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  • A genome-wide association search for type 2 diabetes genes in African Americans.

    16 October 2018

    African Americans are disproportionately affected by type 2 diabetes (T2DM) yet few studies have examined T2DM using genome-wide association approaches in this ethnicity. The aim of this study was to identify genes associated with T2DM in the African American population. We performed a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) using the Affymetrix 6.0 array in 965 African-American cases with T2DM and end-stage renal disease (T2DM-ESRD) and 1029 population-based controls. The most significant SNPs (n = 550 independent loci) were genotyped in a replication cohort and 122 SNPs (n = 98 independent loci) were further tested through genotyping three additional validation cohorts followed by meta-analysis in all five cohorts totaling 3,132 cases and 3,317 controls. Twelve SNPs had evidence of association in the GWAS (P<0.0071), were directionally consistent in the Replication cohort and were associated with T2DM in subjects without nephropathy (P<0.05). Meta-analysis in all cases and controls revealed a single SNP reaching genome-wide significance (P<2.5×10(-8)). SNP rs7560163 (P = 7.0×10(-9), OR (95% CI) = 0.75 (0.67-0.84)) is located intergenically between RND3 and RBM43. Four additional loci (rs7542900, rs4659485, rs2722769 and rs7107217) were associated with T2DM (P<0.05) and reached more nominal levels of significance (P<2.5×10(-5)) in the overall analysis and may represent novel loci that contribute to T2DM. We have identified novel T2DM-susceptibility variants in the African-American population. Notably, T2DM risk was associated with the major allele and implies an interesting genetic architecture in this population. These results suggest that multiple loci underlie T2DM susceptibility in the African-American population and that these loci are distinct from those identified in other ethnic populations.

  • Novel loci for adiponectin levels and their influence on type 2 diabetes and metabolic traits: a multi-ethnic meta-analysis of 45,891 individuals.

    9 November 2018

    Circulating levels of adiponectin, a hormone produced predominantly by adipocytes, are highly heritable and are inversely associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2D) and other metabolic traits. We conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies in 39,883 individuals of European ancestry to identify genes associated with metabolic disease. We identified 8 novel loci associated with adiponectin levels and confirmed 2 previously reported loci (P = 4.5×10(-8)-1.2×10(-43)). Using a novel method to combine data across ethnicities (N = 4,232 African Americans, N = 1,776 Asians, and N = 29,347 Europeans), we identified two additional novel loci. Expression analyses of 436 human adipocyte samples revealed that mRNA levels of 18 genes at candidate regions were associated with adiponectin concentrations after accounting for multiple testing (p<3×10(-4)). We next developed a multi-SNP genotypic risk score to test the association of adiponectin decreasing risk alleles on metabolic traits and diseases using consortia-level meta-analytic data. This risk score was associated with increased risk of T2D (p = 4.3×10(-3), n = 22,044), increased triglycerides (p = 2.6×10(-14), n = 93,440), increased waist-to-hip ratio (p = 1.8×10(-5), n = 77,167), increased glucose two hours post oral glucose tolerance testing (p = 4.4×10(-3), n = 15,234), increased fasting insulin (p = 0.015, n = 48,238), but with lower in HDL-cholesterol concentrations (p = 4.5×10(-13), n = 96,748) and decreased BMI (p = 1.4×10(-4), n = 121,335). These findings identify novel genetic determinants of adiponectin levels, which, taken together, influence risk of T2D and markers of insulin resistance.

  • The metabochip, a custom genotyping array for genetic studies of metabolic, cardiovascular, and anthropometric traits.

    16 October 2018

    Genome-wide association studies have identified hundreds of loci for type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction, as well as for related traits such as body mass index, glucose and insulin levels, lipid levels, and blood pressure. These studies also have pointed to thousands of loci with promising but not yet compelling association evidence. To establish association at additional loci and to characterize the genome-wide significant loci by fine-mapping, we designed the "Metabochip," a custom genotyping array that assays nearly 200,000 SNP markers. Here, we describe the Metabochip and its component SNP sets, evaluate its performance in capturing variation across the allele-frequency spectrum, describe solutions to methodological challenges commonly encountered in its analysis, and evaluate its performance as a platform for genotype imputation. The metabochip achieves dramatic cost efficiencies compared to designing single-trait follow-up reagents, and provides the opportunity to compare results across a range of related traits. The metabochip and similar custom genotyping arrays offer a powerful and cost-effective approach to follow-up large-scale genotyping and sequencing studies and advance our understanding of the genetic basis of complex human diseases and traits.

  • Extent, causes, and consequences of small RNA expression variation in human adipose tissue.

    16 October 2018

    Small RNAs are functional molecules that modulate mRNA transcripts and have been implicated in the aetiology of several common diseases. However, little is known about the extent of their variability within the human population. Here, we characterise the extent, causes, and effects of naturally occurring variation in expression and sequence of small RNAs from adipose tissue in relation to genotype, gene expression, and metabolic traits in the MuTHER reference cohort. We profiled the expression of 15 to 30 base pair RNA molecules in subcutaneous adipose tissue from 131 individuals using high-throughput sequencing, and quantified levels of 591 microRNAs and small nucleolar RNAs. We identified three genetic variants and three RNA editing events. Highly expressed small RNAs are more conserved within mammals than average, as are those with highly variable expression. We identified 14 genetic loci significantly associated with nearby small RNA expression levels, seven of which also regulate an mRNA transcript level in the same region. In addition, these loci are enriched for variants significant in genome-wide association studies for body mass index. Contrary to expectation, we found no evidence for negative correlation between expression level of a microRNA and its target mRNAs. Trunk fat mass, body mass index, and fasting insulin were associated with more than twenty small RNA expression levels each, while fasting glucose had no significant associations. This study highlights the similar genetic complexity and shared genetic control of small RNA and mRNA transcripts, and gives a quantitative picture of small RNA expression variation in the human population.

  • Coexpression network analysis in abdominal and gluteal adipose tissue reveals regulatory genetic loci for metabolic syndrome and related phenotypes.

    16 October 2018

    Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) is highly prevalent and has considerable public health impact, but its underlying genetic factors remain elusive. To identify gene networks involved in MetS, we conducted whole-genome expression and genotype profiling on abdominal (ABD) and gluteal (GLU) adipose tissue, and whole blood (WB), from 29 MetS cases and 44 controls. Co-expression network analysis for each tissue independently identified nine, six, and zero MetS-associated modules of coexpressed genes in ABD, GLU, and WB, respectively. Of 8,992 probesets expressed in ABD or GLU, 685 (7.6%) were expressed in ABD and 51 (0.6%) in GLU only. Differential eigengene network analysis of 8,256 shared probesets detected 22 shared modules with high preservation across adipose depots (D(ABD-GLU) = 0.89), seven of which were associated with MetS (FDR P<0.01). The strongest associated module, significantly enriched for immune response-related processes, contained 94/620 (15%) genes with inter-depot differences. In an independent cohort of 145/141 twins with ABD and WB longitudinal expression data, median variability in ABD due to familiality was greater for MetS-associated versus un-associated modules (ABD: 0.48 versus 0.18, P = 0.08; GLU: 0.54 versus 0.20, P = 7.8×10(-4)). Cis-eQTL analysis of probesets associated with MetS (FDR P<0.01) and/or inter-depot differences (FDR P<0.01) provided evidence for 32 eQTLs. Corresponding eSNPs were tested for association with MetS-related phenotypes in two GWAS of >100,000 individuals; rs10282458, affecting expression of RARRES2 (encoding chemerin), was associated with body mass index (BMI) (P = 6.0×10(-4)); and rs2395185, affecting inter-depot differences of HLA-DRB1 expression, was associated with high-density lipoprotein (P = 8.7×10(-4)) and BMI-adjusted waist-to-hip ratio (P = 2.4×10(-4)). Since many genes and their interactions influence complex traits such as MetS, integrated analysis of genotypes and coexpression networks across multiple tissues relevant to clinical traits is an efficient strategy to identify novel associations.

  • MicroRNA expression in abdominal and gluteal adipose tissue is associated with mRNA expression levels and partly genetically driven.

    16 October 2018

    To understand how miRNAs contribute to the molecular phenotype of adipose tissues and related traits, we performed global miRNA expression profiling in subcutaneous abdominal and gluteal adipose tissue of 70 human subjects and characterised which miRNAs were differentially expressed between these tissues. We found that 12% of the miRNAs were significantly differentially expressed between abdominal and gluteal adipose tissue (FDR adjusted p<0.05) in the primary study, of which 59 replicated in a follow-up study of 40 additional subjects. Further, 14 miRNAs were found to be associated with metabolic syndrome case-control status in abdominal tissue and three of these replicated (primary study: FDR adjusted p<0.05, replication: p<0.05 and directionally consistent effect). Genome-wide genotyping was performed in the 70 subjects to enable miRNA expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analysis. Candidate miRNA eQTLs were followed-up in the additional 40 subjects and six significant, independent cis-located miRNA eQTLs (primary study: p<0.001; replication: p<0.05 and directionally consistent effect) were identified. Finally, global mRNA expression profiling was performed in both tissues to enable association analysis between miRNA and target mRNA expression levels. We find 22% miRNAs in abdominal and 9% miRNAs in gluteal adipose tissue with expression levels significantly associated with the expression of corresponding target mRNAs (FDR adjusted p<0.05). Taken together, our results indicate a clear difference in the miRNA molecular phenotypic profile of abdominal and gluteal adipose tissue, that the expressions of some miRNAs are influenced by cis-located genetic variants and that miRNAs are associated with expression levels of their predicted mRNA targets.

  • The use of genome-wide eQTL associations in lymphoblastoid cell lines to identify novel genetic pathways involved in complex traits.

    16 October 2018

    The integrated analysis of genotypic and expression data for association with complex traits could identify novel genetic pathways involved in complex traits. We profiled 19,573 expression probes in Epstein-Barr virus-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) from 299 twins and correlated these with 44 quantitative traits (QTs). For 939 expressed probes correlating with more than one QT, we investigated the presence of eQTL associations in three datasets of 57 CEU HapMap founders and 86 unrelated twins. Genome-wide association analysis of these probes with 2.2 m SNPs revealed 131 potential eQTLs (1,989 eQTL SNPs) overlapping between the HapMap datasets, five of which were in cis (58 eQTL SNPs). We then tested 535 SNPs tagging the eQTL SNPs, for association with the relevant QT in 2,905 twins. We identified nine potential SNP-QT associations (P<0.01) but none significantly replicated in five large consortia of 1,097-16,129 subjects. We also failed to replicate previous reported eQTL associations with body mass index, plasma low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides levels derived from lymphocytes, adipose and liver tissue. Our results and additional power calculations suggest that proponents may have been overoptimistic in the power of LCLs in eQTL approaches to elucidate regulatory genetic effects on complex traits using the small datasets generated to date. Nevertheless, larger tissue-specific expression data sets relevant to specific traits are becoming available, and should enable the adoption of similar integrated analyses in the near future.

  • Integrated genetic and epigenetic analysis identifies haplotype-specific methylation in the FTO type 2 diabetes and obesity susceptibility locus.

    16 October 2018

    Recent multi-dimensional approaches to the study of complex disease have revealed powerful insights into how genetic and epigenetic factors may underlie their aetiopathogenesis. We examined genotype-epigenotype interactions in the context of Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), focussing on known regions of genomic susceptibility. We assayed DNA methylation in 60 females, stratified according to disease susceptibility haplotype using previously identified association loci. CpG methylation was assessed using methylated DNA immunoprecipitation on a targeted array (MeDIP-chip) and absolute methylation values were estimated using a Bayesian algorithm (BATMAN). Absolute methylation levels were quantified across LD blocks, and we identified increased DNA methylation on the FTO obesity susceptibility haplotype, tagged by the rs8050136 risk allele A (p = 9.40×10(-4), permutation p = 1.0×10(-3)). Further analysis across the 46 kb LD block using sliding windows localised the most significant difference to be within a 7.7 kb region (p = 1.13×10(-7)). Sequence level analysis, followed by pyrosequencing validation, revealed that the methylation difference was driven by the co-ordinated phase of CpG-creating SNPs across the risk haplotype. This 7.7 kb region of haplotype-specific methylation (HSM), encapsulates a Highly Conserved Non-Coding Element (HCNE) that has previously been validated as a long-range enhancer, supported by the histone H3K4me1 enhancer signature. This study demonstrates that integration of Genome-Wide Association (GWA) SNP and epigenomic DNA methylation data can identify potential novel genotype-epigenotype interactions within disease-associated loci, thus providing a novel route to aid unravelling common complex diseases.

  • Variability of gene expression profiles in human blood and lymphoblastoid cell lines.

    16 October 2018

    Readily accessible samples such as peripheral blood or cell lines are increasingly being used in large cohorts to characterise gene expression differences between a patient group and healthy controls. However, cell and RNA isolation procedures and the variety of cell types that make up whole blood can affect gene expression measurements. We therefore systematically investigated global gene expression profiles in peripheral blood from six individuals collected during two visits by comparing five of the following cell and RNA isolation methods: whole blood (PAXgene), peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs), CD19 and CD20 specific B-cell subsets.Gene expression measurements were clearly discriminated by isolation method although the reproducibility was high for all methods (range rho = 0.90-1.00). The PAXgene samples showed a decrease in the number of expressed genes (P < 1*10(-16)) with higher variability (P < 1*10(-16)) compared to the other methods. Differentially expressed probes between PAXgene and PBMCs were correlated with the number of monocytes, lymphocytes, neutrophils or erythrocytes. The correlations (rho = 0.83; rho = 0.79) of the expression levels of detected probes between LCLs and B-cell subsets were much lower compared to the two B-cell isolation methods (rho = 0.98). Gene ontology analysis of detected genes showed that genes involved in inflammatory responses are enriched in B-cells CD19 and CD20 whereas genes involved in alcohol metabolic process and the cell cycle were enriched in LCLs.Gene expression profiles in blood-based samples are strongly dependent on the predominant constituent cell type(s) and RNA isolation method. It is crucial to understand the differences and variability of gene expression measurements between cell and RNA isolation procedures, and their relevance to disease processes, before application in large clinical studies.