McCarthy group recent publications

Webb TR, Erdmann J, Stirrups KE, Stitziel NO, Masca NG, 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. | Citations: 1 (Scopus) | 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.

McCarthy MI. 2017. Painting a new picture of personalised medicine for diabetes. Diabetologia, pp. 1-7. | 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.

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

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.

Carrat GR, Hu M, Nguyen-Tu MS, 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 Ca(2+) 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.

Wahl S, Drong A, Lehne B, Loh M, Scott WR, Kunze S, Tsai PC, 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.

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 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.

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. | Citations: 1 (Scopus) | 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.

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. | Citations: 6 (Scopus) | 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.

Laver TW, Colclough K, Shepherd M, Patel K, Houghton JA, 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.

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. | Citations: 2 (Scopus) | 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.

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. | Citations: 4 (Scopus) | 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.

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. | Citations: 1 (Scopus) | 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.

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. | Citations: 1 (Scopus) | 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.

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. | Citations: 8 (Scopus) | 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.

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. | Citations: 149 (Scopus) | 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.

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. | Citations: 26 (Scopus) | 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.

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. | Citations: 7 (Scopus) | 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.

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. | Citations: 2 (Scopus) | 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 .

Myocardial Infarction Genetics and CARDIoGRAM Exome Consortia Investigators, Stitziel NO, Stirrups KE, Masca NG, 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. | Citations: 38 (Scopus) | 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 NM et al. 2016. Genetic Evidence for Causal Relationships Between Maternal Obesity-Related Traits and Birth Weight. JAMA, 315 (11), pp. 1129-1140. | Citations: 23 (Scopus) | 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. | Citations: 3 (Scopus) | 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.

Felix JF, Bradfield JP, Monnereau C, van der Valk RJ, 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. | Citations: 9 (Scopus) | 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.

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 pp. 10495. | Citations: 10 (Scopus) | 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.

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. | Citations: 1 (Scopus) | 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.

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.

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.

Busche S, Shao X, Caron M, Kwan T, Allum F, Cheung WA, Ge B, Westfall S, Simon MM, 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. | Citations: 7 (Scopus) | 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.

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. | Citations: 41 (Scopus) | 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.

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. | Citations: 18 (Scopus) | 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.

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

Kato N, Loh M, Takeuchi F, Verweij N, Wang X, Zhang W, Kelly TN, Saleheen D, Lehne B, Mateo Leach I 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. | Citations: 25 (Scopus) | 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.

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. | Citations: 18 (Scopus) | 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. | Citations: 32 (Scopus) | 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. | Citations: 1 (Web of Science Lite) | 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. | Citations: 1 (Scopus) | 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 HY, Heikkinen J, Waldenberger M, Langhammer A, Ladenvall C, Esko T, Persson MÅ 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. | Citations: 1 (Scopus) | 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.

Horikoshi M, Mӓgi R, van de Bunt M, Surakka I, Sarin AP, Mahajan A, Marullo L, Thorleifsson G, Hӓgg S, Hottenga JJ et al. 2015. Discovery and Fine-Mapping of Glycaemic and Obesity-Related Trait Loci Using High-Density Imputation. PLoS Genet, 11 (7), pp. e1005230. | Citations: 8 (Scopus) | 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. | Citations: 22 (Scopus) | 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. | Citations: 12 (Web of Science Lite) | 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.

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. | Citations: 1 (Web of Science Lite) | 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.

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 Journal of Molecular Medicine, 93 (10), pp. 1159-1169. | Citations: 16 (Scopus) | 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.

Hägg S, Fall T, Ploner A, Mägi R, Fischer K, Draisma HH, 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. | Citations: 18 (Scopus) | 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 AP, Mahajan A, Lagou V, Marullo L, Ferreira T, Miraglio B, Timonen S et al. 2015. The impact of low-frequency and rare variants on lipid levels. Nat Genet, 47 (6), pp. 589-597. | Citations: 10 (Web of Science Lite) | 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.

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. | Citations: 34 (Scopus) | 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.

GTEx Consortium. 2015. Human genomics. The Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) pilot analysis: multitissue gene regulation in humans. Science, 348 (6235), pp. 648-660. | Citations: 364 (Scopus) | 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.

Manning Fox JE, Lyon J, Dai XQ, Wright RC, Hayward J, van de Bunt M, Kin T, Shapiro AM, McCarthy MI, Gloyn AL et al. 2015. Human islet function following 20 years of cryogenic biobanking. Diabetologia, 58 (7), pp. 1503-1512. | Citations: 6 (Scopus) | 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.

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