Publications by authors named "Caroline Hayward"

425 Publications

Genome-wide Analysis Identifies Novel Gallstone-susceptibility Loci Including Genes Regulating Gastrointestinal Motility.

Hepatology 2021 Oct 15. Epub 2021 Oct 15.

Centre for Medical Informatics, Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh.

Background & Aims: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified several risk loci for gallstone disease. As with most polygenic traits, it is likely many genetic determinants are undiscovered. The aim of this study was to identify novel genetic variants, representing new targets for gallstone research and treatment.

Approach & Results: We performed a GWAS of 28,627 gallstone cases and 348,373 controls in the UK Biobank, replicated findings in a Scottish cohort (1,089 cases, 5,228 controls) and conducted a GWA meta-analysis (43,639 cases,506,798 controls) with the FinnGen cohort. We assessed pathway enrichment using gene-based then gene-set analysis and tissue expression of identified genes in Genotype-Tissue Expression project data. We constructed a polygenic risk score (PRS) and evaluated phenotypic traits associated with the score. Seventy-five risk loci were identified (P < 5 * 10 ), of which forty-six were novel. Pathway enrichment revealed associations with lipid homeostasis, glucuronidation, phospholipid metabolism and gastrointestinal motility. ANO1 and TMEM147, both in novel, replicated loci, are expressed in the gallbladder and gastrointestinal tract. Both regulate gastrointestinal motility. The gallstone risk allele rs7599-A leads to suppression of hepatic TMEM147 expression suggesting the protein protects against gallstone formation. The highest decile of the PRS demonstrated a 6-fold increased odds of gallstones compared to the lowest decile. The PRS was strongly associated with increased body mass index, serum liver enzymes and C-reactive protein concentrations and decreased lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations.

Conclusions: This GWAS demonstrates the polygenic nature of gallstone risk and identifies 46 novel susceptibility loci. For the first time, we implicate genes influencing gastrointestinal motility in the pathogenesis of gallstones.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep.32199DOI Listing
October 2021

Mendelian randomization to assess causality between uromodulin, blood pressure and chronic kidney disease.

Kidney Int 2021 Oct 9. Epub 2021 Oct 9.

Institute of Physiology, University of Zurich, Zürich, Switzerland. Electronic address:

UMOD variants associated with higher levels of urinary uromodulin (uUMOD) increase risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and hypertension. However, uUMOD levels also reflect functional kidney tubular mass in observational studies, questioning the causal link between uromodulin production and kidney damage. We used Mendelian randomization to clarify causality between uUMOD levels, kidney function and blood pressure in individuals of European descent. The link between uUMOD and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) was first investigated in a population-based cohort of 3,851 individuals. In observational data, higher uUMOD associated with higher eGFR. Conversely, when using rs12917707 (an UMOD polymorphism) as an instrumental variable in one-sample Mendelian randomization, higher uUMOD strongly associated with eGFR decline. We next applied two-sample Mendelian randomization on four genome wide association study consortia to explore causal links between uUMOD and eGFR, CKD risk (567,460 individuals) and blood pressure (757,461 individuals). Higher uUMOD levels significantly associated with lower eGFR, higher odds for eGFR decline or CKD, and higher systolic or diastolic blood pressure. Each one standard deviation (SD) increase of uUMOD decreased log-transformed eGFR by -0.15 SD (95% confidence interval -0.17 to -0.13) and increased log-odds CKD by 0.13 SD (0.12 to 0.15). One SD increase of uUMOD increased systolic blood pressure by 0.06 SD (0.03 to 0.09) and diastolic blood pressure by 0.08 SD (0.05 to 0.12). The effect of uUMOD on blood pressure was mediated by eGFR, whereas the effect on eGFR was not mediated by blood pressure. Thus, our data support that genetically driven levels of uromodulin have a direct, causal and adverse effect on kidney function outcome in the general population, not mediated by blood pressure.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.kint.2021.08.032DOI Listing
October 2021

Identification of plasma proteins relating to brain neurodegeneration and vascular pathology in cognitively normal individuals.

Alzheimers Dement (Amst) 2021 27;13(1):e12240. Epub 2021 Sep 27.

Department of Psychiatry University of Oxford Oxford UK.

Introduction: This study aims to first discover plasma proteomic biomarkers relating to neurodegeneration (N) and vascular (V) damage in cognitively normal individuals and second to discover proteins mediating sex-related difference in N and V pathology.

Methods: Five thousand and thirty-two plasma proteins were measured in 1061 cognitively normal individuals (628 females and 433 males), nearly 90% of whom had magnetic resonance imaging measures of hippocampal volume (as N) and white matter hyperintensities (as V).

Results: Differential protein expression analysis and co-expression network analysis revealed different proteins and modules associated with N and V, respectively. Furthermore, causal mediation analysis revealed four proteins mediated sex-related difference in N and one protein mediated such difference in V damage.

Discussion: Once validated, the identified proteins could help to select cognitively normal individuals with N and V pathology for Alzheimer's disease clinical trials and provide targets for further mechanistic studies on brain sex differences, leading to sex-specific therapeutic strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dad2.12240DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8474123PMC
September 2021

Genome-Wide Association Study of NAFLD Using Electronic Health Records.

Hepatol Commun 2021 Sep 17. Epub 2021 Sep 17.

Centre for Global Health Research, Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh, Edingburgh, Scotland.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified several risk loci for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Previous studies have largely relied on small sample sizes and have assessed quantitative traits. We performed a case-control GWAS in the UK Biobank using recorded diagnosis of NAFLD based on diagnostic codes recommended in recent consensus guidelines. We performed a GWAS of 4,761 cases of NAFLD and 373,227 healthy controls without evidence of NAFLD. Sensitivity analyses were performed excluding other co-existing hepatic pathology, adjusting for body mass index (BMI) and adjusting for alcohol intake. A total of 9,723,654 variants were assessed by logistic regression adjusted for age, sex, genetic principal components, and genotyping batch. We performed a GWAS meta-analysis using available summary association statistics. Six risk loci were identified (P < 5*10 ) (apolipoprotein E [APOE], patatin-like phospholipase domain containing 3 [PNPLA3, transmembrane 6 superfamily member 2 [TM6SF2], glucokinase regulator [GCKR], mitochondrial amidoxime reducing component 1 [MARC1], and tribbles pseudokinase 1 [TRIB1]). All loci retained significance in sensitivity analyses without co-existent hepatic pathology and after adjustment for BMI. PNPLA3 and TM6SF2 remained significant after adjustment for alcohol (alcohol intake was known in only 158,388 individuals), with others demonstrating consistent direction and magnitude of effect. All six loci were significant on meta-analysis. Rs429358 (P = 2.17*10 ) is a missense variant within the APOE gene determining ϵ4 versus ϵ2/ϵ3 alleles. The ϵ4 allele of APOE offered protection against NAFLD (odds ratio for heterozygotes 0.84 [95% confidence interval 0.78-0.90] and homozygotes 0.64 [0.50-0.79]). Conclusion: This GWAS replicates six known NAFLD-susceptibility loci and confirms that the ϵ4 allele of APOE is associated with protection against NAFLD. The results are consistent with published GWAS using histological and radiological measures of NAFLD, confirming that NAFLD identified through diagnostic codes from consensus guidelines is a valid alternative to more invasive and costly approaches.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep4.1805DOI Listing
September 2021

Genome-wide methylation data improves dissection of the effect of smoking on body mass index.

PLoS Genet 2021 Sep 9;17(9):e1009750. Epub 2021 Sep 9.

MRC Human Genetics Unit, Institute of Genetics and Cancer, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

Variation in obesity-related traits has a genetic basis with heritabilities between 40 and 70%. While the global obesity pandemic is usually associated with environmental changes related to lifestyle and socioeconomic changes, most genetic studies do not include all relevant environmental covariates, so the genetic contribution to variation in obesity-related traits cannot be accurately assessed. Some studies have described interactions between a few individual genes linked to obesity and environmental variables but there is no agreement on their total contribution to differences between individuals. Here we compared self-reported smoking data and a methylation-based proxy to explore the effect of smoking and genome-by-smoking interactions on obesity related traits from a genome-wide perspective to estimate the amount of variance they explain. Our results indicate that exploiting omic measures can improve models for complex traits such as obesity and can be used as a substitute for, or jointly with, environmental records to better understand causes of disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1009750DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8428545PMC
September 2021

Using symptom-based case predictions to identify host genetic factors that contribute to COVID-19 susceptibility.

PLoS One 2021 11;16(8):e0255402. Epub 2021 Aug 11.

Helix OpCo LLC, San Mateo, California, United States of America.

Epidemiological and genetic studies on COVID-19 are currently hindered by inconsistent and limited testing policies to confirm SARS-CoV-2 infection. Recently, it was shown that it is possible to predict COVID-19 cases using cross-sectional self-reported disease-related symptoms. Here, we demonstrate that this COVID-19 prediction model has reasonable and consistent performance across multiple independent cohorts and that our attempt to improve upon this model did not result in improved predictions. Using the existing COVID-19 prediction model, we then conducted a GWAS on the predicted phenotype using a total of 1,865 predicted cases and 29,174 controls. While we did not find any common, large-effect variants that reached genome-wide significance, we do observe suggestive genetic associations at two SNPs (rs11844522, p = 1.9x10-7; rs5798227, p = 2.2x10-7). Explorative analyses furthermore suggest that genetic variants associated with other viral infectious diseases do not overlap with COVID-19 susceptibility and that severity of COVID-19 may have a different genetic architecture compared to COVID-19 susceptibility. This study represents a first effort that uses a symptom-based predicted phenotype as a proxy for COVID-19 in our pursuit of understanding the genetic susceptibility of the disease. We conclude that the inclusion of symptom-based predicted cases could be a useful strategy in a scenario of limited testing, either during the current COVID-19 pandemic or any future viral outbreak.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0255402PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8357137PMC
August 2021

Genetic insights into biological mechanisms governing human ovarian ageing.

Nature 2021 08 4;596(7872):393-397. Epub 2021 Aug 4.

Genome Integrity and Instability Group, Institut de Biotecnologia i Biomedicina, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain.

Reproductive longevity is essential for fertility and influences healthy ageing in women, but insights into its underlying biological mechanisms and treatments to preserve it are limited. Here we identify 290 genetic determinants of ovarian ageing, assessed using normal variation in age at natural menopause (ANM) in about 200,000 women of European ancestry. These common alleles were associated with clinical extremes of ANM; women in the top 1% of genetic susceptibility have an equivalent risk of premature ovarian insufficiency to those carrying monogenic FMR1 premutations. The identified loci implicate a broad range of DNA damage response (DDR) processes and include loss-of-function variants in key DDR-associated genes. Integration with experimental models demonstrates that these DDR processes act across the life-course to shape the ovarian reserve and its rate of depletion. Furthermore, we demonstrate that experimental manipulation of DDR pathways highlighted by human genetics increases fertility and extends reproductive life in mice. Causal inference analyses using the identified genetic variants indicate that extending reproductive life in women improves bone health and reduces risk of type 2 diabetes, but increases the risk of hormone-sensitive cancers. These findings provide insight into the mechanisms that govern ovarian ageing, when they act, and how they might be targeted by therapeutic approaches to extend fertility and prevent disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03779-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7611832PMC
August 2021

The effect of food groups and nutrients on thyroid hormone levels in healthy individuals.

Nutrition 2021 Jun 20;91-92:111394. Epub 2021 Jun 20.

Department of Nuclear Medicine, University Hospital Split, Split, Croatia; Department of Medical Biology, School of Medicine, University of Split, Split, Croatia. Electronic address:

Objectives: The aim of the study was to analyze the association of dietary groups (groups of food items) with thyroid hormone levels in healthy individuals.

Methods: This cross-sectional study enrolled 4585 healthy individuals from the Dalmatian region of south Croatia with measurements of plasma free triiodothyronine (fT3), free thyroxine (fT4), and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. Dietary intake was assessed according to data of the completed food frequency questionnaire, containing 58 food items. Principal component analysis was performed to reduce food items into dietary groups, followed by linear regression analyses to test the association between dietary groups and fT3, fT4, and TSH levels.

Results: Among the 4585 healthy individuals, we observed lower plasma fT3 and fT4 levels and higher TSH levels in women than in men. Smokers were found to have significantly lower TSH levels than non-smokers and ex-smokers, and participants with higher fasting glucose levels had higher fT4 levels. Different dietary groups (factors) showed association with fT3, fT4, and TSH levels. It was observed that dietary factors (with frequent consumption of fruit juices, Cedevita vitamin drink, and non-alcoholic drinks) that negatively affected TSH levels simultaneously had a positive effect on fT4, satisfying the expected pattern of effects.

Conclusions: In our study, frequent consumption of foods with a high glycemic index showed a positive association with fT3 and fT4 levels and a negative association with TSH levels, whereas foods rich in saturated fatty acids and with a high protein concentration showed a negative association with fT3 and fT4 levels.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2021.111394DOI Listing
June 2021

Sex Differences in Cardiac Troponin I and T and the Prediction of Cardiovascular Events in the General Population.

Clin Chem 2021 Oct;67(10):1351-1360

Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.

Background: Cardiac troponin concentrations differ in women and men, but how this influences risk prediction and whether a sex-specific approach is required is unclear. We evaluated whether sex influences the predictive ability of cardiac troponin I and T for cardiovascular events in the general population.

Methods: High-sensitivity cardiac troponin (hs-cTn) I and T were measured in the Generation Scotland Scottish Family Health Study of randomly selected volunteers drawn from the general population between 2006 and 2011. Cox-regression models evaluated associations between hs-cTnI and hs-cTnT and the primary outcome of cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, or stroke.

Results: In 19 501 (58% women, mean age 47 years) participants, the primary outcome occurred in 2.7% (306/11 375) of women and 5.1% (411/8126) of men during the median follow-up period of 7.9 (IQR, 7.1-9.2) years. Cardiac troponin I and T concentrations were lower in women than men (P < 0.001 for both), and both were more strongly associated with cardiovascular events in women than men. For example, at a hs-cTnI concentration of 10 ng/L, the hazard ratio relative to the limit of blank was 9.7 (95% CI 7.6-12.4) and 5.6 (95% CI 4.7-6.6) for women and men, respectively. The hazard ratio for hs-cTnT at a concentration of 10 ng/L relative to the limit of blank was 3.7 (95% CI 3.1-4.3) and 2.2 (95% CI 2.0-2.5) for women and men, respectively.

Conclusions: Cardiac troponin concentrations differ in women and men and are stronger predictors of cardiovascular events in women. Sex-specific approaches are required to provide equivalent risk prediction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/clinchem/hvab109DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8486023PMC
October 2021

Genome-wide association studies identify 137 genetic loci for DNA methylation biomarkers of aging.

Genome Biol 2021 06 29;22(1):194. Epub 2021 Jun 29.

Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine, McGovern Medical School, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX, USA.

Background: Biological aging estimators derived from DNA methylation data are heritable and correlate with morbidity and mortality. Consequently, identification of genetic and environmental contributors to the variation in these measures in populations has become a major goal in the field.

Results: Leveraging DNA methylation and SNP data from more than 40,000 individuals, we identify 137 genome-wide significant loci, of which 113 are novel, from genome-wide association study (GWAS) meta-analyses of four epigenetic clocks and epigenetic surrogate markers for granulocyte proportions and plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 levels, respectively. We find evidence for shared genetic loci associated with the Horvath clock and expression of transcripts encoding genes linked to lipid metabolism and immune function. Notably, these loci are independent of those reported to regulate DNA methylation levels at constituent clock CpGs. A polygenic score for GrimAge acceleration showed strong associations with adiposity-related traits, educational attainment, parental longevity, and C-reactive protein levels.

Conclusion: This study illuminates the genetic architecture underlying epigenetic aging and its shared genetic contributions with lifestyle factors and longevity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13059-021-02398-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8243879PMC
June 2021

A time-resolved proteomic and prognostic map of COVID-19.

Cell Syst 2021 08 14;12(8):780-794.e7. Epub 2021 Jun 14.

Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Department of Infectious Diseases and Respiratory Medicine, 10117 Berlin, Germany; Berlin Institute of Health, 10178 Berlin, Germany.

COVID-19 is highly variable in its clinical presentation, ranging from asymptomatic infection to severe organ damage and death. We characterized the time-dependent progression of the disease in 139 COVID-19 inpatients by measuring 86 accredited diagnostic parameters, such as blood cell counts and enzyme activities, as well as untargeted plasma proteomes at 687 sampling points. We report an initial spike in a systemic inflammatory response, which is gradually alleviated and followed by a protein signature indicative of tissue repair, metabolic reconstitution, and immunomodulation. We identify prognostic marker signatures for devising risk-adapted treatment strategies and use machine learning to classify therapeutic needs. We show that the machine learning models based on the proteome are transferable to an independent cohort. Our study presents a map linking routinely used clinical diagnostic parameters to plasma proteomes and their dynamics in an infectious disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cels.2021.05.005DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8201874PMC
August 2021

Variants associated with expression have sex-differential effects on lung function.

Wellcome Open Res 2020 24;5:111. Epub 2021 May 24.

Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, EH4 2XU, UK.

Lung function is highly heritable and differs between the sexes throughout life. However, little is known about sex-differential genetic effects on lung function. We aimed to conduct the first genome-wide genotype-by-sex interaction study on lung function to identify genetic effects that differ between males and females. We tested for interactions between 7,745,864 variants and sex on spirometry-based measures of lung function in UK Biobank (N=303,612), and sought replication in 75,696 independent individuals from the SpiroMeta consortium. Five independent single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) showed genome-wide significant (P<5x10 ) interactions with sex on lung function, and 21 showed suggestive interactions (P<1x10 ). The strongest signal, from rs7697189 (chr4:145436894) on forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV ) (P=3.15x10 ), was replicated (P=0.016) in SpiroMeta. The C allele increased FEV more in males (untransformed FEV β=0.028 [SE 0.0022] litres) than females (β=0.009 [SE 0.0014] litres), and this effect was not accounted for by differential effects on height, smoking or pubertal age. rs7697189 resides upstream of the hedgehog-interacting protein ( ) gene and was previously associated with lung function and lung expression. We found expression was significantly different between the sexes (P=6.90x10 ), but we could not detect sex differential effects of rs7697189 on expression. We identified a novel genotype-by-sex interaction at a putative enhancer region upstream of the gene. Establishing the mechanism by which SNPs have different effects on lung function in males and females will be important for our understanding of lung health and diseases in both sexes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.12688/wellcomeopenres.15846.2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7938335.2PMC
May 2021

Contribution of common risk variants to multiple sclerosis in Orkney and Shetland.

Eur J Hum Genet 2021 Jun 4. Epub 2021 Jun 4.

Centre for Global Health Research, Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Orkney and Shetland, the population isolates that make up the Northern Isles of Scotland, are of particular interest to multiple sclerosis (MS) research. While MS prevalence is high in Scotland, Orkney has the highest global prevalence, higher than more northerly Shetland. Many hypotheses for the excess of MS cases in Orkney have been investigated, including vitamin D deficiency and homozygosity: neither was found to cause the high prevalence of MS. It is possible that this excess prevalence may be explained through unique genetics. We used polygenic risk scores (PRS) to look at the contribution of common risk variants to MS. Analyses were conducted using ORCADES (97/2118 cases/controls), VIKING (15/2000 cases/controls) and Generation Scotland (30/8708 cases/controls) data sets. However, no evidence of a difference in MS-associated common variant frequencies was found between the three control populations, aside from HLA-DRB1*15:01 tag SNP rs9271069. This SNP had a significantly higher risk allele frequency in Orkney (0.23, p value = 8 × 10) and Shetland (0.21, p value = 2.3 × 10) than mainland Scotland (0.17). This difference in frequency is estimated to account for 6 (95% CI 3, 8) out of 150 observed excess cases per 100,000 individuals in Shetland and 9 (95% CI 8, 11) of the observed 257 excess cases per 100,000 individuals in Orkney, compared with mainland Scotland. Common variants therefore appear to account for little of the excess burden of MS in the Northern Isles of Scotland.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41431-021-00914-wDOI Listing
June 2021

The trans-ancestral genomic architecture of glycemic traits.

Nat Genet 2021 06 31;53(6):840-860. Epub 2021 May 31.

Department of Epidemiology, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.

Glycemic traits are used to diagnose and monitor type 2 diabetes and cardiometabolic health. To date, most genetic studies of glycemic traits have focused on individuals of European ancestry. Here we aggregated genome-wide association studies comprising up to 281,416 individuals without diabetes (30% non-European ancestry) for whom fasting glucose, 2-h glucose after an oral glucose challenge, glycated hemoglobin and fasting insulin data were available. Trans-ancestry and single-ancestry meta-analyses identified 242 loci (99 novel; P < 5 × 10), 80% of which had no significant evidence of between-ancestry heterogeneity. Analyses restricted to individuals of European ancestry with equivalent sample size would have led to 24 fewer new loci. Compared with single-ancestry analyses, equivalent-sized trans-ancestry fine-mapping reduced the number of estimated variants in 99% credible sets by a median of 37.5%. Genomic-feature, gene-expression and gene-set analyses revealed distinct biological signatures for each trait, highlighting different underlying biological pathways. Our results increase our understanding of diabetes pathophysiology by using trans-ancestry studies for improved power and resolution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41588-021-00852-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7610958PMC
June 2021

Genome-wide association study of cardiac troponin I in the general population.

Hum Mol Genet 2021 Oct;30(21):2027-2039

Division of Research and Innovation, Akershus University Hospital, 1478 Lørenskog, Norway.

Circulating cardiac troponin proteins are associated with structural heart disease and predict incident cardiovascular disease in the general population. However, the genetic contribution to cardiac troponin I (cTnI) concentrations and its causal effect on cardiovascular phenotypes are unclear. We combine data from two large population-based studies, the Trøndelag Health Study and the Generation Scotland Scottish Family Health Study, and perform a genome-wide association study of high-sensitivity cTnI concentrations with 48 115 individuals. We further use two-sample Mendelian randomization to investigate the causal effects of circulating cTnI on acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and heart failure (HF). We identified 12 genetic loci (8 novel) associated with cTnI concentrations. Associated protein-altering variants highlighted putative functional genes: CAND2, HABP2, ANO5, APOH, FHOD3, TNFAIP2, KLKB1 and LMAN1. Phenome-wide association tests in 1688 phecodes and 83 continuous traits in UK Biobank showed associations between a genetic risk score for cTnI and cardiac arrhythmias, metabolic and anthropometric measures. Using two-sample Mendelian randomization, we confirmed the non-causal role of cTnI in AMI (5948 cases, 355 246 controls). We found indications for a causal role of cTnI in HF (47 309 cases and 930 014 controls), but this was not supported by secondary analyses using left ventricular mass as outcome (18 257 individuals). Our findings clarify the biology underlying the heritable contribution to circulating cTnI and support cTnI as a non-causal biomarker for AMI in the general population. Using genetically informed methods for causal inference helps inform the role and value of measuring cTnI in the general population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddab124DOI Listing
October 2021

Epigenome-wide association study of kidney function identifies trans-ethnic and ethnic-specific loci.

Genome Med 2021 Apr 30;13(1):74. Epub 2021 Apr 30.

Department of Epidemiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA.

Background: DNA methylation (DNAm) is associated with gene regulation and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), a measure of kidney function. Decreased eGFR is more common among US Hispanics and African Americans. The causes for this are poorly understood. We aimed to identify trans-ethnic and ethnic-specific differentially methylated positions (DMPs) associated with eGFR using an agnostic, genome-wide approach.

Methods: The study included up to 5428 participants from multi-ethnic studies for discovery and 8109 participants for replication. We tested the associations between whole blood DNAm and eGFR using beta values from Illumina 450K or EPIC arrays. Ethnicity-stratified analyses were performed using linear mixed models adjusting for age, sex, smoking, and study-specific and technical variables. Summary results were meta-analyzed within and across ethnicities. Findings were assessed using integrative epigenomics methods and pathway analyses.

Results: We identified 93 DMPs associated with eGFR at an FDR of 0.05 and replicated 13 and 1 DMPs across independent samples in trans-ethnic and African American meta-analyses, respectively. The study also validated 6 previously published DMPs. Identified DMPs showed significant overlap enrichment with DNase I hypersensitive sites in kidney tissue, sites associated with the expression of proximal genes, and transcription factor motifs and pathways associated with kidney tissue and kidney development.

Conclusions: We uncovered trans-ethnic and ethnic-specific DMPs associated with eGFR, including DMPs enriched in regulatory elements in kidney tissue and pathways related to kidney development. These findings shed light on epigenetic mechanisms associated with kidney function, bridging the gap between population-specific eGFR-associated DNAm and tissue-specific regulatory context.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13073-021-00877-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8088054PMC
April 2021

Mendelian randomisation identifies alternative splicing of the FAS death receptor as a mediator of severe COVID-19.

medRxiv 2021 Apr 7. Epub 2021 Apr 7.

Severe COVID-19 is characterised by immunopathology and epithelial injury. Proteomic studies have identified circulating proteins that are biomarkers of severe COVID-19, but cannot distinguish correlation from causation. To address this, we performed Mendelian randomisation (MR) to identify proteins that mediate severe COVID-19. Using protein quantitative trait loci (pQTL) data from the SCALLOP consortium, involving meta-analysis of up to 26,494 individuals, and COVID-19 genome-wide association data from the Host Genetics Initiative, we performed MR for 157 COVID-19 severity protein biomarkers. We identified significant MR results for five proteins: FAS, TNFRSF10A, CCL2, EPHB4 and LGALS9. Further evaluation of these candidates using sensitivity analyses and colocalization testing provided strong evidence to implicate the apoptosis-associated cytokine receptor FAS as a causal mediator of severe COVID-19. This effect was specific to severe disease. Using RNA-seq data from 4,778 individuals, we demonstrate that the pQTL at the locus results from genetically influenced alternate splicing causing skipping of exon 6. We show that the risk allele for very severe COVID-19 increases the proportion of transcripts lacking exon 6, and thereby increases soluble FAS. Soluble FAS acts as a decoy receptor for FAS-ligand, inhibiting apoptosis induced through membrane-bound FAS. In summary, we demonstrate a novel genetic mechanism that contributes to risk of severe of COVID-19, highlighting a pathway that may be a promising therapeutic target.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.04.01.21254789DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8043484PMC
April 2021

Multivariate genome-wide analysis of immunoglobulin G N-glycosylation identifies new loci pleiotropic with immune function.

Hum Mol Genet 2021 Jun;30(13):1259-1270

Laboratory of Glycogenomics, Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Novosibirsk 630090, Russia.

The N-glycosylation of immunoglobulin G (IgG) affects its structure and function. It has been demonstrated that IgG N-glycosylation patterns are inherited as complex quantitative traits. Genome-wide association studies identified loci harboring genes encoding enzymes directly involved in protein glycosylation as well as loci likely to be involved in regulation of glycosylation biochemical pathways. Many of these loci could be linked to immune functions and risk of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The aim of the present study was to discover and replicate new loci associated with IgG N-glycosylation and to investigate possible pleiotropic effects of these loci onto immune function and the risk of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. We conducted a multivariate genome-wide association analysis of 23 IgG N-glycosylation traits measured in 8090 individuals of European ancestry. The discovery stage was followed up by replication in 3147 people and in silico functional analysis. Our study increased the total number of replicated loci from 22 to 29. For the discovered loci, we suggest a number of genes potentially involved in the control of IgG N-glycosylation. Among the new loci, two (near RNF168 and TNFRSF13B) were previously implicated in rare immune deficiencies and were associated with levels of circulating immunoglobulins. For one new locus (near AP5B1/OVOL1), we demonstrated a potential pleiotropic effect on the risk of asthma. Our findings underline an important link between IgG N-glycosylation and immune function and provide new clues to understanding their interplay.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddab072DOI Listing
June 2021

Variation in the SERPINA6/SERPINA1 locus alters morning plasma cortisol, hepatic corticosteroid binding globulin expression, gene expression in peripheral tissues, and risk of cardiovascular disease.

J Hum Genet 2021 Jun 20;66(6):625-636. Epub 2021 Jan 20.

Centre for Global Health Research, Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG, Scotland.

The stress hormone cortisol modulates fuel metabolism, cardiovascular homoeostasis, mood, inflammation and cognition. The CORtisol NETwork (CORNET) consortium previously identified a single locus associated with morning plasma cortisol. Identifying additional genetic variants that explain more of the variance in cortisol could provide new insights into cortisol biology and provide statistical power to test the causative role of cortisol in common diseases. The CORNET consortium extended its genome-wide association meta-analysis for morning plasma cortisol from 12,597 to 25,314 subjects and from ~2.2 M to ~7 M SNPs, in 17 population-based cohorts of European ancestries. We confirmed the genetic association with SERPINA6/SERPINA1. This locus contains genes encoding corticosteroid binding globulin (CBG) and α1-antitrypsin. Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analyses undertaken in the STARNET cohort of 600 individuals showed that specific genetic variants within the SERPINA6/SERPINA1 locus influence expression of SERPINA6 rather than SERPINA1 in the liver. Moreover, trans-eQTL analysis demonstrated effects on adipose tissue gene expression, suggesting that variations in CBG levels have an effect on delivery of cortisol to peripheral tissues. Two-sample Mendelian randomisation analyses provided evidence that each genetically-determined standard deviation (SD) increase in morning plasma cortisol was associated with increased odds of chronic ischaemic heart disease (0.32, 95% CI 0.06-0.59) and myocardial infarction (0.21, 95% CI 0.00-0.43) in UK Biobank and similarly in CARDIoGRAMplusC4D. These findings reveal a causative pathway for CBG in determining cortisol action in peripheral tissues and thereby contributing to the aetiology of cardiovascular disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s10038-020-00895-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8144017PMC
June 2021

Sex-dimorphic genetic effects and novel loci for fasting glucose and insulin variability.

Nat Commun 2021 01 5;12(1):24. Epub 2021 Jan 5.

Department of Biostatistics and Data Science, Division of Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.

Differences between sexes contribute to variation in the levels of fasting glucose and insulin. Epidemiological studies established a higher prevalence of impaired fasting glucose in men and impaired glucose tolerance in women, however, the genetic component underlying this phenomenon is not established. We assess sex-dimorphic (73,089/50,404 women and 67,506/47,806 men) and sex-combined (151,188/105,056 individuals) fasting glucose/fasting insulin genetic effects via genome-wide association study meta-analyses in individuals of European descent without diabetes. Here we report sex dimorphism in allelic effects on fasting insulin at IRS1 and ZNF12 loci, the latter showing higher RNA expression in whole blood in women compared to men. We also observe sex-homogeneous effects on fasting glucose at seven novel loci. Fasting insulin in women shows stronger genetic correlations than in men with waist-to-hip ratio and anorexia nervosa. Furthermore, waist-to-hip ratio is causally related to insulin resistance in women, but not in men. These results position dissection of metabolic and glycemic health sex dimorphism as a steppingstone for understanding differences in genetic effects between women and men in related phenotypes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19366-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7785747PMC
January 2021

Identification of epigenome-wide DNA methylation differences between carriers of APOE ε4 and APOE ε2 alleles.

Genome Med 2021 01 4;13(1). Epub 2021 Jan 4.

Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH4 2XU, UK.

Background: The apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele is the strongest genetic risk factor for late onset Alzheimer's disease, whilst the ε2 allele confers protection. Previous studies report differential DNA methylation of APOE between ε4 and ε2 carriers, but associations with epigenome-wide methylation have not previously been characterised.

Methods: Using the EPIC array, we investigated epigenome-wide differences in whole blood DNA methylation patterns between Alzheimer's disease-free APOE ε4 (n = 2469) and ε2 (n = 1118) carriers from the two largest single-cohort DNA methylation samples profiled to date. Using a discovery, replication and meta-analysis study design, methylation differences were identified using epigenome-wide association analysis and differentially methylated region (DMR) approaches. Results were explored using pathway and methylation quantitative trait loci (meQTL) analyses.

Results: We obtained replicated evidence for DNA methylation differences in a ~ 169 kb region, which encompasses part of APOE and several upstream genes. Meta-analytic approaches identified DNA methylation differences outside of APOE: differentially methylated positions were identified in DHCR24, LDLR and ABCG1 (2.59 × 10 ≤ P ≤ 2.44 × 10) and DMRs were identified in SREBF2 and LDLR (1.63 × 10 ≤ P ≤ 3.01 × 10). Pathway and meQTL analyses implicated lipid-related processes and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol was identified as a partial mediator of the methylation differences in ABCG1 and DHCR24.

Conclusions: APOE ε4 vs. ε2 carrier status is associated with epigenome-wide methylation differences in the blood. The loci identified are located in trans as well as cis to APOE and implicate genes involved in lipid homeostasis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13073-020-00808-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7784364PMC
January 2021

Distinguishing pedigree relationships via multi-way identity by descent sharing and sex-specific genetic maps.

Am J Hum Genet 2021 01 31;108(1):68-83. Epub 2020 Dec 31.

Department of Computational Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA. Electronic address:

The proportion of samples with one or more close relatives in a genetic dataset increases rapidly with sample size, necessitating relatedness modeling and enabling pedigree-based analyses. Despite this, relatives are generally unreported and current inference methods typically detect only the degree of relatedness of sample pairs and not pedigree relationships. We developed CREST, an accurate and fast method that identifies the pedigree relationships of close relatives. CREST utilizes identity by descent (IBD) segments shared between a pair of samples and their mutual relatives, leveraging the fact that sharing rates among these individuals differ across pedigree configurations. Furthermore, CREST exploits the profound differences in sex-specific genetic maps to classify pairs as maternally or paternally related-e.g., paternal half-siblings-using the locations of autosomal IBD segments shared between the pair. In simulated data, CREST correctly classifies 91.5%-100% of grandparent-grandchild (GP) pairs, 80.0%-97.5% of avuncular (AV) pairs, and 75.5%-98.5% of half-siblings (HS) pairs compared to PADRE's rates of 38.5%-76.0% of GP, 60.5%-92.0% of AV, 73.0%-95.0% of HS pairs. Turning to the real 20,032 sample Generation Scotland (GS) dataset, CREST identified seven pedigrees with incorrect relationship types or maternal/paternal parent sexes, five of which we confirmed as mistakes, and two with uncertain relationships. After correcting these, CREST correctly determines relationship types for 93.5% of GP, 97.7% of AV, and 92.2% of HS pairs that have sufficient mutual relative data; the parent sex in 100% of HS and 99.6% of GP pairs; and it completes this analysis in 2.8 h including IBD detection in eight threads.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.12.004DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7820736PMC
January 2021

Genetic mechanisms of critical illness in COVID-19.

Nature 2021 03 11;591(7848):92-98. Epub 2020 Dec 11.

Intensive Care Unit, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.

Host-mediated lung inflammation is present, and drives mortality, in the critical illness caused by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Host genetic variants associated with critical illness may identify mechanistic targets for therapeutic development. Here we report the results of the GenOMICC (Genetics Of Mortality In Critical Care) genome-wide association study in 2,244 critically ill patients with COVID-19 from 208 UK intensive care units. We have identified and replicated the following new genome-wide significant associations: on chromosome 12q24.13 (rs10735079, P = 1.65 × 10) in a gene cluster that encodes antiviral restriction enzyme activators (OAS1, OAS2 and OAS3); on chromosome 19p13.2 (rs74956615, P = 2.3 × 10) near the gene that encodes tyrosine kinase 2 (TYK2); on chromosome 19p13.3 (rs2109069, P = 3.98 ×  10) within the gene that encodes dipeptidyl peptidase 9 (DPP9); and on chromosome 21q22.1 (rs2236757, P = 4.99 × 10) in the interferon receptor gene IFNAR2. We identified potential targets for repurposing of licensed medications: using Mendelian randomization, we found evidence that low expression of IFNAR2, or high expression of TYK2, are associated with life-threatening disease; and transcriptome-wide association in lung tissue revealed that high expression of the monocyte-macrophage chemotactic receptor CCR2 is associated with severe COVID-19. Our results identify robust genetic signals relating to key host antiviral defence mechanisms and mediators of inflammatory organ damage in COVID-19. Both mechanisms may be amenable to targeted treatment with existing drugs. However, large-scale randomized clinical trials will be essential before any change to clinical practice.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-03065-yDOI Listing
March 2021

Discovery of rare variants associated with blood pressure regulation through meta-analysis of 1.3 million individuals.

Nat Genet 2020 12 23;52(12):1314-1332. Epub 2020 Nov 23.

Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Herlev and Gentofte Hospital, Copenhagen University Hospital, Herlev, Denmark.

Genetic studies of blood pressure (BP) to date have mainly analyzed common variants (minor allele frequency > 0.05). In a meta-analysis of up to ~1.3 million participants, we discovered 106 new BP-associated genomic regions and 87 rare (minor allele frequency ≤ 0.01) variant BP associations (P < 5 × 10), of which 32 were in new BP-associated loci and 55 were independent BP-associated single-nucleotide variants within known BP-associated regions. Average effects of rare variants (44% coding) were ~8 times larger than common variant effects and indicate potential candidate causal genes at new and known loci (for example, GATA5 and PLCB3). BP-associated variants (including rare and common) were enriched in regions of active chromatin in fetal tissues, potentially linking fetal development with BP regulation in later life. Multivariable Mendelian randomization suggested possible inverse effects of elevated systolic and diastolic BP on large artery stroke. Our study demonstrates the utility of rare-variant analyses for identifying candidate genes and the results highlight potential therapeutic targets.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41588-020-00713-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7610439PMC
December 2020

Genomic and drug target evaluation of 90 cardiovascular proteins in 30,931 individuals.

Nat Metab 2020 10 16;2(10):1135-1148. Epub 2020 Oct 16.

SCALLOP consortium.

Circulating proteins are vital in human health and disease and are frequently used as biomarkers for clinical decision-making or as targets for pharmacological intervention. Here, we map and replicate protein quantitative trait loci (pQTL) for 90 cardiovascular proteins in over 30,000 individuals, resulting in 451 pQTLs for 85 proteins. For each protein, we further perform pathway mapping to obtain trans-pQTL gene and regulatory designations. We substantiate these regulatory findings with orthogonal evidence for trans-pQTLs using mouse knockdown experiments (ABCA1 and TRIB1) and clinical trial results (chemokine receptors CCR2 and CCR5), with consistent regulation. Finally, we evaluate known drug targets, and suggest new target candidates or repositioning opportunities using Mendelian randomization. This identifies 11 proteins with causal evidence of involvement in human disease that have not previously been targeted, including EGF, IL-16, PAPPA, SPON1, F3, ADM, CASP-8, CHI3L1, CXCL16, GDF15 and MMP-12. Taken together, these findings demonstrate the utility of large-scale mapping of the genetics of the proteome and provide a resource for future precision studies of circulating proteins in human health.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s42255-020-00287-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7611474PMC
October 2020

A strategy to incorporate prior knowledge into correlation network cutoff selection.

Nat Commun 2020 10 14;11(1):5153. Epub 2020 Oct 14.

Institute of Computational Biology, Helmholtz Center Munich - German Research Center for Environmental Health, 85764, Neuherberg, Germany.

Correlation networks are frequently used to statistically extract biological interactions between omics markers. Network edge selection is typically based on the statistical significance of the correlation coefficients. This procedure, however, is not guaranteed to capture biological mechanisms. We here propose an alternative approach for network reconstruction: a cutoff selection algorithm that maximizes the overlap of the inferred network with available prior knowledge. We first evaluate the approach on IgG glycomics data, for which the biochemical pathway is known and well-characterized. Importantly, even in the case of incomplete or incorrect prior knowledge, the optimal network is close to the true optimum. We then demonstrate the generalizability of the approach with applications to untargeted metabolomics and transcriptomics data. For the transcriptomics case, we demonstrate that the optimized network is superior to statistical networks in systematically retrieving interactions that were not included in the biological reference used for optimization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-18675-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7560866PMC
October 2020

Sex- and age-specific genetic analysis of chronic back pain.

Pain 2021 04;162(4):1176-1187

Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, School of Life Course Sciences, King's College London, London, United Kingdom.

Abstract: Sex differences for chronic back pain (cBP) have been reported, with females usually exhibiting greater morbidity, severity, and poorer response to treatment. Genetic factors acting in an age-specific manner have been implicated but never comprehensively explored. We performed sex- and age-stratified genome-wide association study and single nucleotide polymorphism-by-sex interaction analysis for cBP defined as "Back pain for 3+ months" in 202,077 males and 237,754 females of European ancestry from UK Biobank. Two and 7 nonoverlapping genome-wide significant loci were identified for males and females, respectively. A male-specific locus on chromosome 10 near SPOCK2 gene was replicated in 4 independent cohorts. Four loci demonstrated single nucleotide polymorphism-by-sex interaction, although none of them were formally replicated. Single nucleotide polymorphism-explained heritability was higher in females (0.079 vs 0.067, P = 0.006). There was a high, although not complete, genetic correlation between the sexes (r = 0.838 ± 0.041, different from 1 with P = 7.8E-05). Genetic correlation between the sexes for cBP decreased with age (0.858 ± 0.049 in younger people vs 0.544 ± 0.157 in older people; P = 4.3E-05). There was a stronger genetic correlation of cBP with self-reported diagnosis of intervertebral disk degeneration in males than in females (0.889 vs 0.638; P = 3.7E-06). Thus, the genetic component of cBP in the UK Biobank exhibits a mild sex- and age-dependency. This provides an insight into the possible causes of sex- and age-specificity in epidemiology and pathophysiology of cBP and chronic pain at other anatomical sites.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002100DOI Listing
April 2021

Sex- and age-specific genetic analysis of chronic back pain.

Pain 2021 04;162(4):1176-1187

Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, School of Life Course Sciences, King's College London, London, United Kingdom.

Abstract: Sex differences for chronic back pain (cBP) have been reported, with females usually exhibiting greater morbidity, severity, and poorer response to treatment. Genetic factors acting in an age-specific manner have been implicated but never comprehensively explored. We performed sex- and age-stratified genome-wide association study and single nucleotide polymorphism-by-sex interaction analysis for cBP defined as "Back pain for 3+ months" in 202,077 males and 237,754 females of European ancestry from UK Biobank. Two and 7 nonoverlapping genome-wide significant loci were identified for males and females, respectively. A male-specific locus on chromosome 10 near SPOCK2 gene was replicated in 4 independent cohorts. Four loci demonstrated single nucleotide polymorphism-by-sex interaction, although none of them were formally replicated. Single nucleotide polymorphism-explained heritability was higher in females (0.079 vs 0.067, P = 0.006). There was a high, although not complete, genetic correlation between the sexes (r = 0.838 ± 0.041, different from 1 with P = 7.8E-05). Genetic correlation between the sexes for cBP decreased with age (0.858 ± 0.049 in younger people vs 0.544 ± 0.157 in older people; P = 4.3E-05). There was a stronger genetic correlation of cBP with self-reported diagnosis of intervertebral disk degeneration in males than in females (0.889 vs 0.638; P = 3.7E-06). Thus, the genetic component of cBP in the UK Biobank exhibits a mild sex- and age-dependency. This provides an insight into the possible causes of sex- and age-specificity in epidemiology and pathophysiology of cBP and chronic pain at other anatomical sites.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002100DOI Listing
April 2021
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