, ZBTB16 and MAPRE1), and provide replication of 11 previously reported loci. Only one locus differed significantly in its association by diagnostic criteria; otherwise the genetic architecture was similar between PCOS diagnosed by self-report and PCOS diagnosed by NIH or non-NIH Rotterdam criteria across common variants at 13 loci. Identified variants were associated with hyperandrogenism, gonadotropin regulation and testosterone levels in affected women. Linkage disequilibrium score regression analysis revealed genetic correlations with obesity, fasting insulin, type 2 diabetes, lipid levels and coronary artery disease, indicating shared genetic architecture between metabolic traits and PCOS. Mendelian randomization analyses suggested variants associated with body mass index, fasting insulin, menopause timing, depression and male-pattern balding play a causal role in PCOS. The data thus demonstrate 3 novel loci associated with PCOS and similar genetic architecture for all diagnostic criteria. The data also provide the first genetic evidence for a male phenotype for PCOS and a causal link to depression, a previously hypothesized comorbid disease. Thus, the genetics provide a comprehensive view of PCOS that encompasses multiple diagnostic criteria, gender, reproductive potential and mental health.

Takeuchi F, Akiyama M, Matoba N, Katsuya T, Nakatochi M, Tabara Y, Narita A, Saw W-Y, Moon S, Spracklen CN et al. 2018. Interethnic analyses of blood pressure loci in populations of East Asian and European descent. Nat Commun, 9 (1), pp. 5052. | Show Abstract | Read more

Blood pressure (BP) is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and more than 200 genetic loci associated with BP are known. Here, we perform a multi-stage genome-wide association study for BP (max N = 289,038) principally in East Asians and meta-analysis in East Asians and Europeans. We report 19 new genetic loci and ancestry-specific BP variants, conforming to a common ancestry-specific variant association model. At 10 unique loci, distinct non-rare ancestry-specific variants colocalize within the same linkage disequilibrium block despite the significantly discordant effects for the proxy shared variants between the ethnic groups. The genome-wide transethnic correlation of causal-variant effect-sizes is 0.898 and 0.851 for systolic and diastolic BP, respectively. Some of the ancestry-specific association signals are also influenced by a selective sweep. Our results provide new evidence for the role of common ancestry-specific variants and natural selection in ethnic differences in complex traits such as BP.

Juszczak A, Pavić T, Vučković F, Bennett AJ, Shah N, Medvidović EP, Groves CJ, Šekerija M, Chandler K, Burrows C et al. 2018. Plasma Fucosylated Glycans and C-Reactive Protein As Biomarkers of HNF1A-MODY in Young Adult-Onset Nonautoimmune Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 42 (1), pp. 17-26. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) due to variants in HNF1A is the commonest type of monogenic diabetes. Frequent misdiagnosis results in missed opportunity to use sulfonylureas as first-line treatment. A nongenetic biomarker could improve selection of subjects for genetic testing and increase diagnosis rates. We previously reported that plasma levels of antennary fucosylated N-glycans and hs-CRP are reduced in individuals with HNF1A-MODY. In this study, we examined the potential use of N-glycans and hs-CRP in discriminating individuals with damaging HNF1A alleles from those without HNF1A variants in an unselected population of young adults with nonautoimmune diabetes. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We analyzed the plasma N-glycan profile, measured hs-CRP, and sequenced HNF1A in 989 individuals with diabetes diagnosed when younger than age 45, persistent endogenous insulin production, and absence of pancreatic autoimmunity. Systematic assessment of rare HNF1A variants was performed. RESULTS: We identified 29 individuals harboring 25 rare HNF1A alleles, of which 3 were novel, and 12 (in 16 probands) were considered pathogenic. Antennary fucosylated N-glycans and hs-CRP were able to differentiate subjects with damaging HNF1A alleles from those without rare HNF1A alleles. Glycan GP30 had a receiver operating characteristic curve area under the curve (AUC) of 0.90 (88% sensitivity, 80% specificity, cutoff 0.70%), whereas hs-CRP had an AUC of 0.83 (88% sensitivity, 69% specificity, cutoff 0.81 mg/L). CONCLUSIONS: Half of rare HNF1A sequence variants do not cause MODY. N-glycan profile and hs-CRP could both be used as tools, alone or as adjuncts to existing pathways, for identifying individuals at high risk of carrying a damaging HNF1A allele.

Mahajan A, Taliun D, Thurner M, Robertson NR, Torres JM, Rayner NW, Payne AJ, Steinthorsdottir V, Scott RA, Grarup N et al. 2018. Fine-mapping type 2 diabetes loci to single-variant resolution using high-density imputation and islet-specific epigenome maps. Nat Genet, 50 (11), pp. 1505-1513. | Show Abstract | Read more

We expanded GWAS discovery for type 2 diabetes (T2D) by combining data from 898,130 European-descent individuals (9% cases), after imputation to high-density reference panels. With these data, we (i) extend the inventory of T2D-risk variants (243 loci, 135 newly implicated in T2D predisposition, comprising 403 distinct association signals); (ii) enrich discovery of lower-frequency risk alleles (80 index variants with minor allele frequency <5%, 14 with estimated allelic odds ratio >2); (iii) substantially improve fine-mapping of causal variants (at 51 signals, one variant accounted for >80% posterior probability of association (PPA)); (iv) extend fine-mapping through integration of tissue-specific epigenomic information (islet regulatory annotations extend the number of variants with PPA >80% to 73); (v) highlight validated therapeutic targets (18 genes with associations attributable to coding variants); and (vi) demonstrate enhanced potential for clinical translation (genome-wide chip heritability explains 18% of T2D risk; individuals in the extremes of a T2D polygenic risk score differ more than ninefold in prevalence).

Fitipaldi H, McCarthy MI, Florez JC, Franks PW. 2018. A Global Overview of Precision Medicine in Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes, 67 (10), pp. 1911-1922. | Show Abstract | Read more

The detailed characterization of human biology and behaviors is now possible at scale owing to innovations in biomarkers, bioimaging, and wearable technologies; "big data" from electronic medical records, health insurance databases, and other platforms becoming increasingly accessible; and rapidly evolving computational power and bioinformatics methods. Collectively, these advances are creating unprecedented opportunities to better understand diabetes and many other complex traits. Identifying hidden structures within these complex data sets and linking these structures to outcome data may yield unique insights into the risk factors and natural history of diabetes, which in turn may help optimize the prevention and management of the disease. This emerging area is broadly termed "precision medicine." In this Perspective, we give an overview of the evidence and barriers to the development and implementation of precision medicine in type 2 diabetes. We also discuss recently presented paradigms through which complex data might enhance our understanding of diabetes and ultimately our ability to tackle the disease more effectively than ever before.

Lotta LA, Stewart ID, Sharp SJ, Day FR, Burgess S, Luan J, Bowker N, Cai L, Li C, Wittemans LBL et al. 2018. Association of Genetically Enhanced Lipoprotein Lipase-Mediated Lipolysis and Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol-Lowering Alleles With Risk of Coronary Disease and Type 2 Diabetes. JAMA Cardiol, 3 (10), pp. 957-966. | Show Abstract | Read more

Importance: Pharmacological enhancers of lipoprotein lipase (LPL) are in preclinical or early clinical development for cardiovascular prevention. Studying whether these agents will reduce cardiovascular events or diabetes risk when added to existing lipid-lowering drugs would require large outcome trials. Human genetics studies can help prioritize or deprioritize these resource-demanding endeavors. Objective: To investigate the independent and combined associations of genetically determined differences in LPL-mediated lipolysis and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) metabolism with risk of coronary disease and diabetes. Design, Setting, and Participants: In this genetic association study, individual-level genetic data from 392 220 participants from 2 population-based cohort studies and 1 case-cohort study conducted in Europe were included. Data were collected from January 1991 to July 2018, and data were analyzed from July 2014 to July 2018. Exposures: Six conditionally independent triglyceride-lowering alleles in LPL, the p.Glu40Lys variant in ANGPTL4, rare loss-of-function variants in ANGPTL3, and LDL-C-lowering polymorphisms at 58 independent genomic regions, including HMGCR, NPC1L1, and PCSK9. Main Outcomes and Measures: Odds ratio for coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes. Results: Of the 392 220 participants included, 211 915 (54.0%) were female, and the mean (SD) age was 57 (8) years. Triglyceride-lowering alleles in LPL were associated with protection from coronary disease (approximately 40% lower odds per SD of genetically lower triglycerides) and type 2 diabetes (approximately 30% lower odds) in people above or below the median of the population distribution of LDL-C-lowering alleles at 58 independent genomic regions, HMGCR, NPC1L1, or PCSK9. Associations with lower risk were consistent in quintiles of the distribution of LDL-C-lowering alleles and 2 × 2 factorial genetic analyses. The 40Lys variant in ANGPTL4 was associated with protection from coronary disease and type 2 diabetes in groups with genetically higher or lower LDL-C. For a genetic difference of 0.23 SDs in LDL-C, ANGPTL3 loss-of-function variants, which also have beneficial associations with LPL lipolysis, were associated with greater protection against coronary disease than other LDL-C-lowering genetic mechanisms (ANGPTL3 loss-of-function variants: odds ratio, 0.66; 95% CI, 0.52-0.83; 58 LDL-C-lowering variants: odds ratio, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.89-0.91; P for heterogeneity = .009). Conclusions and Relevance: Triglyceride-lowering alleles in the LPL pathway are associated with lower risk of coronary disease and type 2 diabetes independently of LDL-C-lowering genetic mechanisms. These findings provide human genetics evidence to support the development of agents that enhance LPL-mediated lipolysis for further clinical benefit in addition to LDL-C-lowering therapy.

Meng W, Shah KP, Pollack S, Toppila I, Hebert HL, McCarthy MI, Groop L, Ahlqvist E, Lyssenko V, Agardh E et al. 2018. A genome-wide association study suggests new evidence for an association of the NADPH Oxidase 4 (NOX4) gene with severe diabetic retinopathy in type 2 diabetes. Acta Ophthalmol, 96 (7), pp. e811-e819. | Show Abstract | Read more

PURPOSE: Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye complication in patients with diabetes. The purpose of this study is to identify genetic factors contributing to severe diabetic retinopathy. METHODS: A genome-wide association approach was applied. In the Genetics of Diabetes Audit and Research in Tayside Scotland (GoDARTS) datasets, cases of severe diabetic retinopathy were defined as type 2 diabetic patients who were ever graded as having severe background retinopathy (Level R3) or proliferative retinopathy (Level R4) in at least one eye according to the Scottish Diabetic Retinopathy Grading Scheme or who were once treated by laser photocoagulation. Controls were diabetic individuals whose longitudinal retinopathy screening records were either normal (Level R0) or only with mild background retinopathy (Level R1) in both eyes. Significant Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) were taken forward for meta-analysis using multiple Caucasian cohorts. RESULTS: Five hundred and sixty cases of type 2 diabetes with severe diabetic retinopathy and 4,106 controls were identified in the GoDARTS cohort. We revealed that rs3913535 in the NADPH Oxidase 4 (NOX4) gene reached a p value of 4.05 × 10-9 . Two nearby SNPs, rs10765219 and rs11018670 also showed promising p values (p values = 7.41 × 10-8 and 1.23 × 10-8 , respectively). In the meta-analysis using multiple Caucasian cohorts (excluding GoDARTS), rs10765219 and rs11018670 showed associations for diabetic retinopathy (p = 0.003 and 0.007, respectively), while the p value of rs3913535 was not significant (p = 0.429). CONCLUSION: This genome-wide association study of severe diabetic retinopathy suggests new evidence for the involvement of the NOX4 gene.

McCarthy MI, Mahajan A. 2018. The value of genetic risk scores in precision medicine for diabetes Expert Review of Precision Medicine and Drug Development, 3 (5), pp. 279-281. | Read more

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. Author Correction: Regulatory variants at KLF14 influence type 2 diabetes risk via a female-specific effect on adipocyte size and body composition. Nat Genet, 50 (9), pp. 1342. | Show Abstract | Read more

In the version of this article originally published, minus signs were missing from the three β-values for BMI given in Table 1. The errors have been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the article.

Ramond C, Beydag-Tasöz BS, Azad A, van de Bunt M, Petersen MBK, Beer NL, Glaser N, Berthault C, Gloyn AL, Hansson M et al. 2018. Understanding human fetal pancreas development using subpopulation sorting, RNA sequencing and single-cell profiling. Development, 145 (16), pp. dev165480-dev165480. | Show Abstract | Read more

To decipher the populations of cells present in the human fetal pancreas and their lineage relationships, we developed strategies to isolate pancreatic progenitors, endocrine progenitors and endocrine cells. Transcriptome analysis of the individual populations revealed a large degree of conservation among vertebrates in the drivers of gene expression changes that occur at different steps of differentiation, although notably, sometimes, different members of the same gene family are expressed. The transcriptome analysis establishes a resource to identify novel genes and pathways involved in human pancreas development. Single-cell profiling further captured intermediate stages of differentiation and enabled us to decipher the sequence of transcriptional events occurring during human endocrine differentiation. Furthermore, we evaluate how well individual pancreatic cells derived in vitro from human pluripotent stem cells mirror the natural process occurring in human fetuses. This comparison uncovers a few differences at the progenitor steps, a convergence at the steps of endocrine induction, and the current inability to fully resolve endocrine cell subtypes in vitro.

Thomsen SK, Raimondo A, Hastoy B, Sengupta S, Dai X-Q, Bautista A, Censin J, Payne AJ, Umapathysivam MM, Spigelman AF et al. 2018. Type 2 diabetes risk alleles in PAM impact insulin release from human pancreatic β-cells. Nat Genet, 50 (8), pp. 1122-1131. | Show Abstract | Read more

The molecular mechanisms underpinning susceptibility loci for type 2 diabetes (T2D) remain poorly understood. Coding variants in peptidylglycine α-amidating monooxygenase (PAM) are associated with both T2D risk and insulinogenic index. Here, we demonstrate that the T2D risk alleles impact negatively on overall PAM activity via defects in expression and catalytic function. PAM deficiency results in reduced insulin content and altered dynamics of insulin secretion in a human β-cell model and primary islets from cadaveric donors. Thus, our results demonstrate a role for PAM in β-cell function, and establish molecular mechanisms for T2D risk alleles at this locus.

Heinzel A, Kammer M, Mayer G, Reindl-Schwaighofer R, Hu K, Perco P, Eder S, Rosivall L, Mark PB, Ju W et al. 2018. Validation of Plasma Biomarker Candidates for the Prediction of eGFR Decline in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 41 (9), pp. 1947-1954. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: The decline of estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) in patients with type 2 diabetes is variable, and early interventions would likely be cost-effective. We elucidated the contribution of 17 plasma biomarkers to the prediction of eGFR loss on top of clinical risk factors. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We studied participants in PROVALID (PROspective cohort study in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus for VALIDation of biomarkers), a prospective multinational cohort study of patients with type 2 diabetes and a follow-up of more than 24 months (n = 2,560; baseline median eGFR, 84 mL/min/1.73 m2; urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio, 8.1 mg/g). The 17 biomarkers were measured at baseline in 481 samples using Luminex and ELISA. The prediction of eGFR decline was evaluated by linear mixed modeling. RESULTS: In univariable analyses, 9 of the 17 markers showed significant differences in median concentration between stable and fast-progressing patients. A linear mixed model for eGFR obtained by variable selection exhibited an adjusted R2 of 62%. A panel of 12 biomarkers was selected by the procedure and accounted for 34% of the total explained variability, of which 32% was due to 5 markers. The individual contribution of each biomarker to the prediction of eGFR decline on top of clinical predictors was generally low. When included into the model, baseline eGFR exhibited the largest explained variability of eGFR decline (R2 of 79%), and the contribution of each biomarker dropped below 1%. CONCLUSIONS: In this longitudinal study of patients with type 2 diabetes and maintained eGFR at baseline, 12 of the 17 candidate biomarkers were associated with eGFR decline, but their predictive power was low.

Gamazon ER, Segrè AV, van de Bunt M, Wen X, Xi HS, Hormozdiari F, Ongen H, Konkashbaev A, Derks EM, Aguet F et al. 2018. Using an atlas of gene regulation across 44 human tissues to inform complex disease- and trait-associated variation. Nat Genet, 50 (7), pp. 956-967. | Show Abstract | Read more

We apply integrative approaches to expression quantitative loci (eQTLs) from 44 tissues from the Genotype-Tissue Expression project and genome-wide association study data. About 60% of known trait-associated loci are in linkage disequilibrium with a cis-eQTL, over half of which were not found in previous large-scale whole blood studies. Applying polygenic analyses to metabolic, cardiovascular, anthropometric, autoimmune, and neurodegenerative traits, we find that eQTLs are significantly enriched for trait associations in relevant pathogenic tissues and explain a substantial proportion of the heritability (40-80%). For most traits, tissue-shared eQTLs underlie a greater proportion of trait associations, although tissue-specific eQTLs have a greater contribution to some traits, such as blood pressure. By integrating information from biological pathways with eQTL target genes and applying a gene-based approach, we validate previously implicated causal genes and pathways, and propose new variant and gene associations for several complex traits, which we replicate in the UK BioBank and BioVU.

Braverman-Gross C, Nudel N, Ronen D, Beer NL, McCarthy MI, Benvenisty N. 2018. Derivation and molecular characterization of pancreatic differentiated MODY1-iPSCs. Stem Cell Res, 31 pp. 16-26. | Show Abstract | Read more

Maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY) is a hereditary form of diabetes mellitus presenting at childhood or adolescence, which eventually leads to pancreatic β-cells dysfunction. The underlying genetic basis of MODY disorders is haploinsufficiency, where loss-of-function mutations in a single allele cause the diabetic phenotype in heterozygous patients. MODY1 is a type of MODY disorder resulting from a mutation in the transcription factor hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 alpha (HNF4α). In order to establish a human based model to study MODY1, we generated patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Differentiation of these pluripotent cells towards the pancreatic lineage enabled to evaluate the effects of the MODY1 mutation and its impact on endodermal and pancreatic cells. Analyzing the gene expression profiles of differentiated MODY1 cells, revealed the outcome of HNF4α haploinsufficiency on its targets. This molecular analysis suggests that the differential expression of HNF4α target genes in MODY1 is affected by the number of HNF4α binding sites, their distance from the transcription start site, and the number of other transcription factor binding sites. These features may help explain the molecular manifestations of haploinsufficiency in MODY1 disease.

van Zuydam NR, Ahlqvist E, Sandholm N, Deshmukh H, Rayner NW, Abdalla M, Ladenvall C, Ziemek D, Fauman E, Robertson NR et al. 2018. A Genome-Wide Association Study of Diabetic Kidney Disease in Subjects With Type 2 Diabetes DIABETES, 67 (7), pp. 1414-1427. | Read more

Gusarova V, O'Dushlaine C, Teslovich TM, Benotti PN, Mirshahi T, Gottesman O, Van Hout CV, Murray MF, Mahajan A, Nielsen JB et al. 2018. Genetic inactivation of ANGPTL4 improves glucose homeostasis and is associated with reduced risk of diabetes. Nat Commun, 9 (1), pp. 2252. | Show Abstract | Read more

Angiopoietin-like 4 (ANGPTL4) is an endogenous inhibitor of lipoprotein lipase that modulates lipid levels, coronary atherosclerosis risk, and nutrient partitioning. We hypothesize that loss of ANGPTL4 function might improve glucose homeostasis and decrease risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D). We investigate protein-altering variants in ANGPTL4 among 58,124 participants in the DiscovEHR human genetics study, with follow-up studies in 82,766 T2D cases and 498,761 controls. Carriers of p.E40K, a variant that abolishes ANGPTL4 ability to inhibit lipoprotein lipase, have lower odds of T2D (odds ratio 0.89, 95% confidence interval 0.85-0.92, p = 6.3 × 10-10), lower fasting glucose, and greater insulin sensitivity. Predicted loss-of-function variants are associated with lower odds of T2D among 32,015 cases and 84,006 controls (odds ratio 0.71, 95% confidence interval 0.49-0.99, p = 0.041). Functional studies in Angptl4-deficient mice confirm improved insulin sensitivity and glucose homeostasis. In conclusion, genetic inactivation of ANGPTL4 is associated with improved glucose homeostasis and reduced risk of T2D.

Ingelsson E, McCarthy MI. 2018. Human Genetics of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Past, Present, and Future. Circ Genom Precis Med, 11 (6), pp. e002090. | Show Abstract | Read more

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2D) and obesity already represent 2 of the most prominent risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and are destined to increase in importance given the global changes in lifestyle. Ten years have passed since the first round of genome-wide association studies for T2D and obesity. During this decade, we have witnessed remarkable developments in human genetics. We have graduated from the despair of candidate gene-based studies that generated few consistently replicated genotype-phenotype associations, to the excitement of an exponential harvest of loci robustly associated with medical outcomes through ever larger genome-wide association study meta-analyses. As well as discovering hundreds of loci, genome-wide association studies have provided transformative insights into the genetic architecture of T2D and other complex traits, highlighting the extent of polygenicity and the tiny effect sizes of many common risk alleles. Genome-wide association studies have also provided a critical starting point for discovering new biology relevant to these traits. Expectations are high that these discoveries will foster development of more effective strategies for intervention, through optimization of precision medicine approaches. In this article, we review current knowledge and provide suggestions for the next steps in genetic research for T2D and obesity. We focus on four areas relevant to precision medicine: genetic architecture, pharmacogenetics and other gene-environment interactions, mechanistic inference, and drug development. As we describe, the genetic architecture of complex traits has major implications for the prospects of precision medicine, rendering some anticipated approaches decidedly unrealistic. We highlight obstacles to the translation of human genetic findings into mechanism inference but are optimistic that, as these are overcome, there is untapped potential for novel drugs and more effective strategies for treating and preventing T2D and obesity.

Pascal MMV, Themistocleous A, Baron R, Binder A, Bouhassira D, Crombez G, Finnerup N, Gierthmühlen J, Granovsky Y, Groop L et al. 2018. DOLORisk: study protocol for a multi-centre observational study to understand the risk factors and determinants of neuropathic pain Wellcome Open Research, 3 pp. 63-63. | Show Abstract | Read more

Background: Neuropathic pain is an increasingly prevalent condition and has a major impact on health and quality of life. However, the risk factors for the development and maintenance of neuropathic pain are poorly understood. Clinical, genetic and psychosocial factors all contribute to chronic pain, but their interactions have not been studied in large cohorts. The DOLORisk study aims to study these factors. Protocol: Multicentre cross-sectional and longitudinal cohorts covering the main causes leading to neuropathic pain (e.g. diabetes, surgery, chemotherapy, traumatic injury), as well as rare conditions, follow a common protocol for phenotyping of the participants. This core protocol correlates answers given by the participants on a set of questionnaires with the results of their genetic analyses. A smaller number of participants undergo deeper phenotyping procedures, including neurological examination, nerve conduction studies, threshold tracking, quantitative sensory testing, conditioned pain modulation and electroencephalography. Ethics and dissemination: All studies have been approved by their regional ethics committees as required by national law. Results are disseminated through the DOLORisk website , scientific meetings, open-access publications, and in partnership with patient organisations. Strengths and limitations: <ns4:list list-type="bullet"><ns4:list-item> Large cohorts covering many possible triggers for neuropathic pain <ns4:list-item> Multi-disciplinary approach to study the interaction of clinical, psychosocial and genetic risk factors <ns4:list-item> High comparability of the data across centres thanks to harmonised protocols <ns4:list-item> One limitation is that the length of the questionnaires might reduce the response rate and quality of responses of participants

Barbeira AN, Dickinson SP, Bonazzola R, Zheng J, Wheeler HE, Torres JM, Torstenson ES, Shah KP, Garcia T, Edwards TL et al. 2018. Exploring the phenotypic consequences of tissue specific gene expression variation inferred from GWAS summary statistics. Nat Commun, 9 (1), pp. 1825. | Show Abstract | Read more

Scalable, integrative methods to understand mechanisms that link genetic variants with phenotypes are needed. Here we derive a mathematical expression to compute PrediXcan (a gene mapping approach) results using summary data (S-PrediXcan) and show its accuracy and general robustness to misspecified reference sets. We apply this framework to 44 GTEx tissues and 100+ phenotypes from GWAS and meta-analysis studies, creating a growing public catalog of associations that seeks to capture the effects of gene expression variation on human phenotypes. Replication in an independent cohort is shown. Most of the associations are tissue specific, suggesting context specificity of the trait etiology. Colocalized significant associations in unexpected tissues underscore the need for an agnostic scanning of multiple contexts to improve our ability to detect causal regulatory mechanisms. Monogenic disease genes are enriched among significant associations for related traits, suggesting that smaller alterations of these genes may cause a spectrum of milder phenotypes.

Lu L, Bennett DA, Millwood IY, Parish S, McCarthy MI, Mahajan A, Lin X, Bragg F, Guo Y, Holmes MV et al. 2018. Association of vitamin D with risk of type 2 diabetes: A Mendelian randomisation study in European and Chinese adults. PLoS Med, 15 (5), pp. e1002566. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Observational studies have reported that higher plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) concentrations are associated with lower risks of diabetes, but it is unclear if these associations are causal. The aim of this study was to test the relevance of 25(OH)D for type 2 diabetes using genetically instrumented differences in plasma 25(OH)D concentrations. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Data were available on four 25(OH)D single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs; n = 82,464), plasma 25(OH)D concentrations (n = 13,565), and cases with diabetes (n = 5,565) in the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB). The effects on risk of diabetes were assessed by a genetic score using two 25(OH)D synthesis SNPs (DHCR7-rs12785878 and CYP2R1-rs10741657), with and without the addition of SNPs affecting the transport (GC/DBP-rs2282679) and catabolism (CYP24A1-rs6013897) of 25(OH)D. The CKB results were combined in a meta-analysis of 10 studies for the 2 synthesis SNPs (n = 58,312 cases) and 7 studies for all 4 SNPs (n = 32,796 cases). Mean (SD) 25(OH)D concentration was 62 (20) nmol/l in CKB, and the per allele effects of genetic scores on 25(OH)D were 2.87 (SE 0.39) for the synthesis SNPs and 3.54 (SE 0.32) for all SNPs. A 25-nmol/l higher biochemically measured 25(OH)D was associated with a 9% (95% CI: 0%-18%) lower risk of diabetes in CKB. In a meta-analysis of all studies, a 25-nmol/l higher genetically instrumented 25(OH)D concentration was associated with a 14% (95% CI: 3%-23%) lower risk of diabetes (p = 0.01) using the 2 synthesis SNPs. An equivalent difference in 25(OH)D using a genetic score with 4 SNPs was not significantly associated with diabetes (odds ratio 8%, 95% CI: -1% to 16%, lower risk, p = 0.07), but had some evidence of pleiotropy. A limitation of the meta-analysis was the access only to study level rather than individual level data. CONCLUSIONS: The concordant risks of diabetes for biochemically measured and genetically instrumented differences in 25(OH)D using synthesis SNPs provide evidence for a causal effect of higher 25(OH)D for prevention of diabetes.

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.

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.

van Zuydam NR, Ahlqvist E, Sandholm N, Deshmukh H, Rayner NW, Abdalla M, Ladenvall C, Ziemek D, Fauman E, Robertson NR et al. 2018. A Genome-Wide Association Study of Diabetic Kidney Disease in Subjects With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes, 67 (7), pp. 1414-1427. | Show Abstract | Read more

Identification of sequence variants robustly associated with predisposition to diabetic kidney disease (DKD) has the potential to provide insights into the pathophysiological mechanisms responsible. We conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of DKD in type 2 diabetes (T2D) using eight complementary dichotomous and quantitative DKD phenotypes: the principal dichotomous analysis involved 5,717 T2D subjects, 3,345 with DKD. Promising association signals were evaluated in up to 26,827 subjects with T2D (12,710 with DKD). A combined T1D+T2D GWAS was performed using complementary data available for subjects with T1D, which, with replication samples, involved up to 40,340 subjects with diabetes (18,582 with DKD). Analysis of specific DKD phenotypes identified a novel signal near GABRR1 (rs9942471, P = 4.5 × 10-8) associated with microalbuminuria in European T2D case subjects. However, no replication of this signal was observed in Asian subjects with T2D or in the equivalent T1D analysis. There was only limited support, in this substantially enlarged analysis, for association at previously reported DKD signals, except for those at UMOD and PRKAG2, both associated with estimated glomerular filtration rate. We conclude that, despite challenges in addressing phenotypic heterogeneity, access to increased sample sizes will continue to provide more robust inference regarding risk variant discovery for DKD.

Gupta SK, Wesolowska-Andersen A, Ringgaard AK, Jaiswal H, Song L, Hastoy B, Ingvorsen C, Taheri-Ghahfarokhi A, Magnusson B, Maresca M et al. 2018. NKX6.1 induced pluripotent stem cell reporter lines for isolation and analysis of functionally relevant neuronal and pancreas populations. Stem Cell Res, 29 pp. 220-231. | Show Abstract | Read more

Recent studies have reported significant advances in the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells to clinically relevant cell types such as the insulin producing beta-like cells and motor neurons. However, many of the current differentiation protocols lead to heterogeneous cell cultures containing cell types other than the targeted cell fate. Genetically modified human pluripotent stem cells reporting the expression of specific genes are of great value for differentiation protocol optimization and for the purification of relevant cell populations from heterogeneous cell cultures. Here we present the generation of human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines with a GFP reporter inserted in the endogenous NKX6.1 locus. Characterization of the reporter lines demonstrated faithful GFP labelling of NKX6.1 expression during pancreas and motor neuron differentiation. Cell sorting and gene expression profiling by RNA sequencing revealed that NKX6.1-positive cells from pancreatic differentiations closely resemble human beta cells. Furthermore, functional characterization of the isolated cells demonstrated that glucose-stimulated insulin secretion is mainly confined to the NKX6.1-positive cells. We expect that the NKX6.1-GFP iPSC lines and the results presented here will contribute to the further refinement of differentiation protocols and characterization of hPSC-derived beta cells and motor neurons for disease modelling and cell replacement therapies.

Perez-Alcantara M, Honoré C, Wesolowska-Andersen A, Gloyn AL, McCarthy MI, Hansson M, Beer NL, van de Bunt M. 2018. Patterns of differential gene expression in a cellular model of human islet development, and relationship to type 2 diabetes predisposition. Diabetologia, 61 (7), pp. 1614-1622. | Show Abstract | Read more

AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Most type 2 diabetes-associated genetic variants identified via genome-wide association studies (GWASs) appear to act via the pancreatic islet. Observed defects in insulin secretion could result from an impact of these variants on islet development and/or the function of mature islets. Most functional studies have focused on the latter, given limitations regarding access to human fetal islet tissue. Capitalising upon advances in in vitro differentiation, we characterised the transcriptomes of human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines differentiated along the pancreatic endocrine lineage, and explored the contribution of altered islet development to the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes. METHODS: We performed whole-transcriptome RNA sequencing of human iPSC lines from three independent donors, at baseline and at seven subsequent stages during in vitro islet differentiation. Differentially expressed genes (q < 0.01, log2 fold change [FC] > 1) were assigned to the stages at which they were most markedly upregulated. We used these data to characterise upstream transcription factors directing different stages of development, and to explore the relationship between RNA expression profiles and genes mapping to type 2 diabetes GWAS signals. RESULTS: We identified 9409 differentially expressed genes across all stages, including many known markers of islet development. Integration of differential expression data with information on transcription factor motifs highlighted the potential contribution of REST to islet development. Over 70% of genes mapping within type 2 diabetes-associated credible intervals showed peak differential expression during islet development, and type 2 diabetes GWAS loci of largest effect (including TCF7L2; log2FC = 1.2; q = 8.5 × 10-10) were notably enriched in genes differentially expressed at the posterior foregut stage (q = 0.002), as calculated by gene set enrichment analyses. In a complementary analysis of enrichment, genes differentially expressed in the final, beta-like cell stage of in vitro differentiation were significantly enriched (hypergeometric test, permuted p value <0.05) for genes within the credible intervals of type 2 diabetes GWAS loci. CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: The present study characterises RNA expression profiles during human islet differentiation, identifies potential transcriptional regulators of the differentiation process, and suggests that the inherited predisposition to type 2 diabetes is partly mediated through modulation of islet development. DATA AVAILABILITY: Sequence data for this study has been deposited at the European Genome-phenome Archive (EGA), under accession number EGAS00001002721.

Pavić T, Juszczak A, Pape Medvidović E, Burrows C, Šekerija M, Bennett AJ, Ćuća Knežević J, Gloyn AL, Lauc G, McCarthy MI et al. 2018. Maturity onset diabetes of the young due to HNF1A variants in Croatia. Biochem Med (Zagreb), 28 (2), pp. 020703. | Show Abstract | Read more

Introduction: Maturity onset diabetes of the young due to HNF1A mutations (HNF1A-MODY) is the most frequent form of monogenic diabetes in adults. It is often misdiagnosed as type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but establishing genetic diagnosis is important, as treatment differs from the common types of diabetes. HNF1A-MODY has not been investigated in Croatia before due to limited access to genetic testing. In this study we aimed to describe the characteristics of young adults diagnosed with diabetes before the age of 45 years, who have rare HNF1A allele variants, and estimate the prevalence of HNF1A-MODY in Croatia. Materials and methods: We recruited 477 C-peptide positive and beta cell antibody negative subjects through the Croatian Diabetes Registry. HNF1A was sequenced for all participants and systematic assessment of the variants found was performed. The prevalence of HNF1A-MODY was calculated in the study group and results extrapolated to estimate the proportion of diabetic individuals with HNF1A-MODY in Croatia and the population prevalence. Results: Our study identified 13 individuals harbouring rare HNF1A allelic variants. After systematic assessment, 8 were assigned a diagnosis of HNF1A-MODY. Two individuals were able to discontinue insulin treatment following the diagnosis. We estimated that HNF1A-MODY in Croatia has a prevalence of 66 (95% CI 61 - 72) cases per million. Conclusions: The estimated prevalence of HNF1A-MODY in Croatia is similar to that reported in other European countries. Finding cases lead to important treatment changes for patients. This strongly supports the introduction of diagnostic genetic testing for monogenic diabetes in Croatia.

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.

Zhang M, Lykke-Andersen S, Zhu B, Xiao W, Hoskins JW, Zhang X, Rost LM, Collins I, Bunt MVD, Jia J et al. 2018. Characterising cis-regulatory variation in the transcriptome of histologically normal and tumour-derived pancreatic tissues. Gut, 67 (3), pp. 521-533. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: To elucidate the genetic architecture of gene expression in pancreatic tissues. DESIGN: We performed expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) analysis in histologically normal pancreatic tissue samples (n=95) using RNA sequencing and the corresponding 1000 genomes imputed germline genotypes. Data from pancreatic tumour-derived tissue samples (n=115) from The Cancer Genome Atlas were included for comparison. RESULTS: We identified 38 615 cis-eQTLs (in 484 genes) in histologically normal tissues and 39 713 cis-eQTL (in 237 genes) in tumour-derived tissues (false discovery rate <0.1), with the strongest effects seen near transcriptional start sites. Approximately 23% and 42% of genes with significant cis-eQTLs appeared to be specific for tumour-derived and normal-derived tissues, respectively. Significant enrichment of cis-eQTL variants was noted in non-coding regulatory regions, in particular for pancreatic tissues (1.53-fold to 3.12-fold, p≤0.0001), indicating tissue-specific functional relevance. A common pancreatic cancer risk locus on 9q34.2 (rs687289) was associated with ABO expression in histologically normal (p=5.8×10-8) and tumour-derived (p=8.3×10-5) tissues. The high linkage disequilibrium between this variant and the O blood group generating deletion variant in ABO (exon 6) suggested that nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) of the 'O' mRNA might explain this finding. However, knockdown of crucial NMD regulators did not influence decay of the ABO 'O' mRNA, indicating that a gene regulatory element influenced by pancreatic cancer risk alleles may underlie the eQTL. CONCLUSIONS: We have identified cis-eQTLs representing potential functional regulatory variants in the pancreas and generated a rich data set for further studies on gene expression and its regulation in pancreatic tissues.

Corbin LJ, Tan VY, Hughes DA, Wade KH, Paul DS, Tansey KE, Butcher F, Dudbridge F, Howson JM, Jallow MW et al. 2018. Formalising recall by genotype as an efficient approach to detailed phenotyping and causal inference. Nat Commun, 9 (1), pp. 711. | Show Abstract | Read more

Detailed phenotyping is required to deepen our understanding of the biological mechanisms behind genetic associations. In addition, the impact of potentially modifiable risk factors on disease requires analytical frameworks that allow causal inference. Here, we discuss the characteristics of Recall-by-Genotype (RbG) as a study design aimed at addressing both these needs. We describe two broad scenarios for the application of RbG: studies using single variants and those using multiple variants. We consider the efficacy and practicality of the RbG approach, provide a catalogue of UK-based resources for such studies and present an online RbG study planner.

Thurner M, van de Bunt M, Torres JM, Mahajan A, Nylander V, Bennett AJ, Gaulton KJ, Barrett A, Burrows C, Bell CG et al. 2018. Integration of human pancreatic islet genomic data refines regulatory mechanisms at Type 2 Diabetes susceptibility loci. Elife, 7 | Show Abstract | Read more

Human genetic studies have emphasised the dominant contribution of pancreatic islet dysfunction to development of Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). However, limited annotation of the islet epigenome has constrained efforts to define the molecular mechanisms mediating the, largely regulatory, signals revealed by Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS). We characterised patterns of chromatin accessibility (ATAC-seq, n = 17) and DNA methylation (whole-genome bisulphite sequencing, n = 10) in human islets, generating high-resolution chromatin state maps through integration with established ChIP-seq marks. We found enrichment of GWAS signals for T2D and fasting glucose was concentrated in subsets of islet enhancers characterised by open chromatin and hypomethylation, with the former annotation predominant. At several loci (including CDC123, ADCY5, KLHDC5) the combination of fine-mapping genetic data and chromatin state enrichment maps, supplemented by allelic imbalance in chromatin accessibility pinpointed likely causal variants. The combination of increasingly-precise genetic and islet epigenomic information accelerates definition of causal mechanisms implicated in T2D pathogenesis.

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.

Jiang X, O'Reilly PF, Aschard H, Hsu Y-H, Richards JB, Dupuis J, Ingelsson E, Karasik D, Pilz S, Berry D et al. 2018. Genome-wide association study in 79,366 European-ancestry individuals informs the genetic architecture of 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels. Nat Commun, 9 (1), pp. 260. | Show Abstract | Read more

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone precursor that is associated with a range of human traits and diseases. Previous GWAS of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations have identified four genome-wide significant loci (GC, NADSYN1/DHCR7, CYP2R1, CYP24A1). In this study, we expand the previous SUNLIGHT Consortium GWAS discovery sample size from 16,125 to 79,366 (all European descent). This larger GWAS yields two additional loci harboring genome-wide significant variants (P = 4.7×10-9 at rs8018720 in SEC23A, and P = 1.9×10-14 at rs10745742 in AMDHD1). The overall estimate of heritability of 25-hydroxyvitamin D serum concentrations attributable to GWAS common SNPs is 7.5%, with statistically significant loci explaining 38% of this total. Further investigation identifies signal enrichment in immune and hematopoietic tissues, and clustering with autoimmune diseases in cell-type-specific analysis. Larger studies are required to identify additional common SNPs, and to explore the role of rare or structural variants and gene-gene interactions in the heritability of circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels.

Juliusdottir T, Banasik K, Robertson NR, Mott R, McCarthy MI. 2018. Toppar: an interactive browser for viewing association study results. Bioinformatics, 34 (11), pp. 1922-1924. | Show Abstract | Read more

Summary: Data integration and visualization help geneticists make sense of large amounts of data. To help facilitate interpretation of genetic association data we developed Toppar, a customizable visualization tool that stores results from association studies and enables browsing over multiple results, by combining features from existing tools and linking to appropriate external databases. Availability and implementation: Detailed information on Toppar's features and functionality are on our website along with instructions on how to download, install and run Toppar. Our online version of Toppar is accessible from the website and can be test-driven using Firefox, Safari or Chrome on sub-sets of publicly available genome-wide association study anthropometric waist and body mass index data (Locke et al., 2015; Shungin et al., 2015) from the Genetic Investigation of ANthropometric Traits consortium. Contact:

Beaumont RN, Warrington NM, Cavadino A, Tyrrell J, Nodzenski M, Horikoshi M, Geller F, Myhre R, Richmond RC, Paternoster L et al. 2018. Genome-wide association study of offspring birth weight in 86 577 women identifies five novel loci and highlights maternal genetic effects that are independent of fetal genetics. Hum Mol Genet, 27 (4), pp. 742-756. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome-wide association studies of birth weight have focused on fetal genetics, whereas relatively little is known about the role of maternal genetic variation. We aimed to identify maternal genetic variants associated with birth weight that could highlight potentially relevant maternal determinants of fetal growth. We meta-analysed data on up to 8.7 million SNPs in up to 86 577 women of European descent from the Early Growth Genetics (EGG) Consortium and the UK Biobank. We used structural equation modelling (SEM) and analyses of mother-child pairs to quantify the separate maternal and fetal genetic effects. Maternal SNPs at 10 loci (MTNR1B, HMGA2, SH2B3, KCNAB1, L3MBTL3, GCK, EBF1, TCF7L2, ACTL9, CYP3A7) were associated with offspring birth weight at P < 5 × 10-8. In SEM analyses, at least 7 of the 10 associations were consistent with effects of the maternal genotype acting via the intrauterine environment, rather than via effects of shared alleles with the fetus. Variants, or correlated proxies, at many of the loci had been previously associated with adult traits, including fasting glucose (MTNR1B, GCK and TCF7L2) and sex hormone levels (CYP3A7), and one (EBF1) with gestational duration. The identified associations indicate that genetic effects on maternal glucose, cytochrome P450 activity and gestational duration, and potentially on maternal blood pressure and immune function, are relevant for fetal growth. Further characterization of these associations in mechanistic and causal analyses will enhance understanding of the potentially modifiable maternal determinants of fetal growth, with the goal of reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with low and high birth weights.

Gudmundsdottir V, Pedersen HK, Allebrandt KV, Brorsson C, van Leeuwen N, Banasik K, Mahajan A, Groves CJ, van de Bunt M, Dawed AY et al. 2018. Integrative network analysis highlights biological processes underlying GLP-1 stimulated insulin secretion: A DIRECT study. PLoS One, 13 (1), pp. e0189886. | Show Abstract | Read more

Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) stimulated insulin secretion has a considerable heritable component as estimated from twin studies, yet few genetic variants influencing this phenotype have been identified. We performed the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of GLP-1 stimulated insulin secretion in non-diabetic individuals from the Netherlands Twin register (n = 126). This GWAS was enhanced using a tissue-specific protein-protein interaction network approach. We identified a beta-cell protein-protein interaction module that was significantly enriched for low gene scores based on the GWAS P-values and found support at the network level in an independent cohort from Tübingen, Germany (n = 100). Additionally, a polygenic risk score based on SNPs prioritized from the network was associated (P < 0.05) with glucose-stimulated insulin secretion phenotypes in up to 5,318 individuals in MAGIC cohorts. The network contains both known and novel genes in the context of insulin secretion and is enriched for members of the focal adhesion, extracellular-matrix receptor interaction, actin cytoskeleton regulation, Rap1 and PI3K-Akt signaling pathways. Adipose tissue is, like the beta-cell, one of the target tissues of GLP-1 and we thus hypothesized that similar networks might be functional in both tissues. In order to verify peripheral effects of GLP-1 stimulation, we compared the transcriptome profiling of ob/ob mice treated with liraglutide, a clinically used GLP-1 receptor agonist, versus baseline controls. Some of the upstream regulators of differentially expressed genes in the white adipose tissue of ob/ob mice were also detected in the human beta-cell network of genes associated with GLP-1 stimulated insulin secretion. The findings provide biological insight into the mechanisms through which the effects of GLP-1 may be modulated and highlight a potential role of the beta-cell expressed genes RYR2, GDI2, KIAA0232, COL4A1 and COL4A2 in GLP-1 stimulated insulin secretion.

Molnos S, Wahl S, Haid M, Eekhoff EMW, Pool R, Floegel A, Deelen J, Much D, Prehn C, Breier M et al. 2018. Metabolite ratios as potential biomarkers for type 2 diabetes: a DIRECT study. Diabetologia, 61 (1), pp. 117-129. | Show Abstract | Read more

AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Circulating metabolites have been shown to reflect metabolic changes during the development of type 2 diabetes. In this study we examined the association of metabolite levels and pairwise metabolite ratios with insulin responses after glucose, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and arginine stimulation. We then investigated if the identified metabolite ratios were associated with measures of OGTT-derived beta cell function and with prevalent and incident type 2 diabetes. METHODS: We measured the levels of 188 metabolites in plasma samples from 130 healthy members of twin families (from the Netherlands Twin Register) at five time points during a modified 3 h hyperglycaemic clamp with glucose, GLP-1 and arginine stimulation. We validated our results in cohorts with OGTT data (n = 340) and epidemiological case-control studies of prevalent (n = 4925) and incident (n = 4277) diabetes. The data were analysed using regression models with adjustment for potential confounders. RESULTS: There were dynamic changes in metabolite levels in response to the different secretagogues. Furthermore, several fasting pairwise metabolite ratios were associated with one or multiple clamp-derived measures of insulin secretion (all p < 9.2 × 10-7). These associations were significantly stronger compared with the individual metabolite components. One of the ratios, valine to phosphatidylcholine acyl-alkyl C32:2 (PC ae C32:2), in addition showed a directionally consistent positive association with OGTT-derived measures of insulin secretion and resistance (p ≤ 5.4 × 10-3) and prevalent type 2 diabetes (ORVal_PC ae C32:2 2.64 [β 0.97 ± 0.09], p = 1.0 × 10-27). Furthermore, Val_PC ae C32:2 predicted incident diabetes independent of established risk factors in two epidemiological cohort studies (HRVal_PC ae C32:2 1.57 [β 0.45 ± 0.06]; p = 1.3 × 10-15), leading to modest improvements in the receiver operating characteristics when added to a model containing a set of established risk factors in both cohorts (increases from 0.780 to 0.801 and from 0.862 to 0.865 respectively, when added to the model containing traditional risk factors + glucose). CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: In this study we have shown that the Val_PC ae C32:2 metabolite ratio is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and measures of insulin secretion and resistance. The observed effects were stronger than that of the individual metabolites and independent of known risk factors.

Ahluwalia TS, Schulz C-A, Waage J, Skaaby T, Sandholm N, van Zuydam N, Charmet R, Bork-Jensen J, Almgren P, Thuesen BH et al. 2019. A novel rare CUBN variant and three additional genes identified in Europeans with and without diabetes: results from an exome-wide association study of albuminuria. Diabetologia, 62 (2), pp. 292-305. | Show Abstract | Read more

AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Identifying rare coding variants associated with albuminuria may open new avenues for preventing chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease, which are highly prevalent in individuals with diabetes. Efforts to identify genetic susceptibility variants for albuminuria have so far been limited, with the majority of studies focusing on common variants. METHODS: We performed an exome-wide association study to identify coding variants in a two-stage (discovery and replication) approach. Data from 33,985 individuals of European ancestry (15,872 with and 18,113 without diabetes) and 2605 Greenlanders were included. RESULTS: We identified a rare (minor allele frequency [MAF]: 0.8%) missense (A1690V) variant in CUBN (rs141640975, β = 0.27, p = 1.3 × 10-11) associated with albuminuria as a continuous measure in the combined European meta-analysis. The presence of each rare allele of the variant was associated with a 6.4% increase in albuminuria. The rare CUBN variant had an effect that was three times stronger in individuals with type 2 diabetes compared with those without (pinteraction = 7.0 × 10-4, β with diabetes = 0.69, β without diabetes = 0.20) in the discovery meta-analysis. Gene-aggregate tests based on rare and common variants identified three additional genes associated with albuminuria (HES1, CDC73 and GRM5) after multiple testing correction (pBonferroni < 2.7 × 10-6). CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: The current study identifies a rare coding variant in the CUBN locus and other potential genes associated with albuminuria in individuals with and without diabetes. These genes have been implicated in renal and cardiovascular dysfunction. The findings provide new insights into the genetic architecture of albuminuria and highlight target genes and pathways for the prevention of diabetes-related kidney disease.

Taira M, Imamura M, Takahashi A, Kamatani Y, Yamauchi T, Araki S-I, Tanaka N, van Zuydam NR, Ahlqvist E, Toyoda M et al. 2018. A variant within the FTO confers susceptibility to diabetic nephropathy in Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes. PLoS One, 13 (12), pp. e0208654. | Show Abstract | Read more

To explore novel genetic loci for diabetic nephropathy, we performed genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for diabetic nephropathy in Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes. We analyzed the association of 5,768,242 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes, 2,380 nephropathy cases and 5,234 controls. We further performed GWAS for diabetic nephropathy using independent Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes, 429 cases and 358 controls and the results of these two GWAS were combined with an inverse variance meta-analysis (stage-1), followed by a de novo genotyping for the candidate SNP loci (p < 1.0 × 10-4) in an independent case-control study (Stage-2; 1,213 cases and 1,298 controls). After integrating stage-1 and stage-2 data, we identified one SNP locus, significantly associated with diabetic nephropathy; rs56094641 in FTO, P = 7.74 × 10-10. We further examined the association of rs56094641 with diabetic nephropathy in independent Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes (902 cases and 1,221 controls), and found that the association of this locus with diabetic nephropathy remained significant after integrating all association data (P = 7.62 × 10-10). We have identified FTO locus as a novel locus for conferring susceptibility to diabetic nephropathy in Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes.

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.

Thurner M, Shenhav L, Wesolowska-Andersen A, Bennett AJ, Barrett A, Gloyn AL, McCarthy MI, Beer NL, Efrat S. 2017. Genes Associated with Pancreas Development and Function Maintain Open Chromatin in iPSCs Generated from Human Pancreatic Beta Cells. Stem Cell Reports, 9 (5), pp. 1395-1405. | Show Abstract | Read more

Current in vitro islet differentiation protocols suffer from heterogeneity and low efficiency. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from pancreatic beta cells (BiPSCs) preferentially differentiate toward endocrine pancreas-like cells versus those from fibroblasts (FiPSCs). We interrogated genome-wide open chromatin in BiPSCs and FiPSCs via ATAC-seq and identified ∼8.3k significant, differential open chromatin sites (DOCS) between the two iPSC subtypes (false discovery rate [FDR] < 0.05). DOCS where chromatin was more accessible in BiPSCs (Bi-DOCS) were significantly enriched for known regulators of endodermal development, including bivalent and weak enhancers, and FOXA2 binding sites (FDR < 0.05). Bi-DOCS were associated with genes related to pancreas development and beta-cell function, including transcription factors mutated in monogenic diabetes (PDX1, NKX2-2, HNF1A; FDR < 0.05). Moreover, Bi-DOCS correlated with enhanced gene expression in BiPSC-derived definitive endoderm and pancreatic progenitor cells. Bi-DOCS therefore highlight genes and pathways governing islet-lineage commitment, which can be exploited for differentiation protocol optimization, diabetes disease modeling, and therapeutic purposes.

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.

GTEx Consortium, Laboratory, Data Analysis &Coordinating Center (LDACC)—Analysis Working Group, Statistical Methods groups—Analysis Working Group, Enhancing GTEx (eGTEx) groups, NIH Common Fund, NIH/NCI, NIH/NHGRI, NIH/NIMH, NIH/NIDA, Biospecimen Collection Source Site—NDRI et al. 2017. Genetic effects on gene expression across human tissues. Nature, 550 (7675), pp. 204-213. | Show Abstract | Read more

Characterization of the molecular function of the human genome and its variation across individuals is essential for identifying the cellular mechanisms that underlie human genetic traits and diseases. The Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project aims to characterize variation in gene expression levels across individuals and diverse tissues of the human body, many of which are not easily accessible. Here we describe genetic effects on gene expression levels across 44 human tissues. We find that local genetic variation affects gene expression levels for the majority of genes, and we further identify inter-chromosomal genetic effects for 93 genes and 112 loci. On the basis of the identified genetic effects, we characterize patterns of tissue specificity, compare local and distal effects, and evaluate the functional properties of the genetic effects. We also demonstrate that multi-tissue, multi-individual data can be used to identify genes and pathways affected by human disease-associated variation, enabling a mechanistic interpretation of gene regulation and the genetic basis of disease.

Li X, Kim Y, Tsang EK, Davis JR, Damani FN, Chiang C, Hess GT, Zappala Z, Strober BJ, Scott AJ et al. 2017. The impact of rare variation on gene expression across tissues. Nature, 550 (7675), pp. 239-243. | Show Abstract | Read more

Rare genetic variants are abundant in humans and are expected to contribute to individual disease risk. While genetic association studies have successfully identified common genetic variants associated with susceptibility, these studies are not practical for identifying rare variants. Efforts to distinguish pathogenic variants from benign rare variants have leveraged the genetic code to identify deleterious protein-coding alleles, but no analogous code exists for non-coding variants. Therefore, ascertaining which rare variants have phenotypic effects remains a major challenge. Rare non-coding variants have been associated with extreme gene expression in studies using single tissues, but their effects across tissues are unknown. Here we identify gene expression outliers, or individuals showing extreme expression levels for a particular gene, across 44 human tissues by using combined analyses of whole genomes and multi-tissue RNA-sequencing data from the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project v6p release. We find that 58% of underexpression and 28% of overexpression outliers have nearby conserved rare variants compared to 8% of non-outliers. Additionally, we developed RIVER (RNA-informed variant effect on regulation), a Bayesian statistical model that incorporates expression data to predict a regulatory effect for rare variants with higher accuracy than models using genomic annotations alone. Overall, we demonstrate that rare variants contribute to large gene expression changes across tissues and provide an integrative method for interpretation of rare variants in individual genomes.

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.

Wood AR, Jonsson A, Jackson AU, Wang N, van Leewen N, Palmer ND, Kobes S, Deelen J, Boquete-Vilarino L, Paananen J et al. 2017. A Genome-Wide Association Study of IVGTT-Based Measures of First-Phase Insulin Secretion Refines the Underlying Physiology of Type 2 Diabetes Variants. Diabetes, 66 (8), pp. 2296-2309. | Show Abstract | Read more

Understanding the physiological mechanisms by which common variants predispose to type 2 diabetes requires large studies with detailed measures of insulin secretion and sensitivity. Here we performed the largest genome-wide association study of first-phase insulin secretion, as measured by intravenous glucose tolerance tests, using up to 5,567 individuals without diabetes from 10 studies. We aimed to refine the mechanisms of 178 known associations between common variants and glycemic traits and identify new loci. Thirty type 2 diabetes or fasting glucose-raising alleles were associated with a measure of first-phase insulin secretion at P < 0.05 and provided new evidence, or the strongest evidence yet, that insulin secretion, intrinsic to the islet cells, is a key mechanism underlying the associations at the HNF1A, IGF2BP2, KCNQ1, HNF1B, VPS13C/C2CD4A, FAF1, PTPRD, AP3S2, KCNK16, MAEA, LPP, WFS1, and TMPRSS6 loci. The fasting glucose-raising allele near PDX1, a known key insulin transcription factor, was strongly associated with lower first-phase insulin secretion but has no evidence for an effect on type 2 diabetes risk. The diabetes risk allele at TCF7L2 was associated with a stronger effect on peak insulin response than on C-peptide-based insulin secretion rate, suggesting a possible additional role in hepatic insulin clearance or insulin processing. In summary, our study provides further insight into the mechanisms by which common genetic variation influences type 2 diabetes risk and glycemic traits.

Willems SM, Wright DJ, Day FR, Trajanoska K, Joshi PK, Morris JA, Matteini AM, Garton FC, Grarup N, Oskolkov N et al. 2017. Large-scale GWAS identifies multiple loci for hand grip strength providing biological insights into muscular fitness. Nat Commun, 8 pp. 16015. | Show Abstract | Read more

Hand grip strength is a widely used proxy of muscular fitness, a marker of frailty, and predictor of a range of morbidities and all-cause mortality. To investigate the genetic determinants of variation in grip strength, we perform a large-scale genetic discovery analysis in a combined sample of 195,180 individuals and identify 16 loci associated with grip strength (P<5 × 10-8) in combined analyses. A number of these loci contain genes implicated in structure and function of skeletal muscle fibres (ACTG1), neuronal maintenance and signal transduction (PEX14, TGFA, SYT1), or monogenic syndromes with involvement of psychomotor impairment (PEX14, LRPPRC and KANSL1). Mendelian randomization analyses are consistent with a causal effect of higher genetically predicted grip strength on lower fracture risk. In conclusion, our findings provide new biological insight into the mechanistic underpinnings of grip strength and the causal role of muscular strength in age-related morbidities and mortality.

Visscher PM, Wray NR, Zhang Q, Sklar P, McCarthy MI, Brown MA, Yang J. 2017. 10 Years of GWAS Discovery: Biology, Function, and Translation. Am J Hum Genet, 101 (1), pp. 5-22. | Show Abstract | Read more

Application of the experimental design of genome-wide association studies (GWASs) is now 10 years old (young), and here we review the remarkable range of discoveries it has facilitated in population and complex-trait genetics, the biology of diseases, and translation toward new therapeutics. We predict the likely discoveries in the next 10 years, when GWASs will be based on millions of samples with array data imputed to a large fully sequenced reference panel and on hundreds of thousands of samples with whole-genome sequencing data.

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.

McCarthy MI. 2017. Painting a new picture of personalised medicine for diabetes. Diabetologia, 60 (5), pp. 793-799. | Show Abstract | Read more

The current focus on delivery of personalised (or precision) medicine reflects the expectation that developments in genomics, imaging and other domains will extend our diagnostic and prognostic capabilities, and enable more effective targeting of current and future preventative and therapeutic options. The clinical benefits of this approach are already being realised in rare diseases and cancer but the impact on management of complex diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, remains limited. This may reflect reliance on inappropriate models of disease architecture, based around rare, high-impact genetic and environmental exposures that are poorly suited to our emerging understanding of type 2 diabetes. This review proposes an alternative 'palette' model, centred on a molecular taxonomy that focuses on positioning an individual with respect to the major pathophysiological processes that contribute to diabetes risk and progression. This model anticipates that many individuals with diabetes will have multiple parallel defects that affect several of these processes. One corollary of this model is that research efforts should, at least initially, be targeted towards identifying and characterising individuals whose adverse metabolic trajectory is dominated by perturbation in a restricted set of processes.

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.

Day FR, Thompson DJ, Helgason H, Chasman DI, Finucane H, Sulem P, Ruth KS, Whalen S, Sarkar AK, Albrecht E et al. 2017. Genomic analyses identify hundreds of variants associated with age at menarche and support a role for puberty timing in cancer risk. Nat Genet, 49 (6), pp. 834-841. | Show Abstract | Read more

The timing of puberty is a highly polygenic childhood trait that is epidemiologically associated with various adult diseases. Using 1000 Genomes Project-imputed genotype data in up to ∼370,000 women, we identify 389 independent signals (P < 5 × 10-8) for age at menarche, a milestone in female pubertal development. In Icelandic data, these signals explain ∼7.4% of the population variance in age at menarche, corresponding to ∼25% of the estimated heritability. We implicate ∼250 genes via coding variation or associated expression, demonstrating significant enrichment in neural tissues. Rare variants near the imprinted genes MKRN3 and DLK1 were identified, exhibiting large effects when paternally inherited. Mendelian randomization analyses suggest causal inverse associations, independent of body mass index (BMI), between puberty timing and risks for breast and endometrial cancers in women and prostate cancer in men. In aggregate, our findings highlight the complexity of the genetic regulation of puberty timing and support causal links with cancer susceptibility.

Graff M, Scott RA, Justice AE, Young KL, Feitosa MF, Barata L, Winkler TW, Chu AY, Mahajan A, Hadley D et al. 2017. Genome-wide physical activity interactions in adiposity - A meta-analysis of 200,452 adults. PLoS Genet, 13 (4), pp. e1006528. | Show Abstract | Read more

Physical activity (PA) may modify the genetic effects that give rise to increased risk of obesity. To identify adiposity loci whose effects are modified by PA, we performed genome-wide interaction meta-analyses of BMI and BMI-adjusted waist circumference and waist-hip ratio from up to 200,452 adults of European (n = 180,423) or other ancestry (n = 20,029). We standardized PA by categorizing it into a dichotomous variable where, on average, 23% of participants were categorized as inactive and 77% as physically active. While we replicate the interaction with PA for the strongest known obesity-risk locus in the FTO gene, of which the effect is attenuated by ~30% in physically active individuals compared to inactive individuals, we do not identify additional loci that are sensitive to PA. In additional genome-wide meta-analyses adjusting for PA and interaction with PA, we identify 11 novel adiposity loci, suggesting that accounting for PA or other environmental factors that contribute to variation in adiposity may facilitate gene discovery.

Beaumont RN, Horikoshi M, McCarthy MI, Freathy RM. 2017. How Can Genetic Studies Help Us to Understand Links Between Birth Weight and Type 2 Diabetes? Curr Diab Rep, 17 (4), pp. 22. | Show Abstract | Read more

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: In observational epidemiology, both low and high birth weights are associated with later type 2 diabetes. The mechanisms underlying the associations are poorly understood. We review evidence for the roles of genetic and non-genetic factors linking both sides of the birth weight distribution to risk of type 2 diabetes, focusing on contributions made by the most recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of birth weight. RECENT FINDINGS: There are now nine genetic loci robustly implicated in both fetal growth and type 2 diabetes. At many of these, the same alleles are associated both with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and a lower birth weight. This supports the Fetal Insulin Hypothesis and reflects a general pattern for type 2 diabetes susceptibility alleles: genome-wide, there is an inverse genetic correlation with birth weight, and initial estimates suggest genetic factors explain a large part of the covariance between the two traits. However, the associations at individual loci show heterogeneity; some fetal risk alleles are associated with higher birth weight. For most of these, the association reflects their correlation with the maternal risk allele which raises maternal glucose, thus increasing fetal insulin-mediated growth. GWAS have improved our understanding of the mechanisms underlying associations between type 2 diabetes and birth weight but questions remain about the relative importance of genetic versus non-genetic factors and of maternal versus fetal genotypes. To answer these questions, future work will require well-powered analyses of parents and offspring.

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.

McCarthy MI. 2017. Erratum to: Painting a new picture of personalised medicine for diabetes. Diabetologia, 60 (5), pp. 940. | Show Abstract | Read more

© 2017, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Unfortunately, subsequent to the author checking the proofs of this article, an error was introduced into Fig. 1 during production, such that the order of the colour palettes relating to each individual was incorrect. Specifically, the palettes for individuals a and d were interchanged, as were the palettes for individuals b and c. The Editorial Office apologises for this error. The article has now been updated and the correct version of the figure is included in the online PDF and HTML versions of the article (

Webb TR, Erdmann J, Stirrups KE, Stitziel NO, Masca NGD, Jansen H, Kanoni S, Nelson CP, Ferrario PG, König IR et al. 2017. Systematic Evaluation of Pleiotropy Identifies 6 Further Loci Associated With Coronary Artery Disease. J Am Coll Cardiol, 69 (7), pp. 823-836. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Genome-wide association studies have so far identified 56 loci associated with risk of coronary artery disease (CAD). Many CAD loci show pleiotropy; that is, they are also associated with other diseases or traits. OBJECTIVES: This study sought to systematically test if genetic variants identified for non-CAD diseases/traits also associate with CAD and to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the extent of pleiotropy of all CAD loci. METHODS: In discovery analyses involving 42,335 CAD cases and 78,240 control subjects we tested the association of 29,383 common (minor allele frequency >5%) single nucleotide polymorphisms available on the exome array, which included a substantial proportion of known or suspected single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with common diseases or traits as of 2011. Suggestive association signals were replicated in an additional 30,533 cases and 42,530 control subjects. To evaluate pleiotropy, we tested CAD loci for association with cardiovascular risk factors (lipid traits, blood pressure phenotypes, body mass index, diabetes, and smoking behavior), as well as with other diseases/traits through interrogation of currently available genome-wide association study catalogs. RESULTS: We identified 6 new loci associated with CAD at genome-wide significance: on 2q37 (KCNJ13-GIGYF2), 6p21 (C2), 11p15 (MRVI1-CTR9), 12q13 (LRP1), 12q24 (SCARB1), and 16q13 (CETP). Risk allele frequencies ranged from 0.15 to 0.86, and odds ratio per copy of the risk allele ranged from 1.04 to 1.09. Of 62 new and known CAD loci, 24 (38.7%) showed statistical association with a traditional cardiovascular risk factor, with some showing multiple associations, and 29 (47%) showed associations at p < 1 × 10-4 with a range of other diseases/traits. CONCLUSIONS: We identified 6 loci associated with CAD at genome-wide significance. Several CAD loci show substantial pleiotropy, which may help us understand the mechanisms by which these loci affect CAD risk.

Carrat GR, Hu M, Nguyen-Tu M-S, Chabosseau P, Gaulton KJ, van de Bunt M, Siddiq A, Falchi M, Thurner M, Canouil M et al. 2017. Decreased STARD10 Expression Is Associated with Defective Insulin Secretion in Humans and Mice. Am J Hum Genet, 100 (2), pp. 238-256. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genetic variants near ARAP1 (CENTD2) and STARD10 influence type 2 diabetes (T2D) risk. The risk alleles impair glucose-induced insulin secretion and, paradoxically but characteristically, are associated with decreased proinsulin:insulin ratios, indicating improved proinsulin conversion. Neither the identity of the causal variants nor the gene(s) through which risk is conferred have been firmly established. Whereas ARAP1 encodes a GTPase activating protein, STARD10 is a member of the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR)-related lipid transfer protein family. By integrating genetic fine-mapping and epigenomic annotation data and performing promoter-reporter and chromatin conformational capture (3C) studies in β cell lines, we localize the causal variant(s) at this locus to a 5 kb region that overlaps a stretch-enhancer active in islets. This region contains several highly correlated T2D-risk variants, including the rs140130268 indel. Expression QTL analysis of islet transcriptomes from three independent subject groups demonstrated that T2D-risk allele carriers displayed reduced levels of STARD10 mRNA, with no concomitant change in ARAP1 mRNA levels. Correspondingly, β-cell-selective deletion of StarD10 in mice led to impaired glucose-stimulated Ca2+ dynamics and insulin secretion and recapitulated the pattern of improved proinsulin processing observed at the human GWAS signal. Conversely, overexpression of StarD10 in the adult β cell improved glucose tolerance in high fat-fed animals. In contrast, manipulation of Arap1 in β cells had no impact on insulin secretion or proinsulin conversion in mice. This convergence of human and murine data provides compelling evidence that the T2D risk associated with variation at this locus is mediated through reduction in STARD10 expression in the β cell.

McCarthy MI. 2017. Genetics of T2DM in 2016: Biological and translational insights from T2DM genetics. Nat Rev Endocrinol, 13 (2), pp. 71-72. | Read more

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.

McCarthy MI, MacArthur DG. 2017. Human disease genomics: from variants to biology. Genome Biol, 18 (1), pp. 20. | Show Abstract | Read more

We summarize the remarkable progress that has been made in the identification and functional characterization of DNA sequence variants associated with disease.

Wahl S, Drong A, Lehne B, Loh M, Scott WR, Kunze S, Tsai P-C, Ried JS, Zhang W, Yang Y et al. 2017. Epigenome-wide association study of body mass index, and the adverse outcomes of adiposity. Nature, 541 (7635), pp. 81-86. | Show Abstract | Read more

Approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide are overweight or affected by obesity, and are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and related metabolic and inflammatory disturbances. Although the mechanisms linking adiposity to associated clinical conditions are poorly understood, recent studies suggest that adiposity may influence DNA methylation, a key regulator of gene expression and molecular phenotype. Here we use epigenome-wide association to show that body mass index (BMI; a key measure of adiposity) is associated with widespread changes in DNA methylation (187 genetic loci with P < 1 × 10-7, range P = 9.2 × 10-8 to 6.0 × 10-46; n = 10,261 samples). Genetic association analyses demonstrate that the alterations in DNA methylation are predominantly the consequence of adiposity, rather than the cause. We find that methylation loci are enriched for functional genomic features in multiple tissues (P < 0.05), and show that sentinel methylation markers identify gene expression signatures at 38 loci (P < 9.0 × 10-6, range P = 5.5 × 10-6 to 6.1 × 10-35, n = 1,785 samples). The methylation loci identify genes involved in lipid and lipoprotein metabolism, substrate transport and inflammatory pathways. Finally, we show that the disturbances in DNA methylation predict future development of type 2 diabetes (relative risk per 1 standard deviation increase in methylation risk score: 2.3 (2.07-2.56); P = 1.1 × 10-54). Our results provide new insights into the biologic pathways influenced by adiposity, and may enable development of new strategies for prediction and prevention of type 2 diabetes and other adverse clinical consequences of obesity.

Gan W, Clarke RJ, Mahajan A, Kulohoma B, Kitajima H, Robertson NR, Rayner NW, Walters RG, Holmes MV, Chen Z, McCarthy MI. 2017. Bone mineral density and risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease: A Mendelian randomization study. Wellcome Open Res, 2 pp. 68. | Show Abstract | Read more

Background: Observational studies have demonstrated that increased bone mineral density is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D), but the relationship with risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) is less clear. Moreover, substantial uncertainty remains about the causal relevance of increased bone mineral density for T2D and CHD, which can be assessed by Mendelian randomisation studies.  Methods: We identified 235 independent single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated at p<5×10 -8 with estimated heel bone mineral density (eBMD) in 116,501 individuals from the UK Biobank study, accounting for 13.9% of eBMD variance. For each eBMD-associated SNP, we extracted effect estimates from the largest available GWAS studies for T2D (DIAGRAM: n=26,676 T2D cases and 132,532 controls) and CHD (CARDIoGRAMplusC4D: n=60,801 CHD cases and 123,504 controls). A two-sample design using several Mendelian randomization approaches was used to investigate the causal relevance of eBMD for risk of T2D and CHD. In addition, we explored the relationship of eBMD, instrumented by the 235 SNPs, on 12 cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors. Finally, we conducted Mendelian randomization analysis in the reverse direction to investigate reverse causality. Results: Each one standard deviation increase in genetically instrumented eBMD (equivalent to 0.14 g/cm 2) was associated with an 8% higher risk of T2D (odds ratio [OR] 1.08; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.02 to 1.14; p=0.012) and 5% higher risk of CHD (OR 1.05; 95%CI: 1.00 to 1.10; p=0.034). Consistent results were obtained in sensitivity analyses using several different Mendelian randomization approaches. Equivalent increases in eBMD were also associated with lower plasma levels of HDL-cholesterol and increased insulin resistance. Mendelian randomization in the reverse direction using 94 T2D SNPs or 52 CHD SNPs showed no evidence of reverse causality with eBMD. Conclusions: These findings suggest a causal relationship between elevated bone mineral density with risks of both T2D and CHD.

Lotta LA, Gulati P, Day FR, Payne F, Ongen H, van de Bunt M, Gaulton KJ, Eicher JD, Sharp SJ, Luan J et al. 2017. Integrative genomic analysis implicates limited peripheral adipose storage capacity in the pathogenesis of human insulin resistance. Nat Genet, 49 (1), pp. 17-26. | Show Abstract | Read more

Insulin resistance is a key mediator of obesity-related cardiometabolic disease, yet the mechanisms underlying this link remain obscure. Using an integrative genomic approach, we identify 53 genomic regions associated with insulin resistance phenotypes (higher fasting insulin levels adjusted for BMI, lower HDL cholesterol levels and higher triglyceride levels) and provide evidence that their link with higher cardiometabolic risk is underpinned by an association with lower adipose mass in peripheral compartments. Using these 53 loci, we show a polygenic contribution to familial partial lipodystrophy type 1, a severe form of insulin resistance, and highlight shared molecular mechanisms in common/mild and rare/severe insulin resistance. Population-level genetic analyses combined with experiments in cellular models implicate CCDC92, DNAH10 and L3MBTL3 as previously unrecognized molecules influencing adipocyte differentiation. Our findings support the notion that limited storage capacity of peripheral adipose tissue is an important etiological component in insulin-resistant cardiometabolic disease and highlight genes and mechanisms underpinning this link.

Love-Gregory L, Kraja AT, Allum F, Aslibekyan S, Hedman ÅK, Duan Y, Borecki IB, Arnett DK, McCarthy MI, Deloukas P et al. 2016. Higher chylomicron remnants and LDL particle numbers associate with CD36 SNPs and DNA methylation sites that reduce CD36. J Lipid Res, 57 (12), pp. 2176-2184. | Show Abstract | Read more

Cluster of differentiation 36 (CD36) variants influence fasting lipids and risk of metabolic syndrome, but their impact on postprandial lipids, an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, is unclear. We determined the effects of SNPs within a ∼410 kb region encompassing CD36 and its proximal and distal promoters on chylomicron (CM) remnants and LDL particles at fasting and at 3.5 and 6 h following a high-fat meal (Genetics of Lipid Lowering Drugs and Diet Network study, n = 1,117). Five promoter variants associated with CMs, four with delayed TG clearance and five with LDL particle number. To assess mechanisms underlying the associations, we queried expression quantitative trait loci, DNA methylation, and ChIP-seq datasets for adipose and heart tissues that function in postprandial lipid clearance. Several SNPs that associated with higher serum lipids correlated with lower adipose and heart CD36 mRNA and aligned to active motifs for PPARγ, a major CD36 regulator. The SNPs also associated with DNA methylation sites that related to reduced CD36 mRNA and higher serum lipids, but mixed-model analyses indicated that the SNPs and methylation independently influence CD36 mRNA. The findings support contributions of CD36 SNPs that reduce adipose and heart CD36 RNA expression to inter-individual variability of postprandial lipid metabolism and document changes in CD36 DNA methylation that influence both CD36 expression and lipids.

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.

Alegre-Díaz J, Herrington W, López-Cervantes M, Gnatiuc L, Ramirez R, Hill M, Baigent C, McCarthy MI, Lewington S, Collins R et al. 2016. Diabetes and Cause-Specific Mortality in Mexico City. N Engl J Med, 375 (20), pp. 1961-1971. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Most large, prospective studies of the effects of diabetes on mortality have focused on high-income countries where patients have access to reasonably good medical care and can receive treatments to establish and maintain good glycemic control. In those countries, diabetes less than doubles the rate of death from any cause. Few large, prospective studies have been conducted in middle-income countries where obesity and diabetes have become common and glycemic control may be poor. METHODS: From 1998 through 2004, we recruited approximately 50,000 men and 100,000 women 35 years of age or older into a prospective study in Mexico City, Mexico. We recorded the presence or absence of previously diagnosed diabetes, obtained and stored blood samples, and tracked 12-year disease-specific deaths through January 1, 2014. We accepted diabetes as the underlying cause of death only for deaths that were due to acute diabetic crises. We estimated rate ratios for death among participants who had diabetes at recruitment versus those who did not have diabetes at recruitment; data from participants who had chronic diseases other than diabetes were excluded from the main analysis. RESULTS: At the time of recruitment, obesity was common and the prevalence of diabetes rose steeply with age (3% at 35 to 39 years of age and >20% by 60 years of age). Participants who had diabetes had poor glycemic control (mean [±SD] glycated hemoglobin level, 9.0±2.4%), and the rates of use of other vasoprotective medications were low (e.g., 30% of participants with diabetes were receiving antihypertensive medication at recruitment and 1% were receiving lipid-lowering medication). Previously diagnosed diabetes was associated with rate ratios for death from any cause of 5.4 (95% confidence interval [CI], 5.0 to 6.0) at 35 to 59 years of age, 3.1 (95% CI, 2.9 to 3.3) at 60 to 74 years of age, and 1.9 (95% CI, 1.8 to 2.1) at 75 to 84 years of age. Between 35 and 74 years of age, the excess mortality associated with previously diagnosed diabetes accounted for one third of all deaths; the largest absolute excess risks of death were from renal disease (rate ratio, 20.1; 95% CI, 17.2 to 23.4), cardiac disease (rate ratio, 3.7; 95% CI, 3.2 to 4.2), infection (rate ratio, 4.7; 95% CI, 4.0 to 5.5), acute diabetic crises (8% of all deaths among participants who had previously diagnosed diabetes), and other vascular disease (mainly stroke). Little association was observed between diabetes and mortality from cirrhosis, cancer, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. CONCLUSIONS: In this study in Mexico, a middle-income country with high levels of obesity, diabetes was common, glycemic control was poor, and diabetes was associated with a far worse prognosis than that seen in high-income countries; it accounted for at least one third of all deaths between 35 and 74 years of age. (Funded by the Wellcome Trust and others.).

Lotta LA, Scott RA, Sharp SJ, Burgess S, Luan J, Tillin T, Schmidt AF, Imamura F, Stewart ID, Perry JRB et al. 2016. Genetic Predisposition to an Impaired Metabolism of the Branched-Chain Amino Acids and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Mendelian Randomisation Analysis. PLoS Med, 13 (11), pp. e1002179. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Higher circulating levels of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs; i.e., isoleucine, leucine, and valine) are strongly associated with higher type 2 diabetes risk, but it is not known whether this association is causal. We undertook large-scale human genetic analyses to address this question. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Genome-wide studies of BCAA levels in 16,596 individuals revealed five genomic regions associated at genome-wide levels of significance (p < 5 × 10-8). The strongest signal was 21 kb upstream of the PPM1K gene (beta in standard deviations [SDs] of leucine per allele = 0.08, p = 3.9 × 10-25), encoding an activator of the mitochondrial branched-chain alpha-ketoacid dehydrogenase (BCKD) responsible for the rate-limiting step in BCAA catabolism. In another analysis, in up to 47,877 cases of type 2 diabetes and 267,694 controls, a genetically predicted difference of 1 SD in amino acid level was associated with an odds ratio for type 2 diabetes of 1.44 (95% CI 1.26-1.65, p = 9.5 × 10-8) for isoleucine, 1.85 (95% CI 1.41-2.42, p = 7.3 × 10-6) for leucine, and 1.54 (95% CI 1.28-1.84, p = 4.2 × 10-6) for valine. Estimates were highly consistent with those from prospective observational studies of the association between BCAA levels and incident type 2 diabetes in a meta-analysis of 1,992 cases and 4,319 non-cases. Metabolome-wide association analyses of BCAA-raising alleles revealed high specificity to the BCAA pathway and an accumulation of metabolites upstream of branched-chain alpha-ketoacid oxidation, consistent with reduced BCKD activity. Limitations of this study are that, while the association of genetic variants appeared highly specific, the possibility of pleiotropic associations cannot be entirely excluded. Similar to other complex phenotypes, genetic scores used in the study captured a limited proportion of the heritability in BCAA levels. Therefore, it is possible that only some of the mechanisms that increase BCAA levels or affect BCAA metabolism are implicated in type 2 diabetes. CONCLUSIONS: Evidence from this large-scale human genetic and metabolomic study is consistent with a causal role of BCAA metabolism in the aetiology of type 2 diabetes.

Field Y, Boyle EA, Telis N, Gao Z, Gaulton KJ, Golan D, Yengo L, Rocheleau G, Froguel P, McCarthy MI, Pritchard JK. 2016. Detection of human adaptation during the past 2000 years. Science, 354 (6313), pp. 760-764. | Show Abstract | Read more

Detection of recent natural selection is a challenging problem in population genetics. Here we introduce the singleton density score (SDS), a method to infer very recent changes in allele frequencies from contemporary genome sequences. Applied to data from the UK10K Project, SDS reflects allele frequency changes in the ancestors of modern Britons during the past ~2000 to 3000 years. We see strong signals of selection at lactase and the major histocompatibility complex, and in favor of blond hair and blue eyes. For polygenic adaptation, we find that recent selection for increased height has driven allele frequency shifts across most of the genome. Moreover, we identify shifts associated with other complex traits, suggesting that polygenic adaptation has played a pervasive role in shaping genotypic and phenotypic variation in modern humans.

Laver TW, Colclough K, Shepherd M, Patel K, Houghton JAL, Dusatkova P, Pruhova S, Morris AD, Palmer CN, McCarthy MI et al. 2016. The Common p.R114W HNF4A Mutation Causes a Distinct Clinical Subtype of Monogenic Diabetes. Diabetes, 65 (10), pp. 3212-3217. | Show Abstract | Read more

HNF4A mutations cause increased birth weight, transient neonatal hypoglycemia, and maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY). The most frequently reported HNF4A mutation is p.R114W (previously p.R127W), but functional studies have shown inconsistent results; there is a lack of cosegregation in some pedigrees and an unexpectedly high frequency in public variant databases. We confirm that p.R114W is a pathogenic mutation with an odds ratio of 30.4 (95% CI 9.79-125, P = 2 × 10(-21)) for diabetes in our MODY cohort compared with control subjects. p.R114W heterozygotes did not have the increased birth weight of patients with other HNF4A mutations (3,476 g vs. 4,147 g, P = 0.0004), and fewer patients responded to sulfonylurea treatment (48% vs. 73%, P = 0.038). p.R114W has reduced penetrance; only 54% of heterozygotes developed diabetes by age 30 years compared with 71% for other HNF4A mutations. We redefine p.R114W as a pathogenic mutation that causes a distinct clinical subtype of HNF4A MODY with reduced penetrance, reduced sensitivity to sulfonylurea treatment, and no effect on birth weight. This has implications for diabetes treatment, management of pregnancy, and predictive testing of at-risk relatives. The increasing availability of large-scale sequence data is likely to reveal similar examples of rare, low-penetrance MODY mutations.

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.

Lotta LA, Sharp SJ, Burgess S, Perry JRB, Stewart ID, Willems SM, Luan J, Ardanaz E, Arriola L, Balkau B et al. 2016. Association Between Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol-Lowering Genetic Variants and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Meta-analysis. JAMA, 316 (13), pp. 1383-1391. | Show Abstract | Read more

Importance: Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C)-lowering alleles in or near NPC1L1 or HMGCR, encoding the respective molecular targets of ezetimibe and statins, have previously been used as proxies to study the efficacy of these lipid-lowering drugs. Alleles near HMGCR are associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, similar to the increased incidence of new-onset diabetes associated with statin treatment in randomized clinical trials. It is unknown whether alleles near NPC1L1 are associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes. Objective: To investigate whether LDL-C-lowering alleles in or near NPC1L1 and other genes encoding current or prospective molecular targets of lipid-lowering therapy (ie, HMGCR, PCSK9, ABCG5/G8, LDLR) are associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes. Design, Setting, and Participants: The associations with type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease of LDL-C-lowering genetic variants were investigated in meta-analyses of genetic association studies. Meta-analyses included 50 775 individuals with type 2 diabetes and 270 269 controls and 60 801 individuals with coronary artery disease and 123 504 controls. Data collection took place in Europe and the United States between 1991 and 2016. Exposures: Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol-lowering alleles in or near NPC1L1, HMGCR, PCSK9, ABCG5/G8, and LDLR. Main Outcomes and Measures: Odds ratios (ORs) for type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. Results: Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol-lowering genetic variants at NPC1L1 were inversely associated with coronary artery disease (OR for a genetically predicted 1-mmol/L [38.7-mg/dL] reduction in LDL-C of 0.61 [95% CI, 0.42-0.88]; P = .008) and directly associated with type 2 diabetes (OR for a genetically predicted 1-mmol/L reduction in LDL-C of 2.42 [95% CI, 1.70-3.43]; P < .001). For PCSK9 genetic variants, the OR for type 2 diabetes per 1-mmol/L genetically predicted reduction in LDL-C was 1.19 (95% CI, 1.02-1.38; P = .03). For a given reduction in LDL-C, genetic variants were associated with a similar reduction in coronary artery disease risk (I2 = 0% for heterogeneity in genetic associations; P = .93). However, associations with type 2 diabetes were heterogeneous (I2 = 77.2%; P = .002), indicating gene-specific associations with metabolic risk of LDL-C-lowering alleles. Conclusions and Relevance: In this meta-analysis, exposure to LDL-C-lowering genetic variants in or near NPC1L1 and other genes was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. These data provide insights into potential adverse effects of LDL-C-lowering therapy.

Franks PW, McCarthy MI. 2016. Exposing the exposures responsible for type 2 diabetes and obesity. Science, 354 (6308), pp. 69-73. | Show Abstract | Read more

The rising prevalences of type 2 diabetes and obesity constitute major threats to human health globally. Powerful social and economic factors influence the distribution of these diseases among and within populations. These factors act on a substrate of individual predisposition derived from the composite effects of inherited DNA variation and a range of environmental exposures experienced throughout the life course. Although "Western" lifestyle represents a convenient catch-all culprit for such exposures, effective treatment and prevention will be informed by characterization of the most critical, causal environmental factors. In this Review, we examine how burgeoning understanding of the genetic basis of type 2 diabetes and obesity can highlight nongenetic exposures that drive development of these conditions.

McCarthy S, Das S, Kretzschmar W, Delaneau O, Wood AR, Teumer A, Kang HM, Fuchsberger C, Danecek P, Sharp K et al. 2016. A reference panel of 64,976 haplotypes for genotype imputation. Nat Genet, 48 (10), pp. 1279-1283. | Show Abstract | Read more

We describe a reference panel of 64,976 human haplotypes at 39,235,157 SNPs constructed using whole-genome sequence data from 20 studies of predominantly European ancestry. Using this resource leads to accurate genotype imputation at minor allele frequencies as low as 0.1% and a large increase in the number of SNPs tested in association studies, and it can help to discover and refine causal loci. We describe remote server resources that allow researchers to carry out imputation and phasing consistently and efficiently.

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.

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.

Sandholm N, Van Zuydam N, Ahlqvist E, Juliusdottir T, Deshmukh HA, Rayner NW, Di Camillo B, Forsblom C, Fadista J, Ziemek D et al. 2017. The Genetic Landscape of Renal Complications in Type 1 Diabetes. J Am Soc Nephrol, 28 (2), pp. 557-574. | Show Abstract | Read more

Diabetes is the leading cause of ESRD. Despite evidence for a substantial heritability of diabetic kidney disease, efforts to identify genetic susceptibility variants have had limited success. We extended previous efforts in three dimensions, examining a more comprehensive set of genetic variants in larger numbers of subjects with type 1 diabetes characterized for a wider range of cross-sectional diabetic kidney disease phenotypes. In 2843 subjects, we estimated that the heritability of diabetic kidney disease was 35% (P=6.4×10-3). Genome-wide association analysis and replication in 12,540 individuals identified no single variants reaching stringent levels of significance and, despite excellent power, provided little independent confirmation of previously published associated variants. Whole-exome sequencing in 997 subjects failed to identify any large-effect coding alleles of lower frequency influencing the risk of diabetic kidney disease. However, sets of alleles increasing body mass index (P=2.2×10-5) and the risk of type 2 diabetes (P=6.1×10-4) associated with the risk of diabetic kidney disease. We also found genome-wide genetic correlation between diabetic kidney disease and failure at smoking cessation (P=1.1×10-4). Pathway analysis implicated ascorbate and aldarate metabolism (P=9.0×10-6), and pentose and glucuronate interconversions (P=3.0×10-6) in pathogenesis of diabetic kidney disease. These data provide further evidence for the role of genetic factors influencing diabetic kidney disease in those with type 1 diabetes and highlight some key pathways that may be responsible. Altogether these results reveal important biology behind the major cause of kidney disease.

Hore V, Viñuela A, Buil A, Knight J, McCarthy MI, Small K, Marchini J. 2016. Tensor decomposition for multiple-tissue gene expression experiments. Nat Genet, 48 (9), pp. 1094-1100. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome-wide association studies of gene expression traits and other cellular phenotypes have successfully identified links between genetic variation and biological processes. The majority of discoveries have uncovered cis-expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) effects via mass univariate testing of SNPs against gene expression in single tissues. Here we present a Bayesian method for multiple-tissue experiments focusing on uncovering gene networks linked to genetic variation. Our method decomposes the 3D array (or tensor) of gene expression measurements into a set of latent components. We identify sparse gene networks that can then be tested for association against genetic variation across the genome. We apply our method to a data set of 845 individuals from the TwinsUK cohort with gene expression measured via RNA-seq analysis in adipose, lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) and skin. We uncover several gene networks with a genetic basis and clear biological and statistical significance. Extensions of this approach will allow integration of different omics, environmental and phenotypic data sets.

Kanoni S, Masca NGD, Stirrups KE, Varga TV, Warren HR, Scott RA, Southam L, Zhang W, Yaghootkar H, Müller-Nurasyid M et al. 2016. Analysis with the exome array identifies multiple new independent variants in lipid loci. Hum Mol Genet, 25 (18), pp. 4094-4106. | Show Abstract | Read more

It has been hypothesized that low frequency (1-5% minor allele frequency (MAF)) and rare (<1% MAF) variants with large effect sizes may contribute to the missing heritability in complex traits. Here, we report an association analysis of lipid traits (total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol triglycerides) in up to 27 312 individuals with a comprehensive set of low frequency coding variants (ExomeChip), combined with conditional analysis in the known lipid loci. No new locus reached genome-wide significance. However, we found a new lead variant in 26 known lipid association regions of which 16 were >1000-fold more significant than the previous sentinel variant and not in close LD (six had MAF <5%). Furthermore, conditional analysis revealed multiple independent signals (ranging from 1 to 5) in a third of the 98 lipid loci tested, including rare variants. Addition of our novel associations resulted in between 1.5- and 2.5-fold increase in the proportion of heritability explained for the different lipid traits. Our findings suggest that rare coding variants contribute to the genetic architecture of lipid traits.

Thomsen SK, McCarthy MI, Gloyn AL. 2016. The Importance of Context: Uncovering Species- and Tissue-Specific Effects of Genetic Risk Variants for Type 2 Diabetes. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne), 7 (AUG), pp. 112. | Show Abstract | Read more

© 2016 Thomsen, McCarthy and Gloyn. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been highly successful in identifying genetic variation associated with type 2 diabetes (T2D) risk and related quantitative traits (1-3). The vast majority of association signals are located in non-coding regions of the genome, influencing nearby genes through regulation of transcriptional, translational, or splicing activity (4). Due to the highly context-dependent nature of gene expression, the effects of many risk variants are restricted to specific cell types and produce more subtle effects than those observed in organism-wide (or "global") knockouts. In addition, identification of the underlying causal genes and target tissues is often a major challenge, hindering translation into disease mechanisms. Recent studies have shown that the intersection of genetic data and genomic annotations can be used to produce a cellular atlas with which to understand the phenotypes of GWAS signals. Through the generation of directed hypotheses, this integrated framework has the potential to bridge the gap between association signals and disease biology.

Thomsen SK, Ceroni A, van de Bunt M, Burrows C, Barrett A, Scharfmann R, Ebner D, McCarthy MI, Gloyn AL. 2016. Systematic Functional Characterization of Candidate Causal Genes for Type 2 Diabetes Risk Variants. Diabetes, 65 (12), pp. 3805-3811. | Show Abstract | Read more

Most genetic association signals for type 2 diabetes risk are located in noncoding regions of the genome, hindering translation into molecular mechanisms. Physiological studies have shown a majority of disease-associated variants to exert their effects through pancreatic islet dysfunction. Systematically characterizing the role of regional transcripts in β-cell function could identify the underlying disease-causing genes, but large-scale studies in human cellular models have previously been impractical. We developed a robust and scalable strategy based on arrayed gene silencing in the human β-cell line EndoC-βH1. In a screen of 300 positional candidates selected from 75 type 2 diabetes regions, each gene was assayed for effects on multiple disease-relevant phenotypes, including insulin secretion and cellular proliferation. We identified a total of 45 genes involved in β-cell function, pointing to possible causal mechanisms at 37 disease-associated loci. The results showed a strong enrichment for genes implicated in monogenic diabetes. Selected effects were validated in a follow-up study, including several genes (ARL15, ZMIZ1, and THADA) with previously unknown or poorly described roles in β-cell biology. We have demonstrated the feasibility of systematic functional screening in a human β-cell model and successfully prioritized plausible disease-causing genes at more than half of the regions investigated.

Lek M, Karczewski KJ, Minikel EV, Samocha KE, Banks E, Fennell T, O'Donnell-Luria AH, Ware JS, Hill AJ, Cummings BB et al. 2016. Analysis of protein-coding genetic variation in 60,706 humans. Nature, 536 (7616), pp. 285-291. | Show Abstract | Read more

Large-scale reference data sets of human genetic variation are critical for the medical and functional interpretation of DNA sequence changes. Here we describe the aggregation and analysis of high-quality exome (protein-coding region) DNA sequence data for 60,706 individuals of diverse ancestries generated as part of the Exome Aggregation Consortium (ExAC). This catalogue of human genetic diversity contains an average of one variant every eight bases of the exome, and provides direct evidence for the presence of widespread mutational recurrence. We have used this catalogue to calculate objective metrics of pathogenicity for sequence variants, and to identify genes subject to strong selection against various classes of mutation; identifying 3,230 genes with near-complete depletion of predicted protein-truncating variants, with 72% of these genes having no currently established human disease phenotype. Finally, we demonstrate that these data can be used for the efficient filtering of candidate disease-causing variants, and for the discovery of human 'knockout' variants in protein-coding genes.

Zhou K, Yee SW, Seiser EL, van Leeuwen N, Tavendale R, Bennett AJ, Groves CJ, Coleman RL, van der Heijden AA, Beulens JW et al. 2016. Variation in the glucose transporter gene SLC2A2 is associated with glycemic response to metformin. Nat Genet, 48 (9), pp. 1055-1059. | Show Abstract | Read more

Metformin is the first-line antidiabetic drug with over 100 million users worldwide, yet its mechanism of action remains unclear. Here the Metformin Genetics (MetGen) Consortium reports a three-stage genome-wide association study (GWAS), consisting of 13,123 participants of different ancestries. The C allele of rs8192675 in the intron of SLC2A2, which encodes the facilitated glucose transporter GLUT2, was associated with a 0.17% (P = 6.6 × 10(-14)) greater metformin-induced reduction in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) in 10,577 participants of European ancestry. rs8192675 was the top cis expression quantitative trait locus (cis-eQTL) for SLC2A2 in 1,226 human liver samples, suggesting a key role for hepatic GLUT2 in regulation of metformin action. Among obese individuals, C-allele homozygotes at rs8192675 had a 0.33% (3.6 mmol/mol) greater absolute HbA1c reduction than T-allele homozygotes. This was about half the effect seen with the addition of a DPP-4 inhibitor, and equated to a dose difference of 550 mg of metformin, suggesting rs8192675 as a potential biomarker for stratified medicine.

Hird TR, Pirie FJ, Esterhuizen TM, O'Leary B, McCarthy MI, Young EH, Sandhu MS, Motala AA. 2016. Burden of Diabetes and First Evidence for the Utility of HbA1c for Diagnosis and Detection of Diabetes in Urban Black South Africans: The Durban Diabetes Study. PLoS One, 11 (8), pp. e0161966. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: Glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) is recommended as an additional tool to glucose-based measures (fasting plasma glucose [FPG] and 2-hour plasma glucose [2PG] during oral glucose tolerance test [OGTT]) for the diagnosis of diabetes; however, its use in sub-Saharan African populations is not established. We assessed prevalence estimates and the diagnosis and detection of diabetes based on OGTT, FPG, and HbA1c in an urban black South African population. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We conducted a population-based cross-sectional survey using multistage cluster sampling of adults aged ≥18 years in Durban (eThekwini municipality), KwaZulu-Natal. All participants had a 75-g OGTT and HbA1c measurements. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was used to assess the overall diagnostic accuracy of HbA1c, using OGTT as the reference, and to determine optimal HbA1c cut-offs. RESULTS: Among 1190 participants (851 women, 92.6% response rate), the age-standardised prevalence of diabetes was 12.9% based on OGTT, 11.9% based on FPG, and 13.1% based on HbA1c. In participants without a previous history of diabetes (n = 1077), using OGTT as the reference, an HbA1c ≥48 mmol/mol (6.5%) detected diabetes with 70.3% sensitivity (95%CI 52.7-87.8) and 98.7% specificity (95%CI 97.9-99.4) (AUC 0.94 [95%CI 0.89-1.00]). Additional analyses suggested the optimal HbA1c cut-off for detection of diabetes in this population was 42 mmol/mol (6.0%) (sensitivity 89.2% [95%CI 78.6-99.8], specificity 92.0% [95%CI: 90.3-93.7]). CONCLUSIONS: In an urban black South African population, we found a high prevalence of diabetes and provide the first evidence for the utility of HbA1c for the diagnosis and detection of diabetes in black Africans in sub-Saharan Africa.

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.

Gan W, Walters RG, Holmes MV, Bragg F, Millwood IY, Banasik K, Chen Y, Du H, Iona A, Mahajan A et al. 2016. Evaluation of type 2 diabetes genetic risk variants in Chinese adults: findings from 93,000 individuals from the China Kadoorie Biobank. Diabetologia, 59 (7), pp. 1446-1457. | Show Abstract | Read more

AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have discovered many risk variants for type 2 diabetes. However, estimates of the contributions of risk variants to type 2 diabetes predisposition are often based on highly selected case-control samples, and reliable estimates of population-level effect sizes are missing, especially in non-European populations. METHODS: The individual and cumulative effects of 59 established type 2 diabetes risk loci were measured in a population-based China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) study of 93,000 Chinese adults, including >7,100 diabetes cases. RESULTS: Association signals were directionally consistent between CKB and the original discovery GWAS: of 56 variants passing quality control, 48 showed the same direction of effect (binomial test, p = 2.3 × 10(-8)). We observed a consistent overall trend towards lower risk variant effect sizes in CKB than in case-control samples of GWAS meta-analyses (mean 19-22% decrease in log odds, p ≤ 0.0048), likely to reflect correction of both 'winner's curse' and spectrum bias effects. The association with risk of diabetes of a genetic risk score, based on lead variants at 25 loci considered to act through beta cell function, demonstrated significant interactions with several measures of adiposity (BMI, waist circumference [WC], WHR and percentage body fat [PBF]; all p interaction < 1 × 10(-4)), with a greater effect being observed in leaner adults. CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: Our study provides further evidence of shared genetic architecture for type 2 diabetes between Europeans and East Asians. It also indicates that even very large GWAS meta-analyses may be vulnerable to substantial inflation of effect size estimates, compared with those observed in large-scale population-based cohort studies. ACCESS TO RESEARCH MATERIALS: Details of how to access China Kadoorie Biobank data and details of the data release schedule are available from .

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.

Stitziel NO, Stirrups KE, Masca NGD, Erdmann J, Ferrario PG, Koenig IR, Weeke PE, Webb TR, Auer PL, Schick UM et al. 2016. Coding Variation in ANGPTL4, LPL, and SVEP1 and the Risk of Coronary Disease (vol 374, pg 1134, 2016) NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, 374 (19), pp. 1898-1898. | Read more

Richardson TG, Shihab HA, Rivas MA, McCarthy MI, Campbell C, Timpson NJ, Gaunt TR. 2016. A Protein Domain and Family Based Approach to Rare Variant Association Analysis. PLoS One, 11 (4), pp. e0153803. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: It has become common practice to analyse large scale sequencing data with statistical approaches based around the aggregation of rare variants within the same gene. We applied a novel approach to rare variant analysis by collapsing variants together using protein domain and family coordinates, regarded to be a more discrete definition of a biologically functional unit. METHODS: Using Pfam definitions, we collapsed rare variants (Minor Allele Frequency ≤ 1%) together in three different ways 1) variants within single genomic regions which map to individual protein domains 2) variants within two individual protein domain regions which are predicted to be responsible for a protein-protein interaction 3) all variants within combined regions from multiple genes responsible for coding the same protein domain (i.e. protein families). A conventional collapsing analysis using gene coordinates was also undertaken for comparison. We used UK10K sequence data and investigated associations between regions of variants and lipid traits using the sequence kernel association test (SKAT). RESULTS: We observed no strong evidence of association between regions of variants based on Pfam domain definitions and lipid traits. Quantile-Quantile plots illustrated that the overall distributions of p-values from the protein domain analyses were comparable to that of a conventional gene-based approach. Deviations from this distribution suggested that collapsing by either protein domain or gene definitions may be favourable depending on the trait analysed. CONCLUSION: We have collapsed rare variants together using protein domain and family coordinates to present an alternative approach over collapsing across conventionally used gene-based regions. Although no strong evidence of association was detected in these analyses, future studies may still find value in adopting these approaches to detect previously unidentified association signals.

van de Bunt M, Lako M, Barrett A, Gloyn AL, Hansson M, McCarthy MI, Beer NL, Honoré C. 2016. Insights into islet development and biology through characterization of a human iPSC-derived endocrine pancreas model. Islets, 8 (3), pp. 83-95. | Show Abstract | Read more

Directed differentiation of stem cells offers a scalable solution to the need for human cell models recapitulating islet biology and T2D pathogenesis. We profiled mRNA expression at 6 stages of an induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) model of endocrine pancreas development from 2 donors, and characterized the distinct transcriptomic profiles associated with each stage. Established regulators of endodermal lineage commitment, such as SOX17 (log2 fold change [FC] compared to iPSCs = 14.2, p-value = 4.9 × 10(-5)) and the pancreatic agenesis gene GATA6 (log2 FC = 12.1, p-value = 8.6 × 10(-5)), showed transcriptional variation consistent with their known developmental roles. However, these analyses highlighted many other genes with stage-specific expression patterns, some of which may be novel drivers or markers of islet development. For example, the leptin receptor gene, LEPR, was most highly expressed in published data from in vivo-matured cells compared to our endocrine pancreas-like cells (log2 FC = 5.5, p-value = 2.0 × 10(-12)), suggesting a role for the leptin pathway in the maturation process. Endocrine pancreas-like cells showed significant stage-selective expression of adult islet genes, including INS, ABCC8, and GLP1R, and enrichment of relevant GO-terms (e.g. "insulin secretion"; odds ratio = 4.2, p-value = 1.9 × 10(-3)): however, principal component analysis indicated that in vitro-differentiated cells were more immature than adult islets. Integration of the stage-specific expression information with genetic data from T2D genome-wide association studies revealed that 46 of 82 T2D-associated loci harbor genes present in at least one developmental stage, facilitating refinement of potential effector transcripts. Together, these data show that expression profiling in an iPSC islet development model can further understanding of islet biology and T2D pathogenesis.

Myocardial Infarction Genetics and CARDIoGRAM Exome Consortia Investigators, Stitziel NO, Stirrups KE, Masca NGD, Erdmann J, Ferrario PG, König IR, Weeke PE, Webb TR, Auer PL et al. 2016. Coding Variation in ANGPTL4, LPL, and SVEP1 and the Risk of Coronary Disease. N Engl J Med, 374 (12), pp. 1134-1144. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The discovery of low-frequency coding variants affecting the risk of coronary artery disease has facilitated the identification of therapeutic targets. METHODS: Through DNA genotyping, we tested 54,003 coding-sequence variants covering 13,715 human genes in up to 72,868 patients with coronary artery disease and 120,770 controls who did not have coronary artery disease. Through DNA sequencing, we studied the effects of loss-of-function mutations in selected genes. RESULTS: We confirmed previously observed significant associations between coronary artery disease and low-frequency missense variants in the genes LPA and PCSK9. We also found significant associations between coronary artery disease and low-frequency missense variants in the genes SVEP1 (p.D2702G; minor-allele frequency, 3.60%; odds ratio for disease, 1.14; P=4.2×10(-10)) and ANGPTL4 (p.E40K; minor-allele frequency, 2.01%; odds ratio, 0.86; P=4.0×10(-8)), which encodes angiopoietin-like 4. Through sequencing of ANGPTL4, we identified 9 carriers of loss-of-function mutations among 6924 patients with myocardial infarction, as compared with 19 carriers among 6834 controls (odds ratio, 0.47; P=0.04); carriers of ANGPTL4 loss-of-function alleles had triglyceride levels that were 35% lower than the levels among persons who did not carry a loss-of-function allele (P=0.003). ANGPTL4 inhibits lipoprotein lipase; we therefore searched for mutations in LPL and identified a loss-of-function variant that was associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease (p.D36N; minor-allele frequency, 1.9%; odds ratio, 1.13; P=2.0×10(-4)) and a gain-of-function variant that was associated with protection from coronary artery disease (p.S447*; minor-allele frequency, 9.9%; odds ratio, 0.94; P=2.5×10(-7)). CONCLUSIONS: We found that carriers of loss-of-function mutations in ANGPTL4 had triglyceride levels that were lower than those among noncarriers; these mutations were also associated with protection from coronary artery disease. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others.).

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.

Pal A, Potjer TP, Thomsen SK, Ng HJ, Barrett A, Scharfmann R, James TJ, Bishop DT, Karpe F, Godsland IF et al. 2016. Loss-of-Function Mutations in the Cell-Cycle Control Gene CDKN2A Impact on Glucose Homeostasis in Humans. Diabetes, 65 (2), pp. 527-533. | Show Abstract | Read more

At the CDKN2A/B locus, three independent signals for type 2 diabetes risk are located in a noncoding region near CDKN2A. The disease-associated alleles have been implicated in reduced β-cell function, but the underlying mechanism remains elusive. In mice, β-cell-specific loss of Cdkn2a causes hyperplasia, while overexpression leads to diabetes, highlighting CDKN2A as a candidate effector transcript. Rare CDKN2A loss-of-function mutations are a cause of familial melanoma and offer the opportunity to determine the impact of CDKN2A haploinsufficiency on glucose homeostasis in humans. To test the hypothesis that such individuals have improved β-cell function, we performed oral and intravenous glucose tolerance tests on mutation carriers and matched control subjects. Compared with control subjects, carriers displayed increased insulin secretion, impaired insulin sensitivity, and reduced hepatic insulin clearance. These results are consistent with a model whereby CDKN2A loss affects a range of different tissues, including pancreatic β-cells and liver. To test for direct effects of CDKN2A-loss on β-cell function, we performed knockdown in a human β-cell line, EndoC-bH1. This revealed increased insulin secretion independent of proliferation. Overall, we demonstrated that CDKN2A is an important regulator of glucose homeostasis in humans, thus supporting its candidacy as an effector transcript for type 2 diabetes-associated alleles in the region.

Clapham KR, Chu AY, Wessel J, Natarajan P, Flannick J, Rivas MA, Sartori S, Mehran R, Baber U, Fuster V et al. 2016. A null mutation in ANGPTL8 does not associate with either plasma glucose or type 2 diabetes in humans. BMC Endocr Disord, 16 (1), pp. 7. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Experiments in mice initially suggested a role for the protein angiopoietin-like 8 (ANGPTL8) in glucose homeostasis. However, subsequent experiments in model systems have challenged this proposed role. We sought to better understand the importance of ANGPTL8 in human glucose homeostasis by examining the association of a null mutation in ANGPTL8 with fasting glucose levels and risk for type 2 diabetes. METHODS: A naturally-occurring null mutation in human ANGPTL8 (rs145464906; c.361C > T; p.Q121X) is carried by ~1 in 1000 individuals of European ancestry and is associated with higher levels of plasma high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, suggesting that this mutation has functional significance. We examined the association of p.Q121X with fasting glucose levels and risk for type 2 diabetes in up to 95,558 individuals (14,824 type 2 diabetics and 80,734 controls). RESULTS: We found no significant association of p.Q121X with either fasting glucose or type 2 diabetes (p-value = 0.90 and 0.65, respectively). Given our sample sizes, we had >98 % power to detect at least a 0.23 mmol/L effect on plasma glucose and >95 % power to detect a 70 % increase in risk for type 2 diabetes. CONCLUSION: Disruption of ANGPTL8 function in humans does not seem to have a large effect on measures of glucose tolerance.

Felix JF, Bradfield JP, Monnereau C, van der Valk RJP, Stergiakouli E, Chesi A, Gaillard R, Feenstra B, Thiering E, Kreiner-Møller E et al. 2016. Genome-wide association analysis identifies three new susceptibility loci for childhood body mass index. Hum Mol Genet, 25 (2), pp. 389-403. | Show Abstract | Read more

A large number of genetic loci are associated with adult body mass index. However, the genetics of childhood body mass index are largely unknown. We performed a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies of childhood body mass index, using sex- and age-adjusted standard deviation scores. We included 35 668 children from 20 studies in the discovery phase and 11 873 children from 13 studies in the replication phase. In total, 15 loci reached genome-wide significance (P-value < 5 × 10(-8)) in the joint discovery and replication analysis, of which 12 are previously identified loci in or close to ADCY3, GNPDA2, TMEM18, SEC16B, FAIM2, FTO, TFAP2B, TNNI3K, MC4R, GPR61, LMX1B and OLFM4 associated with adult body mass index or childhood obesity. We identified three novel loci: rs13253111 near ELP3, rs8092503 near RAB27B and rs13387838 near ADAM23. Per additional risk allele, body mass index increased 0.04 Standard Deviation Score (SDS) [Standard Error (SE) 0.007], 0.05 SDS (SE 0.008) and 0.14 SDS (SE 0.025), for rs13253111, rs8092503 and rs13387838, respectively. A genetic risk score combining all 15 SNPs showed that each additional average risk allele was associated with a 0.073 SDS (SE 0.011, P-value = 3.12 × 10(-10)) increase in childhood body mass index in a population of 1955 children. This risk score explained 2% of the variance in childhood body mass index. This study highlights the shared genetic background between childhood and adult body mass index and adds three novel loci. These loci likely represent age-related differences in strength of the associations with body mass index.

Ekoru K, Young EH, Adebamowo C, Balde N, Hennig BJ, Kaleebu P, Kapiga S, Levitt NS, Mayige M, Mbanya JC et al. 2016. H3Africa multi-centre study of the prevalence and environmental and genetic determinants of type 2 diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa: study protocol. Glob Health Epidemiol Genom, 1 pp. e5. | Show Abstract | Read more

The burden and aetiology of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and its microvascular complications may be influenced by varying behavioural and lifestyle environments as well as by genetic susceptibility. These aspects of the epidemiology of T2D have not been reliably clarified in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), highlighting the need for context-specific epidemiological studies with the statistical resolution to inform potential preventative and therapeutic strategies. Therefore, as part of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) initiative, we designed a multi-site study comprising case collections and population-based surveys at 11 sites in eight countries across SSA. The goal is to recruit up to 6000 T2D participants and 6000 control participants. We will collect questionnaire data, biophysical measurements and biological samples for chronic disease traits, risk factors and genetic data on all study participants. Through integrating epidemiological and genomic techniques, the study provides a framework for assessing the burden, spectrum and environmental and genetic risk factors for T2D and its complications across SSA. With established mechanisms for fieldwork, data and sample collection and management, data-sharing and consent for re-approaching participants, the study will be a resource for future research studies, including longitudinal studies, prospective case ascertainment of incident disease and interventional studies.

Kim YJ, Lee J, Kim B-J, T2D-Genes Consortium, Park T. 2015. A new strategy for enhancing imputation quality of rare variants from next-generation sequencing data via combining SNP and exome chip data. BMC Genomics, 16 (1), pp. 1109. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Rare variants have gathered increasing attention as a possible alternative source of missing heritability. Since next generation sequencing technology is not yet cost-effective for large-scale genomic studies, a widely used alternative approach is imputation. However, the imputation approach may be limited by the low accuracy of the imputed rare variants. To improve imputation accuracy of rare variants, various approaches have been suggested, including increasing the sample size of the reference panel, using sequencing data from study-specific samples (i.e., specific populations), and using local reference panels by genotyping or sequencing a subset of study samples. While these approaches mainly utilize reference panels, imputation accuracy of rare variants can also be increased by using exome chips containing rare variants. The exome chip contains 250 K rare variants selected from the discovered variants of about 12,000 sequenced samples. If exome chip data are available for previously genotyped samples, the combined approach using a genotype panel of merged data, including exome chips and SNP chips, should increase the imputation accuracy of rare variants. RESULTS: In this study, we describe a combined imputation which uses both exome chip and SNP chip data simultaneously as a genotype panel. The effectiveness and performance of the combined approach was demonstrated using a reference panel of 848 samples constructed using exome sequencing data from the T2D-GENES consortium and 5,349 sample genotype panels consisting of an exome chip and SNP chip. As a result, the combined approach increased imputation quality up to 11 %, and genomic coverage for rare variants up to 117.7 % (MAF < 1 %), compared to imputation using the SNP chip alone. Also, we investigated the systematic effect of reference panels on imputation quality using five reference panels and three genotype panels. The best performing approach was the combination of the study specific reference panel and the genotype panel of combined data. CONCLUSIONS: Our study demonstrates that combined datasets, including SNP chips and exome chips, enhances both the imputation quality and genomic coverage of rare variants.

Busche S, Shao X, Caron M, Kwan T, Allum F, Cheung WA, Ge B, Westfall S, Simon M-M, Multiple Tissue Human Expression Resource et al. 2015. Population whole-genome bisulfite sequencing across two tissues highlights the environment as the principal source of human methylome variation. Genome Biol, 16 (1), pp. 290. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: CpG methylation variation is involved in human trait formation and disease susceptibility. Analyses within populations have been biased towards CpG-dense regions through the application of targeted arrays. We generate whole-genome bisulfite sequencing data for approximately 30 adipose and blood samples from monozygotic and dizygotic twins for the characterization of non-genetic and genetic effects at single-site resolution. RESULTS: Purely invariable CpGs display a bimodal distribution with enrichment of unmethylated CpGs and depletion of fully methylated CpGs in promoter and enhancer regions. Population-variable CpGs account for approximately 15-20 % of total CpGs per tissue, are enriched in enhancer-associated regions and depleted in promoters, and single nucleotide polymorphisms at CpGs are a frequent confounder of extreme methylation variation. Differential methylation is primarily non-genetic in origin, with non-shared environment accounting for most of the variance. These non-genetic effects are mainly tissue-specific. Tobacco smoking is associated with differential methylation in blood with no evidence of this exposure impacting cell counts. Opposite to non-genetic effects, genetic effects of CpG methylation are shared across tissues and thus limit inter-tissue epigenetic drift. CpH methylation is rare, and shows similar characteristics of variation patterns as CpGs. CONCLUSIONS: Our study highlights the utility of low pass whole-genome bisulfite sequencing in identifying methylome variation beyond promoter regions, and suggests that targeting the population dynamic methylome of tissues requires assessment of understudied intergenic CpGs distal to gene promoters to reveal the full extent of inter-individual variation.

Barsh GS, Cooper GM, Copenhaver GP, Gibson G, McCarthy MI, Tang H, Williams SM. 2015. PLOS Genetics Data Sharing Policy: In Pursuit of Functional Utility. PLoS Genet, 11 (12), pp. e1005716. | Read more

van de Bunt M, Manning Fox JE, Dai X, Barrett A, Grey C, Li L, Bennett AJ, Johnson PR, Rajotte RV, Gaulton KJ et al. 2015. Transcript Expression Data from Human Islets Links Regulatory Signals from Genome-Wide Association Studies for Type 2 Diabetes and Glycemic Traits to Their Downstream Effectors. PLoS Genet, 11 (12), pp. e1005694. | Show Abstract | Read more

The intersection of genome-wide association analyses with physiological and functional data indicates that variants regulating islet gene transcription influence type 2 diabetes (T2D) predisposition and glucose homeostasis. However, the specific genes through which these regulatory variants act remain poorly characterized. We generated expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) data in 118 human islet samples using RNA-sequencing and high-density genotyping. We identified fourteen loci at which cis-exon-eQTL signals overlapped active islet chromatin signatures and were coincident with established T2D and/or glycemic trait associations. ‎At some, these data provide an experimental link between GWAS signals and biological candidates, such as DGKB and ADCY5. At others, the cis-signals implicate genes with no prior connection to islet biology, including WARS and ZMIZ1. At the ZMIZ1 locus, we show that perturbation of ZMIZ1 expression in human islets and beta-cells influences exocytosis and insulin secretion, highlighting a novel role for ZMIZ1 in the maintenance of glucose homeostasis. Together, these findings provide a significant advance in the mechanistic insights of T2D and glycemic trait association loci.

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.

Kato N, Loh M, Takeuchi F, Verweij N, Wang X, Zhang W, Kelly TN, Saleheen D, Lehne B, Leach IM et al. 2015. Trans-ancestry genome-wide association study identifies 12 genetic loci influencing blood pressure and implicates a role for DNA methylation. Nat Genet, 47 (11), pp. 1282-1293. | Show Abstract | Read more

We carried out a trans-ancestry genome-wide association and replication study of blood pressure phenotypes among up to 320,251 individuals of East Asian, European and South Asian ancestry. We find genetic variants at 12 new loci to be associated with blood pressure (P = 3.9 × 10(-11) to 5.0 × 10(-21)). The sentinel blood pressure SNPs are enriched for association with DNA methylation at multiple nearby CpG sites, suggesting that, at some of the loci identified, DNA methylation may lie on the regulatory pathway linking sequence variation to blood pressure. The sentinel SNPs at the 12 new loci point to genes involved in vascular smooth muscle (IGFBP3, KCNK3, PDE3A and PRDM6) and renal (ARHGAP24, OSR1, SLC22A7 and TBX2) function. The new and known genetic variants predict increased left ventricular mass, circulating levels of NT-proBNP, and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality (P = 0.04 to 8.6 × 10(-6)). Our results provide new evidence for the role of DNA methylation in blood pressure regulation.

Yang J, Huang T, Petralia F, Long Q, Zhang B, Argmann C, Zhao Y, Mobbs CV, GTEx Consortium, Schadt EE et al. 2015. Synchronized age-related gene expression changes across multiple tissues in human and the link to complex diseases. Sci Rep, 5 (1), pp. 15145. | Show Abstract | Read more

Aging is one of the most important biological processes and is a known risk factor for many age-related diseases in human. Studying age-related transcriptomic changes in tissues across the whole body can provide valuable information for a holistic understanding of this fundamental process. In this work, we catalogue age-related gene expression changes in nine tissues from nearly two hundred individuals collected by the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project. In general, we find the aging gene expression signatures are very tissue specific. However, enrichment for some well-known aging components such as mitochondria biology is observed in many tissues. Different levels of cross-tissue synchronization of age-related gene expression changes are observed, and some essential tissues (e.g., heart and lung) show much stronger "co-aging" than other tissues based on a principal component analysis. The aging gene signatures and complex disease genes show a complex overlapping pattern and only in some cases, we see that they are significantly overlapped in the tissues affected by the corresponding diseases. In summary, our analyses provide novel insights to the co-regulation of age-related gene expression in multiple tissues; it also presents a tissue-specific view of the link between aging and age-related diseases.

Carithers LJ, Ardlie K, Barcus M, Branton PA, Britton A, Buia SA, Compton CC, DeLuca DS, Peter-Demchok J, Gelfand ET et al. 2015. A Novel Approach to High-Quality Postmortem Tissue Procurement: The GTEx Project. Biopreserv Biobank, 13 (5), pp. 311-319. | Show Abstract | Read more

The Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project, sponsored by the NIH Common Fund, was established to study the correlation between human genetic variation and tissue-specific gene expression in non-diseased individuals. A significant challenge was the collection of high-quality biospecimens for extensive genomic analyses. Here we describe how a successful infrastructure for biospecimen procurement was developed and implemented by multiple research partners to support the prospective collection, annotation, and distribution of blood, tissues, and cell lines for the GTEx project. Other research projects can follow this model and form beneficial partnerships with rapid autopsy and organ procurement organizations to collect high quality biospecimens and associated clinical data for genomic studies. Biospecimens, clinical and genomic data, and Standard Operating Procedures guiding biospecimen collection for the GTEx project are available to the research community.

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.

Mõttus R, Luciano M, Sarr JM, McCarthy MI, Deary IJ. 2015. Childhood cognitive ability moderates later-life manifestation of type 2 diabetes genetic risk. Health Psychol, 34 (9), pp. 915-919. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: The study investigated whether childhood cognitive ability moderates Type 2 diabetes polygenic risk manifestation in older age. METHOD: In 940 relatively healthy people (mean age 69.55 ± 0.85), we tested whether self-reported diabetes and hemoglobin HbA1c (HbA1c) levels were predicted by diabetes polygenic risk, cognitive ability measured about 60 years earlier, and their interaction. Polygenic risk scores aggregated the small effects of up to nearly 121,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Participants' cognitive ability was measured at age 11. RESULTS: Both polygenic risk and low childhood cognitive ability significantly predicted diabetes diagnosis. Polygenic risk interacted with cognitive ability (p = .02), predicting HbA1c levels more strongly in people with below-median cognitive ability (effect r = .21) than in people with above-median cognitive ability (effect r = .10). The interaction term was not significant for self-reported diabetes (p = .34), although the genetic risk-diabetes association showed a tendency of being stronger among those with below-median cognitive ability. CONCLUSIONS: Higher premorbid cognitive ability may provide some environmental protection against the manifestation of Type 2 diabetes genetic risk. This information may improve early identification of diabetes risk and inform intervention development.

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.

Spjuth O, Krestyaninova M, Hastings J, Shen H-Y, Heikkinen J, Waldenberger M, Langhammer A, Ladenvall C, Esko T, Persson M-Å et al. 2016. Harmonising and linking biomedical and clinical data across disparate data archives to enable integrative cross-biobank research. Eur J Hum Genet, 24 (4), pp. 521-528. | Show Abstract | Read more

A wealth of biospecimen samples are stored in modern globally distributed biobanks. Biomedical researchers worldwide need to be able to combine the available resources to improve the power of large-scale studies. A prerequisite for this effort is to be able to search and access phenotypic, clinical and other information about samples that are currently stored at biobanks in an integrated manner. However, privacy issues together with heterogeneous information systems and the lack of agreed-upon vocabularies have made specimen searching across multiple biobanks extremely challenging. We describe three case studies where we have linked samples and sample descriptions in order to facilitate global searching of available samples for research. The use cases include the ENGAGE (European Network for Genetic and Genomic Epidemiology) consortium comprising at least 39 cohorts, the SUMMIT (surrogate markers for micro- and macro-vascular hard endpoints for innovative diabetes tools) consortium and a pilot for data integration between a Swedish clinical health registry and a biobank. We used the Sample avAILability (SAIL) method for data linking: first, created harmonised variables and then annotated and made searchable information on the number of specimens available in individual biobanks for various phenotypic categories. By operating on this categorised availability data we sidestep many obstacles related to privacy that arise when handling real values and show that harmonised and annotated records about data availability across disparate biomedical archives provide a key methodological advance in pre-analysis exchange of information between biobanks, that is, during the project planning phase.

Hayes MG, Urbanek M, Ehrmann DA, Armstrong LL, Lee JY, Sisk R, Karaderi T, Barber TM, McCarthy MI, Franks S et al. 2016. Corrigendum: Genome-wide association of polycystic ovary syndrome implicates alterations in gonadotropin secretion in European ancestry populations. Nat Commun, 7 (1), pp. 10762. | Read more

Hayes MG, Urbanek M, Ehrmann DA, Armstrong LL, Lee JY, Sisk R, Karaderi T, Barber TM, McCarthy MI, Franks S et al. 2015. Genome-wide association of polycystic ovary syndrome implicates alterations in gonadotropin secretion in European ancestry populations. Nat Commun, 6 (1), pp. 7502. | Show Abstract | Read more

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common, highly heritable complex disorder of unknown aetiology characterized by hyperandrogenism, chronic anovulation and defects in glucose homeostasis. Increased luteinizing hormone relative to follicle-stimulating hormone secretion, insulin resistance and developmental exposure to androgens are hypothesized to play a causal role in PCOS. Here we map common genetic susceptibility loci in European ancestry women for the National Institutes of Health PCOS phenotype, which confers the highest risk for metabolic morbidities, as well as reproductive hormone levels. Three loci reach genome-wide significance in the case-control meta-analysis, two novel loci mapping to chr 8p23.1 [Corrected] and chr 11p14.1, and a chr 9q22.32 locus previously found in Chinese PCOS. The same chr 11p14.1 SNP, rs11031006, in the region of the follicle-stimulating hormone B polypeptide (FSHB) gene strongly associates with PCOS diagnosis and luteinizing hormone levels. These findings implicate neuroendocrine changes in disease pathogenesis.

Allum F, Shao X, Guénard F, Simon M-M, Busche S, Caron M, Lambourne J, Lessard J, Tandre K, Hedman ÅK et al. 2015. Erratum: Characterization of functional methylomes by next-generation capture sequencing identifies novel disease-associated variants. Nat Commun, 6 (1), pp. 8016. | Read more




Chambers JC, Loh M, Lehne B, Drong A, Kriebel J, Motta V, Wahl S, Elliott HR, Rota F, Scott WR et al. 2015. Epigenome-wide association of DNA methylation markers in peripheral blood from Indian Asians and Europeans with incident type 2 diabetes: A nested case-control study The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, 3 (7), pp. 526-534. | Show Abstract | Read more

© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Background: Indian Asians, who make up a quarter of the world's population, are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. We investigated whether DNA methylation is associated with future type 2 diabetes incidence in Indian Asians and whether differences in methylation patterns between Indian Asians and Europeans are associated with, and could be used to predict, differences in the magnitude of risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Methods: We did a nested case-control study of DNA methylation in Indian Asians and Europeans with incident type 2 diabetes who were identified from the 8-year follow-up of 25 372 participants in the London Life Sciences Prospective Population (LOLIPOP) study. Patients were recruited between May 1, 2002, and Sept 12, 2008. We did epigenome-wide association analysis using samples from Indian Asians with incident type 2 diabetes and age-matched and sex-matched Indian Asian controls, followed by replication testing of top-ranking signals in Europeans. For both discovery and replication, DNA methylation was measured in the baseline blood sample, which was collected before the onset of type 2 diabetes. Epigenome-wide significance was set at p<1 × 10-7. We compared methylation levels between Indian Asian and European controls without type 2 diabetes at baseline to estimate the potential contribution of DNA methylation to increased risk of future type 2 diabetes incidence among Indian Asians. Findings: 1608 (11·9%) of 13 535 Indian Asians and 306 (4·3%) of 7066 Europeans developed type 2 diabetes over a mean of 8·5 years (SD 1·8) of follow-up. The age-adjusted and sex-adjusted incidence of type 2 diabetes was 3·1 times (95% CI 2·8-3·6; p<0·0001) higher among Indian Asians than among Europeans, and remained 2·5 times (2·1-2·9; p<0·0001) higher after adjustment for adiposity, physical activity, family history of type 2 diabetes, and baseline glycaemic measures. The mean absolute difference in methylation level between type 2 diabetes cases and controls ranged from 0·5% (SD 0·1) to 1·1% (0·2). Methylation markers at five loci were associated with future type 2 diabetes incidence; the relative risk per 1% increase in methylation was 1·09 (95% CI 1·07-1·11; p=1·3 × 10-17) for ABCG1, 0·94 (0·92-0·95; p=4·2 × 10-11) for PHOSPHO1, 0·94 (0·92-0·96; p=1·4 × 10-9) for SOCS3, 1·07 (1·04-1·09; p=2·1 × 10-10) for SREBF1, and 0·92 (0·90-0·94; p=1·2 × 10-17) for TXNIP. A methylation score combining results for the five loci was associated with future type 2 diabetes incidence (relative risk quartile 4 vs quartile 1 3·51, 95% CI 2·79-4·42; p=1·3 × 10-26), and was independent of established risk factors. Methylation score was higher among Indian Asians than Europeans (p=1 × 10-34). Interpretation: DNA methylation might provide new insights into the pathways underlying type 2 diabetes and offer new opportunities for risk stratification and prevention of type 2 diabetes among Indian Asians. Funding: The European Union, the UK National Institute for Health Research, the Wellcome Trust, the UK Medical Research Council, Action on Hearing Loss, the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Oak Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council, Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen, the German Research Center for Environmental Health, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the German Center for Diabetes Research, the Munich Center for Health Sciences, the Ministry of Science and Research of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, and the German Federal Ministry of Health.

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.

Usher CL, Handsaker RE, Esko T, Tuke MA, Weedon MN, Hastie AR, Cao H, Moon JE, Kashin S, Fuchsberger C et al. 2015. Structural forms of the human amylase locus and their relationships to SNPs, haplotypes and obesity. Nat Genet, 47 (8), pp. 921-925. | Show Abstract | Read more

Hundreds of genes reside in structurally complex, poorly understood regions of the human genome. One such region contains the three amylase genes (AMY2B, AMY2A and AMY1) responsible for digesting starch into sugar. Copy number of AMY1 is reported to be the largest genomic influence on obesity, although genome-wide association studies for obesity have found this locus unremarkable. Using whole-genome sequence analysis, droplet digital PCR and genome mapping, we identified eight common structural haplotypes of the amylase locus that suggest its mutational history. We found that the AMY1 copy number in an individual's genome is generally even (rather than odd) and partially correlates with nearby SNPs, which do not associate with body mass index (BMI). We measured amylase gene copy number in 1,000 obese or lean Estonians and in 2 other cohorts totaling ∼3,500 individuals. We had 99% power to detect the lower bound of the reported effects on BMI, yet found no association.

Chambers JC, Loh M, Lehne B, Drong A, Kriebel J, Motta V, Wahl S, Elliott HR, Rota F, Scott WR et al. 2015. Epigenome-wide association of DNA methylation markers in peripheral blood from Indian Asians and Europeans with incident type 2 diabetes: a nested case-control study. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol, 3 (7), pp. 526-534. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Indian Asians, who make up a quarter of the world's population, are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. We investigated whether DNA methylation is associated with future type 2 diabetes incidence in Indian Asians and whether differences in methylation patterns between Indian Asians and Europeans are associated with, and could be used to predict, differences in the magnitude of risk of developing type 2 diabetes. METHODS: We did a nested case-control study of DNA methylation in Indian Asians and Europeans with incident type 2 diabetes who were identified from the 8-year follow-up of 25 372 participants in the London Life Sciences Prospective Population (LOLIPOP) study. Patients were recruited between May 1, 2002, and Sept 12, 2008. We did epigenome-wide association analysis using samples from Indian Asians with incident type 2 diabetes and age-matched and sex-matched Indian Asian controls, followed by replication testing of top-ranking signals in Europeans. For both discovery and replication, DNA methylation was measured in the baseline blood sample, which was collected before the onset of type 2 diabetes. Epigenome-wide significance was set at p<1 × 10(-7). We compared methylation levels between Indian Asian and European controls without type 2 diabetes at baseline to estimate the potential contribution of DNA methylation to increased risk of future type 2 diabetes incidence among Indian Asians. FINDINGS: 1608 (11·9%) of 13 535 Indian Asians and 306 (4·3%) of 7066 Europeans developed type 2 diabetes over a mean of 8·5 years (SD 1·8) of follow-up. The age-adjusted and sex-adjusted incidence of type 2 diabetes was 3·1 times (95% CI 2·8-3·6; p<0·0001) higher among Indian Asians than among Europeans, and remained 2·5 times (2·1-2·9; p<0·0001) higher after adjustment for adiposity, physical activity, family history of type 2 diabetes, and baseline glycaemic measures. The mean absolute difference in methylation level between type 2 diabetes cases and controls ranged from 0·5% (SD 0·1) to 1·1% (0·2). Methylation markers at five loci were associated with future type 2 diabetes incidence; the relative risk per 1% increase in methylation was 1·09 (95% CI 1·07-1·11; p=1·3 × 10(-17)) for ABCG1, 0·94 (0·92-0·95; p=4·2 × 10(-11)) for PHOSPHO1, 0·94 (0·92-0·96; p=1·4 × 10(-9)) for SOCS3, 1·07 (1·04-1·09; p=2·1 × 10(-10)) for SREBF1, and 0·92 (0·90-0·94; p=1·2 × 10(-17)) for TXNIP. A methylation score combining results for the five loci was associated with future type 2 diabetes incidence (relative risk quartile 4 vs quartile 1 3·51, 95% CI 2·79-4·42; p=1·3 × 10(-26)), and was independent of established risk factors. Methylation score was higher among Indian Asians than Europeans (p=1 × 10(-34)). INTERPRETATION: DNA methylation might provide new insights into the pathways underlying type 2 diabetes and offer new opportunities for risk stratification and prevention of type 2 diabetes among Indian Asians. FUNDING: The European Union, the UK National Institute for Health Research, the Wellcome Trust, the UK Medical Research Council, Action on Hearing Loss, the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Oak Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council, Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen, the German Research Center for Environmental Health, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the German Center for Diabetes Research, the Munich Center for Health Sciences, the Ministry of Science and Research of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, and the German Federal Ministry of Health.

Draisma HHM, Pool R, Kobl M, Jansen R, Petersen A-K, Vaarhorst AAM, Yet I, Haller T, Demirkan A, Esko T et al. 2015. Genome-wide association study identifies novel genetic variants contributing to variation in blood metabolite levels. Nat Commun, 6 (1), pp. 7208. | Show Abstract | Read more

Metabolites are small molecules involved in cellular metabolism, which can be detected in biological samples using metabolomic techniques. Here we present the results of genome-wide association and meta-analyses for variation in the blood serum levels of 129 metabolites as measured by the Biocrates metabolomic platform. In a discovery sample of 7,478 individuals of European descent, we find 4,068 genome- and metabolome-wide significant (Z-test, P < 1.09 × 10(-9)) associations between single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and metabolites, involving 59 independent SNPs and 85 metabolites. Five of the fifty-nine independent SNPs are new for serum metabolite levels, and were followed-up for replication in an independent sample (N = 1,182). The novel SNPs are located in or near genes encoding metabolite transporter proteins or enzymes (SLC22A16, ARG1, AGPS and ACSL1) that have demonstrated biomedical or pharmaceutical importance. The further characterization of genetic influences on metabolic phenotypes is important for progress in biological and medical research.




2015. miR-375 gene dosage in pancreatic β-cells: implications for regulation of β-cell mass and biomarker development Journal of Molecular Medicine, 93 (10), pp. 1159-1169. | Show Abstract | Read more

© 2015, The Author(s). Abstract: MicroRNAs play a crucial role in the regulation of cell growth and differentiation. Mice with genetic deletion of miR-375 exhibit impaired glycemic control due to decreased β-cell and increased α-cell mass and function. The relative importance of these processes for the overall phenotype of miR-375KO mice is unknown. Here, we show that mice overexpressing miR-375 exhibit normal β-cell mass and function. Selective re-expression of miR-375 in β-cells of miR-375KO mice normalizes both, α- and β-cell phenotypes as well as glucose metabolism. Using this model, we also analyzed the contribution of β-cells to the total plasma miR-375 levels. Only a small proportion (≈1 %) of circulating miR-375 originates from β-cells. Furthermore, acute and profound β-cell destruction is sufficient to detect elevations of miR-375 levels in the blood. These findings are supported by higher miR-375 levels in the circulation of type 1 diabetes (T1D) subjects but not mature onset diabetes of the young (MODY) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) patients. Together, our data support an essential role for miR-375 in the maintenance of β-cell mass and provide in vivo evidence for release of miRNAs from pancreatic β-cells. The small contribution of β-cells to total plasma miR-375 levels make this miRNA an unlikely biomarker for β-cell function but suggests a utility for the detection of acute β-cell death for autoimmune diabetes. Key messages: Overexpression of miR-375 in β-cells does not influence β-cell mass and function.Increased α-cell mass in miR-375KO arises secondarily to loss of miR-375 in β-cells.Only a small proportion of circulating miR-375 levels originates from β-cells.Acute β-cell destruction results in measurable increases of miR-375 in the blood.Circulating miR-375 levels are not a biomarker for pancreatic β-cell function.

Latreille M, Herrmanns K, Renwick N, Tuschl T, Malecki MT, McCarthy MI, Owen KR, Rülicke T, Stoffel M. 2015. miR-375 gene dosage in pancreatic β-cells: implications for regulation of β-cell mass and biomarker development. J Mol Med (Berl), 93 (10), pp. 1159-1169. | Show Abstract | Read more

UNLABELLED: MicroRNAs play a crucial role in the regulation of cell growth and differentiation. Mice with genetic deletion of miR-375 exhibit impaired glycemic control due to decreased β-cell and increased α-cell mass and function. The relative importance of these processes for the overall phenotype of miR-375KO mice is unknown. Here, we show that mice overexpressing miR-375 exhibit normal β-cell mass and function. Selective re-expression of miR-375 in β-cells of miR-375KO mice normalizes both, α- and β-cell phenotypes as well as glucose metabolism. Using this model, we also analyzed the contribution of β-cells to the total plasma miR-375 levels. Only a small proportion (≈1 %) of circulating miR-375 originates from β-cells. Furthermore, acute and profound β-cell destruction is sufficient to detect elevations of miR-375 levels in the blood. These findings are supported by higher miR-375 levels in the circulation of type 1 diabetes (T1D) subjects but not mature onset diabetes of the young (MODY) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) patients. Together, our data support an essential role for miR-375 in the maintenance of β-cell mass and provide in vivo evidence for release of miRNAs from pancreatic β-cells. The small contribution of β-cells to total plasma miR-375 levels make this miRNA an unlikely biomarker for β-cell function but suggests a utility for the detection of acute β-cell death for autoimmune diabetes. KEY MESSAGES: • Overexpression of miR-375 in β-cells does not influence β-cell mass and function. • Increased α-cell mass in miR-375KO arises secondarily to loss of miR-375 in β-cells. • Only a small proportion of circulating miR-375 levels originates from β-cells. • Acute β-cell destruction results in measurable increases of miR-375 in the blood. Circulating miR-375 levels are not a biomarker for pancreatic β-cell function.

Hägg S, Fall T, Ploner A, Mägi R, Fischer K, Draisma HHM, Kals M, de Vries PS, Dehghan A, Willems SM et al. 2015. Adiposity as a cause of cardiovascular disease: a Mendelian randomization study. Int J Epidemiol, 44 (2), pp. 578-586. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Adiposity, as indicated by body mass index (BMI), has been associated with risk of cardiovascular diseases in epidemiological studies. We aimed to investigate if these associations are causal, using Mendelian randomization (MR) methods. METHODS: The associations of BMI with cardiovascular outcomes [coronary heart disease (CHD), heart failure and ischaemic stroke], and associations of a genetic score (32 BMI single nucleotide polymorphisms) with BMI and cardiovascular outcomes were examined in up to 22,193 individuals with 3062 incident cardiovascular events from nine prospective follow-up studies within the ENGAGE consortium. We used random-effects meta-analysis in an MR framework to provide causal estimates of the effect of adiposity on cardiovascular outcomes. RESULTS: There was a strong association between BMI and incident CHD (HR = 1.20 per SD-increase of BMI, 95% CI, 1.12-1.28, P = 1.9.10(-7)), heart failure (HR = 1.47, 95% CI, 1.35-1.60, P = 9.10(-19)) and ischaemic stroke (HR = 1.15, 95% CI, 1.06-1.24, P = 0.0008) in observational analyses. The genetic score was robustly associated with BMI (β = 0.030 SD-increase of BMI per additional allele, 95% CI, 0.028-0.033, P = 3.10(-107)). Analyses indicated a causal effect of adiposity on development of heart failure (HR = 1.93 per SD-increase of BMI, 95% CI, 1.12-3.30, P = 0.017) and ischaemic stroke (HR = 1.83, 95% CI, 1.05-3.20, P = 0.034). Additional cross-sectional analyses using both ENGAGE and CARDIoGRAMplusC4D data showed a causal effect of adiposity on CHD. CONCLUSIONS: Using MR methods, we provide support for the hypothesis that adiposity causes CHD, heart failure and, previously not demonstrated, ischaemic stroke.

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.

GTEx Consortium. 2015. Human genomics. The Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) pilot analysis: multitissue gene regulation in humans. Science, 348 (6235), pp. 648-660. | Show Abstract | Read more

Understanding the functional consequences of genetic variation, and how it affects complex human disease and quantitative traits, remains a critical challenge for biomedicine. We present an analysis of RNA sequencing data from 1641 samples across 43 tissues from 175 individuals, generated as part of the pilot phase of the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project. We describe the landscape of gene expression across tissues, catalog thousands of tissue-specific and shared regulatory expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) variants, describe complex network relationships, and identify signals from genome-wide association studies explained by eQTLs. These findings provide a systematic understanding of the cellular and biological consequences of human genetic variation and of the heterogeneity of such effects among a diverse set of human tissues.

Rivas MA, Pirinen M, Conrad DF, Lek M, Tsang EK, Karczewski KJ, Maller JB, Kukurba KR, DeLuca DS, Fromer M et al. 2015. Human genomics. Effect of predicted protein-truncating genetic variants on the human transcriptome. Science, 348 (6235), pp. 666-669. | Show Abstract | Read more

Accurate prediction of the functional effect of genetic variation is critical for clinical genome interpretation. We systematically characterized the transcriptome effects of protein-truncating variants, a class of variants expected to have profound effects on gene function, using data from the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) and Geuvadis projects. We quantitated tissue-specific and positional effects on nonsense-mediated transcript decay and present an improved predictive model for this decay. We directly measured the effect of variants both proximal and distal to splice junctions. Furthermore, we found that robustness to heterozygous gene inactivation is not due to dosage compensation. Our results illustrate the value of transcriptome data in the functional interpretation of genetic variants.

Manning Fox JE, Lyon J, Dai XQ, Wright RC, Hayward J, van de Bunt M, Kin T, Shapiro AMJ, McCarthy MI, Gloyn AL et al. 2015. Human islet function following 20 years of cryogenic biobanking. Diabetologia, 58 (7), pp. 1503-1512. | Show Abstract | Read more

AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: There are potential advantages to the low-temperature (-196 °C) banking of isolated islets, including the maintenance of viable islets for future research. We therefore assessed the in vitro and in vivo function of islets cryopreserved for nearly 20 years. METHODS: Human islets were cryopreserved from 1991 to 2001 and thawed between 2012 and 2014. These were characterised by immunostaining, patch-clamp electrophysiology, insulin secretion, transcriptome analysis and transplantation into a streptozotocin (STZ)-induced mouse model of diabetes. RESULTS: The cryopreservation time was 17.6 ± 0.4 years (n = 43). The thawed islets stained positive with dithizone, contained insulin-positive and glucagon-positive cells, and displayed levels of apoptosis and transcriptome profiles similar to those of freshly isolated islets, although their insulin content was lower. The cryopreserved beta cells possessed ion channels and exocytotic responses identical to those of freshly isolated beta cells. Cells from a subset of five donors demonstrated similar perifusion insulin secretion profiles pre- and post-cryopreservation. The transplantation of cryopreserved islets into the diabetic mice improved their glucose tolerance but did not completely normalise their blood glucose levels. Circulating human insulin and insulin-positive grafts were detectable at 10 weeks post-transplantation. CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: We have demonstrated the potential for long-term banking of human islets for research, which could enable the use of tissue from a large number of donors with future technologies to gain new insight into diabetes.

Allum F, Shao X, Guénard F, Simon M-M, Busche S, Caron M, Lambourne J, Lessard J, Tandre K, Hedman ÅK et al. 2015. Characterization of functional methylomes by next-generation capture sequencing identifies novel disease-associated variants. Nat Commun, 6 (1), pp. 7211. | Show Abstract | Read more

Most genome-wide methylation studies (EWAS) of multifactorial disease traits use targeted arrays or enrichment methodologies preferentially covering CpG-dense regions, to characterize sufficiently large samples. To overcome this limitation, we present here a new customizable, cost-effective approach, methylC-capture sequencing (MCC-Seq), for sequencing functional methylomes, while simultaneously providing genetic variation information. To illustrate MCC-Seq, we use whole-genome bisulfite sequencing on adipose tissue (AT) samples and public databases to design AT-specific panels. We establish its efficiency for high-density interrogation of methylome variability by systematic comparisons with other approaches and demonstrate its applicability by identifying novel methylation variation within enhancers strongly correlated to plasma triglyceride and HDL-cholesterol, including at CD36. Our more comprehensive AT panel assesses tissue methylation and genotypes in parallel at ∼4 and ∼3 M sites, respectively. Our study demonstrates that MCC-Seq provides comparable accuracy to alternative approaches but enables more efficient cataloguing of functional and disease-relevant epigenetic and genetic variants for large-scale EWAS.

McCarthy MI. 2015. Genomic medicine at the heart of diabetes management. Diabetologia, 58 (8), pp. 1725-1729. | Show Abstract | Read more

Individual predisposition to type 2 diabetes is influenced by the combined effect of a constellation of genetic variants and a multitude of environmental exposures. Identification of the specific genetic variants involved, and the mechanisms through which they operate, provides a powerful approach for delivering biological insights that can drive translational benefit, one that is already widely exploited in the personalised management of monogenic and syndromic forms of diabetes. This commentary develops the argument that equivalent translational advances for more common forms of diabetes are unlikely to result solely from the ability to define more complete individual inventories of genetic risk and environmental exposure. They will also require identification of complex molecular signatures able to provide integrative, empirical, longitudinal readouts of disease progression. These signatures will track causal mechanisms and capture an individual's position within a complex spectrum of pathophysiological processes, thereby supporting personalised approaches to intervention and treatment. This is one of a series of commentaries under the banner '50 years forward', giving personal opinions on future perspectives in diabetes, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Diabetologia (1965-2015).

Moutsianas L, Agarwala V, Fuchsberger C, Flannick J, Rivas MA, Gaulton KJ, Albers PK, GoT2D Consortium, McVean G, Boehnke M et al. 2015. The power of gene-based rare variant methods to detect disease-associated variation and test hypotheses about complex disease. PLoS Genet, 11 (4), pp. e1005165. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genome and exome sequencing in large cohorts enables characterization of the role of rare variation in complex diseases. Success in this endeavor, however, requires investigators to test a diverse array of genetic hypotheses which differ in the number, frequency and effect sizes of underlying causal variants. In this study, we evaluated the power of gene-based association methods to interrogate such hypotheses, and examined the implications for study design. We developed a flexible simulation approach, using 1000 Genomes data, to (a) generate sequence variation at human genes in up to 10K case-control samples, and (b) quantify the statistical power of a panel of widely used gene-based association tests under a variety of allelic architectures, locus effect sizes, and significance thresholds. For loci explaining ~1% of phenotypic variance underlying a common dichotomous trait, we find that all methods have low absolute power to achieve exome-wide significance (~5-20% power at α = 2.5 × 10(-6)) in 3K individuals; even in 10K samples, power is modest (~60%). The combined application of multiple methods increases sensitivity, but does so at the expense of a higher false positive rate. MiST, SKAT-O, and KBAC have the highest individual mean power across simulated datasets, but we observe wide architecture-dependent variability in the individual loci detected by each test, suggesting that inferences about disease architecture from analysis of sequencing studies can differ depending on which methods are used. Our results imply that tens of thousands of individuals, extensive functional annotation, or highly targeted hypothesis testing will be required to confidently detect or exclude rare variant signals at complex disease loci.

Ahlqvist E, van Zuydam NR, Groop LC, McCarthy MI. 2015. The genetics of diabetic complications. Nat Rev Nephrol, 11 (5), pp. 277-287. | Show Abstract | Read more

The rising global prevalence of diabetes mellitus is accompanied by an increasing burden of morbidity and mortality that is attributable to the complications of chronic hyperglycaemia. These complications include blindness, renal failure and cardiovascular disease. Current therapeutic options for chronic hyperglycaemia reduce, but do not eradicate, the risk of these complications. Success in defining new preventative and therapeutic strategies hinges on an improved understanding of the molecular processes involved in the development of these complications. This Review explores the role of human genetics in delivering such insights, and describes progress in characterizing the sequence variants that influence individual predisposition to diabetic kidney disease, retinopathy, neuropathy and accelerated cardiovascular disease. Numerous risk variants for microvascular complications of diabetes have been reported, but very few have shown robust replication. Furthermore, only limited evidence exists of a difference in the repertoire of risk variants influencing macrovascular disease between those with and those without diabetes. Here, we outline the challenges associated with the genetic analysis of diabetic complications and highlight ongoing efforts to deliver biological insights that can drive translational benefits.

Pirinen M, Lappalainen T, Zaitlen NA, GTEx Consortium, Dermitzakis ET, Donnelly P, McCarthy MI, Rivas MA. 2015. Assessing allele-specific expression across multiple tissues from RNA-seq read data. Bioinformatics, 31 (15), pp. 2497-2504. | Show Abstract | Read more

MOTIVATION: RNA sequencing enables allele-specific expression (ASE) studies that complement standard genotype expression studies for common variants and, importantly, also allow measuring the regulatory impact of rare variants. The Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project is collecting RNA-seq data on multiple tissues of a same set of individuals and novel methods are required for the analysis of these data. RESULTS: We present a statistical method to compare different patterns of ASE across tissues and to classify genetic variants according to their impact on the tissue-wide expression profile. We focus on strong ASE effects that we are expecting to see for protein-truncating variants, but our method can also be adjusted for other types of ASE effects. We illustrate the method with a real data example on a tissue-wide expression profile of a variant causal for lipoid proteinosis, and with a simulation study to assess our method more generally.

Nead KT, Li A, Wehner MR, Neupane B, Gustafsson S, Butterworth A, Engert JC, Davis AD, Hegele RA, Miller R et al. 2015. Contribution of common non-synonymous variants in PCSK1 to body mass index variation and risk of obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis with evidence from up to 331 175 individuals. Hum Mol Genet, 24 (12), pp. 3582-3594. | Show Abstract | Read more

Polymorphisms rs6232 and rs6234/rs6235 in PCSK1 have been associated with extreme obesity [e.g. body mass index (BMI) ≥ 40 kg/m(2)], but their contribution to common obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m(2)) and BMI variation in a multi-ethnic context is unclear. To fill this gap, we collected phenotypic and genetic data in up to 331 175 individuals from diverse ethnic groups. This process involved a systematic review of the literature in PubMed, Web of Science, Embase and the NIH GWAS catalog complemented by data extraction from pre-existing GWAS or custom-arrays in consortia and single studies. We employed recently developed global meta-analytic random-effects methods to calculate summary odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) or beta estimates and standard errors (SE) for the obesity status and BMI analyses, respectively. Significant associations were found with binary obesity status for rs6232 (OR = 1.15, 95% CI 1.06-1.24, P = 6.08 × 10(-6)) and rs6234/rs6235 (OR = 1.07, 95% CI 1.04-1.10, P = 3.00 × 10(-7)). Similarly, significant associations were found with continuous BMI for rs6232 (β = 0.03, 95% CI 0.00-0.07; P = 0.047) and rs6234/rs6235 (β = 0.02, 95% CI 0.00-0.03; P = 5.57 × 10(-4)). Ethnicity, age and study ascertainment significantly modulated the association of PCSK1 polymorphisms with obesity. In summary, we demonstrate evidence that common gene variation in PCSK1 contributes to BMI variation and susceptibility to common obesity in the largest known meta-analysis published to date in genetic epidemiology.

Kavvoura FK, Moutsianas L, Bennett AJ, Mahajan A, Robertson N, Rayner NW, Groves CJ, Owen KR, McCarthy MI. 2015. Using genomic information to differentiate aetiology in young adult onset diabetes DIABETIC MEDICINE, 32 pp. 18-18.

Fall T, Hägg S, Ploner A, Mägi R, Fischer K, Draisma HHM, Sarin A-P, Benyamin B, Ladenvall C, Åkerlund M et al. 2015. Age- and sex-specific causal effects of adiposity on cardiovascular risk factors. Diabetes, 64 (5), pp. 1841-1852. | Show Abstract | Read more

Observational studies have reported different effects of adiposity on cardiovascular risk factors across age and sex. Since cardiovascular risk factors are enriched in obese individuals, it has not been easy to dissect the effects of adiposity from those of other risk factors. We used a Mendelian randomization approach, applying a set of 32 genetic markers to estimate the causal effect of adiposity on blood pressure, glycemic indices, circulating lipid levels, and markers of inflammation and liver disease in up to 67,553 individuals. All analyses were stratified by age (cutoff 55 years of age) and sex. The genetic score was associated with BMI in both nonstratified analysis (P = 2.8 × 10(-107)) and stratified analyses (all P < 3.3 × 10(-30)). We found evidence of a causal effect of adiposity on blood pressure, fasting levels of insulin, C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides in a nonstratified analysis and in the <55-year stratum. Further, we found evidence of a smaller causal effect on total cholesterol (P for difference = 0.015) in the ≥55-year stratum than in the <55-year stratum, a finding that could be explained by biology, survival bias, or differential medication. In conclusion, this study extends previous knowledge of the effects of adiposity by providing sex- and age-specific causal estimates on cardiovascular risk factors.

Lehne B, Drong AW, Loh M, Zhang W, Scott WR, Tan S-T, Afzal U, Scott J, Jarvelin M-R, Elliott P et al. 2015. A coherent approach for analysis of the Illumina HumanMethylation450 BeadChip improves data quality and performance in epigenome-wide association studies. Genome Biol, 16 (1), pp. 37. | Show Abstract | Read more

DNA methylation plays a fundamental role in the regulation of the genome, but the optimal strategy for analysis of genome-wide DNA methylation data remains to be determined. We developed a comprehensive analysis pipeline for epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS) using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip, based on 2,687 individuals, with 36 samples measured in duplicate. We propose new approaches to quality control, data normalisation and batch correction through control-probe adjustment and establish a null hypothesis for EWAS using permutation testing. Our analysis pipeline outperforms existing approaches, enabling accurate identification of methylation quantitative trait loci for hypothesis driven follow-up experiments.

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.

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.

Loh NY, Neville MJ, Marinou K, Hardcastle SA, Fielding BA, Duncan EL, McCarthy MI, Tobias JH, Gregson CL, Karpe F, Christodoulides C. 2015. LRP5 regulates human body fat distribution by modulating adipose progenitor biology in a dose- and depot-specific fashion. Cell Metab, 21 (2), pp. 262-273. | Show Abstract | Read more

Common variants in WNT pathway genes have been associated with bone mass and fat distribution, the latter predicting diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk. Rare mutations in the WNT co-receptors LRP5 and LRP6 are similarly associated with bone and cardiometabolic disorders. We investigated the role of LRP5 in human adipose tissue. Subjects with gain-of-function LRP5 mutations and high bone mass had enhanced lower-body fat accumulation. Reciprocally, a low bone mineral density-associated common LRP5 allele correlated with increased abdominal adiposity. Ex vivo LRP5 expression was higher in abdominal versus gluteal adipocyte progenitors. Equivalent knockdown of LRP5 in both progenitor types dose-dependently impaired β-catenin signaling and led to distinct biological outcomes: diminished gluteal and enhanced abdominal adipogenesis. These data highlight how depot differences in WNT/β-catenin pathway activity modulate human fat distribution via effects on adipocyte progenitor biology. They also identify LRP5 as a potential pharmacologic target for the treatment of cardiometabolic disorders.

Wessel J, Chu AY, Willems SM, Wang S, Yaghootkar H, Brody JA, Dauriz M, Hivert M-F, Raghavan S, Lipovich L et al. 2015. Low-frequency and rare exome chip variants associate with fasting glucose and type 2 diabetes susceptibility. Nat Commun, 6 (1), pp. 5897. | Show Abstract | Read more

Fasting glucose and insulin are intermediate traits for type 2 diabetes. Here we explore the role of coding variation on these traits by analysis of variants on the HumanExome BeadChip in 60,564 non-diabetic individuals and in 16,491 T2D cases and 81,877 controls. We identify a novel association of a low-frequency nonsynonymous SNV in GLP1R (A316T; rs10305492; MAF=1.4%) with lower FG (β=-0.09±0.01 mmol l(-1), P=3.4 × 10(-12)), T2D risk (OR[95%CI]=0.86[0.76-0.96], P=0.010), early insulin secretion (β=-0.07±0.035 pmolinsulin mmolglucose(-1), P=0.048), but higher 2-h glucose (β=0.16±0.05 mmol l(-1), P=4.3 × 10(-4)). We identify a gene-based association with FG at G6PC2 (pSKAT=6.8 × 10(-6)) driven by four rare protein-coding SNVs (H177Y, Y207S, R283X and S324P). We identify rs651007 (MAF=20%) in the first intron of ABO at the putative promoter of an antisense lncRNA, associating with higher FG (β=0.02±0.004 mmol l(-1), P=1.3 × 10(-8)). Our approach identifies novel coding variant associations and extends the allelic spectrum of variation underlying diabetes-related quantitative traits and T2D susceptibility.

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.

Yaghootkar H, Stancáková A, Freathy RM, Vangipurapu J, Weedon MN, Xie W, Wood AR, Ferrannini E, Mari A, Ring SM et al. 2015. Association analysis of 29,956 individuals confirms that a low-frequency variant at CCND2 halves the risk of type 2 diabetes by enhancing insulin secretion. Diabetes, 64 (6), pp. 2279-2285. | Show Abstract | Read more

A recent study identified a low-frequency variant at CCND2 associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, enhanced insulin response to a glucose challenge, higher height, and, paradoxically, higher BMI. We aimed to replicate the strength and effect size of these associations in independent samples and to assess the underlying mechanism. We genotyped the variant in 29,956 individuals and tested its association with type 2 diabetes and related traits. The low-frequency allele was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (OR 0.53; P = 2 × 10(-13); 6,647 case vs. 12,645 control subjects), higher disposition index (β = 0.07 log10; P = 2 × 10(-11); n = 13,028), and higher Matsuda index of insulin sensitivity (β = 0.02 log10; P = 5 × 10(-3); n = 13,118) but not fasting proinsulin (β = 0.01 log10; P = 0.5; n = 6,985). The low frequency allele was associated with higher adult height (β = 1.38 cm; P = 6 × 10(-9); n = 13,927), but the association of the variant with BMI (β = 0.36 kg/m(2); P = 0.02; n = 24,807), estimated in four population-based samples, was less than in the original publication where the effect estimate was biased by analyzing case subjects with type 2 diabetes and control subjects without diabetes separately. Our study establishes that a low-frequency allele in CCND2 halves the risk of type 2 diabetes primarily through enhanced insulin secretion.

Multhaup ML, Seldin MM, Jaffe AE, Lei X, Kirchner H, Mondal P, Li Y, Rodriguez V, Drong A, Hussain M et al. 2015. Mouse-human experimental epigenetic analysis unmasks dietary targets and genetic liability for diabetic phenotypes. Cell Metab, 21 (1), pp. 138-149. | Show Abstract | Read more

Using a functional approach to investigate the epigenetics of type 2 diabetes (T2D), we combine three lines of evidence-diet-induced epigenetic dysregulation in mouse, epigenetic conservation in humans, and T2D clinical risk evidence-to identify genes implicated in T2D pathogenesis through epigenetic mechanisms related to obesity. Beginning with dietary manipulation of genetically homogeneous mice, we identify differentially DNA-methylated genomic regions. We then replicate these results in adipose samples from lean and obese patients pre- and post-Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, identifying regions where both the location and direction of methylation change are conserved. These regions overlap with 27 genetic T2D risk loci, only one of which was deemed significant by GWAS alone. Functional analysis of genes associated with these regions revealed four genes with roles in insulin resistance, demonstrating the potential general utility of this approach for complementing conventional human genetic studies by integrating cross-species epigenomics and clinical genetic risk.




Lagou V, Marullo L, Ferreira T, Miraglio B, Timonen S, Kettunen J, Pirinen M, Karjalainen J, Thorleifsson G, Hägg 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.

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.




Scott RA, Fall T, Pasko D, Barker A, Sharp SJ, Arriola L, Balkau B, Barricarte A, Barroso I, Boeing H et al. 2014. Common genetic variants highlight the role of insulin resistance and body fat distribution in type 2 diabetes, independent of obesity Diabetes, 63 (12), pp. 4378-4387. | Show Abstract | Read more

© 2014 by the American Diabetes Association. We aimed to validate genetic variants as instruments for insulin resistance and secretion, to characterize their association with intermediate phenotypes, and to investigate their role in type 2 diabetes (T2D) risk among normal-weight, overweight, and obese individuals. We investigated the association of genetic scores with euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp- and oral glucose tolerance test-based measures of insulin resistance and secretion and a range of metabolic measures in up to 18,565 individuals. We also studied their association with T2D risk among normal-weight, overweight, and obese individuals in up to 8,124 incident T2D cases. The insulin resistance score was associated with lower insulin sensitivity measured by M/I value (β in SDs per allele [95% CI], 20.03 [20.04, 20.01]; P = 0.004). This score was associated with lower BMI (20.01 [20.01, 20.0]; P = 0.02) and gluteofemoral fat mass (20.03 [20.05, 20.02; P = 1.4 3 1026 ) and with higher alanine transaminase (0.02 [0.01, 0.03]; P = 0.002) and γ-glutamyl transferase (0.02 [0.01, 0.03]; P = 0.001). While the secretion score had a stronger association with T2D in leaner individuals (Pinteraction = 0.001), we saw no difference in the association of the insulin resistance score with T2D among BMI or waist strata (Pinteraction > 0.31). While insulin resistance is often considered secondary to obesity, the association of the insulin resistance score with lower BMI and adiposity and with incident T2D even among individuals of normal weight highlights the role of insulin resistance and ectopic fat distribution in T2D, independently of body size.

Jaiswal S, Fontanillas P, Flannick J, Manning A, Grauman PV, Mar BG, Lindsley RC, Mermel CH, Burtt N, Chavez A et al. 2014. Age-related clonal hematopoiesis associated with adverse outcomes. N Engl J Med, 371 (26), pp. 2488-2498. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The incidence of hematologic cancers increases with age. These cancers are associated with recurrent somatic mutations in specific genes. We hypothesized that such mutations would be detectable in the blood of some persons who are not known to have hematologic disorders. METHODS: We analyzed whole-exome sequencing data from DNA in the peripheral-blood cells of 17,182 persons who were unselected for hematologic phenotypes. We looked for somatic mutations by identifying previously characterized single-nucleotide variants and small insertions or deletions in 160 genes that are recurrently mutated in hematologic cancers. The presence of mutations was analyzed for an association with hematologic phenotypes, survival, and cardiovascular events. RESULTS: Detectable somatic mutations were rare in persons younger than 40 years of age but rose appreciably in frequency with age. Among persons 70 to 79 years of age, 80 to 89 years of age, and 90 to 108 years of age, these clonal mutations were observed in 9.5% (219 of 2300 persons), 11.7% (37 of 317), and 18.4% (19 of 103), respectively. The majority of the variants occurred in three genes: DNMT3A, TET2, and ASXL1. The presence of a somatic mutation was associated with an increase in the risk of hematologic cancer (hazard ratio, 11.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.9 to 32.6), an increase in all-cause mortality (hazard ratio, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.1 to 1.8), and increases in the risks of incident coronary heart disease (hazard ratio, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.2 to 3.4) and ischemic stroke (hazard ratio, 2.6; 95% CI, 1.4 to 4.8). CONCLUSIONS: Age-related clonal hematopoiesis is a common condition that is associated with increases in the risk of hematologic cancer and in all-cause mortality, with the latter possibly due to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others.).

Wood AR, Tuke MA, Nalls M, Hernandez D, Gibbs JR, Lin H, Xu CS, Li Q, Shen J, Jun G et al. 2015. Whole-genome sequencing to understand the genetic architecture of common gene expression and biomarker phenotypes. Hum Mol Genet, 24 (5), pp. 1504-1512. | Show Abstract | Read more

Initial results from sequencing studies suggest that there are relatively few low-frequency (<5%) variants associated with large effects on common phenotypes. We performed low-pass whole-genome sequencing in 680 individuals from the InCHIANTI study to test two primary hypotheses: (i) that sequencing would detect single low-frequency-large effect variants that explained similar amounts of phenotypic variance as single common variants, and (ii) that some common variant associations could be explained by low-frequency variants. We tested two sets of disease-related common phenotypes for which we had statistical power to detect large numbers of common variant-common phenotype associations-11 132 cis-gene expression traits in 450 individuals and 93 circulating biomarkers in all 680 individuals. From a total of 11 657 229 high-quality variants of which 6 129 221 and 5 528 008 were common and low frequency (<5%), respectively, low frequency-large effect associations comprised 7% of detectable cis-gene expression traits [89 of 1314 cis-eQTLs at P < 1 × 10(-06) (false discovery rate ∼5%)] and one of eight biomarker associations at P < 8 × 10(-10). Very few (30 of 1232; 2%) common variant associations were fully explained by low-frequency variants. Our data show that whole-genome sequencing can identify low-frequency variants undetected by genotyping based approaches when sample sizes are sufficiently large to detect substantial numbers of common variant associations, and that common variant associations are rarely explained by single low-frequency variants of large effect.

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.

van der Valk RJP, Kreiner-Møller E, Kooijman MN, Guxens M, Stergiakouli E, Sääf A, Bradfield JP, Geller F, Hayes MG, Cousminer DL et al. 2015. A novel common variant in DCST2 is associated with length in early life and height in adulthood. Hum Mol Genet, 24 (4), pp. 1155-1168. | Show Abstract | Read more

Common genetic variants have been identified for adult height, but not much is known about the genetics of skeletal growth in early life. To identify common genetic variants that influence fetal skeletal growth, we meta-analyzed 22 genome-wide association studies (Stage 1; N = 28 459). We identified seven independent top single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (P < 1 × 10(-6)) for birth length, of which three were novel and four were in or near loci known to be associated with adult height (LCORL, PTCH1, GPR126 and HMGA2). The three novel SNPs were followed-up in nine replication studies (Stage 2; N = 11 995), with rs905938 in DC-STAMP domain containing 2 (DCST2) genome-wide significantly associated with birth length in a joint analysis (Stages 1 + 2; β = 0.046, SE = 0.008, P = 2.46 × 10(-8), explained variance = 0.05%). Rs905938 was also associated with infant length (N = 28 228; P = 5.54 × 10(-4)) and adult height (N = 127 513; P = 1.45 × 10(-5)). DCST2 is a DC-STAMP-like protein family member and DC-STAMP is an osteoclast cell-fusion regulator. Polygenic scores based on 180 SNPs previously associated with human adult stature explained 0.13% of variance in birth length. The same SNPs explained 2.95% of the variance of infant length. Of the 180 known adult height loci, 11 were genome-wide significantly associated with infant length (SF3B4, LCORL, SPAG17, C6orf173, PTCH1, GDF5, ZNFX1, HHIP, ACAN, HLA locus and HMGA2). This study highlights that common variation in DCST2 influences variation in early growth and adult height.

Postmus I, Trompet S, Deshmukh HA, Barnes MR, Li X, Warren HR, Chasman DI, Zhou K, Arsenault BJ, Donnelly LA et al. 2014. Pharmacogenetic meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies of LDL cholesterol response to statins. Nat Commun, 5 (1), pp. 5068. | Show Abstract | Read more

Statins effectively lower LDL cholesterol levels in large studies and the observed interindividual response variability may be partially explained by genetic variation. Here we perform a pharmacogenetic meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in studies addressing the LDL cholesterol response to statins, including up to 18,596 statin-treated subjects. We validate the most promising signals in a further 22,318 statin recipients and identify two loci, SORT1/CELSR2/PSRC1 and SLCO1B1, not previously identified in GWAS. Moreover, we confirm the previously described associations with APOE and LPA. Our findings advance the understanding of the pharmacogenetic architecture of statin response.

Majithia AR, Flannick J, Shahinian P, Guo M, Bray M-A, Fontanillas P, Gabriel SB, GoT2D Consortium, NHGRI JHS/FHS Allelic Spectrum Project, SIGMA T2D Consortium et al. 2014. Rare variants in PPARG with decreased activity in adipocyte differentiation are associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 111 (36), pp. 13127-13132. | Show Abstract | Read more

Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARG) is a master transcriptional regulator of adipocyte differentiation and a canonical target of antidiabetic thiazolidinedione medications. In rare families, loss-of-function (LOF) mutations in PPARG are known to cosegregate with lipodystrophy and insulin resistance; in the general population, the common P12A variant is associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D). Whether and how rare variants in PPARG and defects in adipocyte differentiation influence risk of T2D in the general population remains undetermined. By sequencing PPARG in 19,752 T2D cases and controls drawn from multiple studies and ethnic groups, we identified 49 previously unidentified, nonsynonymous PPARG variants (MAF < 0.5%). Considered in aggregate (with or without computational prediction of functional consequence), these rare variants showed no association with T2D (OR = 1.35; P = 0.17). The function of the 49 variants was experimentally tested in a novel high-throughput human adipocyte differentiation assay, and nine were found to have reduced activity in the assay. Carrying any of these nine LOF variants was associated with a substantial increase in risk of T2D (OR = 7.22; P = 0.005). The combination of large-scale DNA sequencing and functional testing in the laboratory reveals that approximately 1 in 1,000 individuals carries a variant in PPARG that reduces function in a human adipocyte differentiation assay and is associated with a substantial risk of T2D.

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.

Mahajan A, Fuchsberger C, Flannick J, Rivas M, Fontanillas P, Morris A, Teslovich T, McCarthy M, Consortia T-GG. 2014. Identification of protein-coding variants associated with risk of type 2 diabetes DIABETOLOGIA, 57 pp. S51-S51.

Pedersen HK, Gudmundsdottir V, Jonsson A, 't Hart LM, Banasik K, Boomsma D, Eekhof MMW, Hansen T, Pedersen OB, McCarthy M et al. 2014. Genetic variation related to tolbutamide and GLP-1 stimulated insulin secretion converges functionally in protein network space: a DIRECT study DIABETOLOGIA, 57 pp. S147-S147.

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.

Jonsson A, Banasik K, Gjesing AP, Mahajan A, Robertson N, t Hart LM, Pearson E, McCarthy M, Pedersen O, Hansen T. 2014. A common variant downstream of PCSK2 is associated with reduced tolbutamide stimulated insulin release: a DIRECT study DIABETOLOGIA, 57 pp. S148-S148.

Gudmundsdottir V, Pedersen HK, 't Hart LM, Banasik K, Boomsma D, de Geus E, Eekhof M, Diamant M, McCarthy M, Pearson E et al. 2014. A beta cell specific protein subnetwork significantly enriched for association with GLP-1 stimulated insulin secretion: a DIRECT study DIABETOLOGIA, 57 pp. S66-S66.

Cousminer DL, Stergiakouli E, Berry DJ, Ang W, Groen-Blokhuis MM, Körner A, Siitonen N, Ntalla I, Marinelli M, Perry JRB et al. 2014. Genome-wide association study of sexual maturation in males and females highlights a role for body mass and menarche loci in male puberty. Hum Mol Genet, 23 (16), pp. 4452-4464. | Show Abstract | Read more

Little is known about genes regulating male puberty. Further, while many identified pubertal timing variants associate with age at menarche, a late manifestation of puberty, and body mass, little is known about these variants' relationship to pubertal initiation or tempo. To address these questions, we performed genome-wide association meta-analysis in over 11 000 European samples with data on early pubertal traits, male genital and female breast development, measured by the Tanner scale. We report the first genome-wide significant locus for male sexual development upstream of myocardin-like 2 (MKL2) (P = 8.9 × 10(-9)), a menarche locus tagging a developmental pathway linking earlier puberty with reduced pubertal growth (P = 4.6 × 10(-5)) and short adult stature (p = 7.5 × 10(-6)) in both males and females. Furthermore, our results indicate that a proportion of menarche loci are important for pubertal initiation in both sexes. Consistent with epidemiological correlations between increased prepubertal body mass and earlier pubertal timing in girls, body mass index (BMI)-increasing alleles correlated with earlier breast development. In boys, some BMI-increasing alleles associated with earlier, and others with delayed, sexual development; these genetic results mimic the controversy in epidemiological studies, some of which show opposing correlations between prepubertal BMI and male puberty. Our results contribute to our understanding of the pubertal initiation program in both sexes and indicate that although mechanisms regulating pubertal onset in males and females may largely be shared, the relationship between body mass and pubertal timing in boys may be complex and requires further genetic studies.

Chambers JC, Abbott J, Zhang W, Turro E, Scott WR, Tan S-T, Afzal U, Afaq S, Loh M, Lehne B et al. 2014. The South Asian genome. PLoS One, 9 (8), pp. e102645. | Show Abstract | Read more

The genetic sequence variation of people from the Indian subcontinent who comprise one-quarter of the world's population, is not well described. We carried out whole genome sequencing of 168 South Asians, along with whole-exome sequencing of 147 South Asians to provide deeper characterisation of coding regions. We identify 12,962,155 autosomal sequence variants, including 2,946,861 new SNPs and 312,738 novel indels. This catalogue of SNPs and indels amongst South Asians provides the first comprehensive map of genetic variation in this major human population, and reveals evidence for selective pressures on genes involved in skin biology, metabolism, infection and immunity. Our results will accelerate the search for the genetic variants underlying susceptibility to disorders such as type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease which are highly prevalent amongst South Asians.

Ng MCY, Shriner D, Chen BH, Li J, Chen W-M, Guo X, Liu J, Bielinski SJ, Yanek LR, Nalls MA et al. 2014. Meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies in African Americans provides insights into the genetic architecture of type 2 diabetes. PLoS Genet, 10 (8), pp. e1004517. | Show Abstract | Read more

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is more prevalent in African Americans than in Europeans. However, little is known about the genetic risk in African Americans despite the recent identification of more than 70 T2D loci primarily by genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in individuals of European ancestry. In order to investigate the genetic architecture of T2D in African Americans, the MEta-analysis of type 2 DIabetes in African Americans (MEDIA) Consortium examined 17 GWAS on T2D comprising 8,284 cases and 15,543 controls in African Americans in stage 1 analysis. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) association analysis was conducted in each study under the additive model after adjustment for age, sex, study site, and principal components. Meta-analysis of approximately 2.6 million genotyped and imputed SNPs in all studies was conducted using an inverse variance-weighted fixed effect model. Replications were performed to follow up 21 loci in up to 6,061 cases and 5,483 controls in African Americans, and 8,130 cases and 38,987 controls of European ancestry. We identified three known loci (TCF7L2, HMGA2 and KCNQ1) and two novel loci (HLA-B and INS-IGF2) at genome-wide significance (4.15 × 10(-94)<P<5 × 10(-8), odds ratio (OR)  = 1.09 to 1.36). Fine-mapping revealed that 88 of 158 previously identified T2D or glucose homeostasis loci demonstrated nominal to highly significant association (2.2 × 10(-23) < locus-wide P<0.05). These novel and previously identified loci yielded a sibling relative risk of 1.19, explaining 17.5% of the phenotypic variance of T2D on the liability scale in African Americans. Overall, this study identified two novel susceptibility loci for T2D in African Americans. A substantial number of previously reported loci are transferable to African Americans after accounting for linkage disequilibrium, enabling fine mapping of causal variants in trans-ethnic meta-analysis studies.

Perry JR, Day F, Elks CE, Sulem P, Thompson DJ, Ferreira T, He C, Chasman DI, Esko T, Thorleifsson G