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Early childhood growth patterns are associated with adult metabolic health, but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. We performed genome-wide meta-analyses and follow-up in up to 22,769 European children for six early growth phenotypes derived from longitudinal data: peak height and weight velocities, age and body mass index (BMI) at adiposity peak (AP ~ 9 months) and rebound (AR ~ 5-6 years). We identified four associated loci ( P < 5x10 −8 ): LEPR/LEPROT with BMI at AP, FTO and TFAP2B with Age at AR and GNPDA2 with BMI at AR. The observed AR-associated SNPs at FTO, TFAP2B and GNPDA2 represent known adult BMI-associated variants. The common BMI at AP associated variant at LEPR/LEPROT was not associated with adult BMI but was associated with LEPROT gene expression levels, especially in subcutaneous fat ( P <2x10 −51 ). We identify strong positive genetic correlations between early growth and later adiposity traits, and analysis of the full discovery stage results for Age at AR revealed enrichment for insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) signaling and apolipoprotein pathways. This genome-wide association study suggests mechanistic links between early childhood growth and adiposity in later childhood and adulthood, highlighting these early growth phenotypes as potential targets for the prevention of obesity.

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