Publications by authors named "Katherine S Ruth"

41 Publications

Do sex hormones confound or mediate the effect of chronotype on breast and prostate cancer? A Mendelian randomization study.

PLoS Genet 2022 Jan 21;18(1):e1009887. Epub 2022 Jan 21.

MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.

Morning-preference chronotype has been found to be protective against breast and prostate cancer. Sex hormones have been implicated in relation to chronotype and the development of both cancers. This study aimed to assess whether sex hormones confound or mediate the effect of chronotype on breast and prostate cancer using a Mendelian Randomization (MR) framework. Genetic variants associated with chronotype and sex hormones (total testosterone, bioavailable testosterone, sex hormone binding globulin, and oestradiol) (p<5×10-8) were obtained from published genome-wide association studies (n≤244,207 females and n≤205,527 males). These variants were used to investigate causal relationships with breast (nCases/nControls = 133,384/113,789) and prostate (nCases/nControls = 79,148/61,106) cancer using univariable, bidirectional and multivariable MR. In females, we found evidence for: I) Reduced risk of breast cancer per category increase in morning-preference (OR = 0.93, 95% CI:0. 88, 1.00); II) Increased risk of breast cancer per SD increase in bioavailable testosterone (OR = 1.10, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.19) and total testosterone (OR = 1.15, 95% CI:1.07, 1.23); III) Bidirectional effects between morning-preference and both bioavailable and total testosterone (e.g. mean SD difference in bioavailable testosterone = -0.08, 95% CI:-0.12, -0.05 per category increase in morning-preference vs difference in morning-preference category = -0.04, 95% CI: -0.08, 0.00 per SD increase in bioavailable testosterone). In males, we found evidence for: I) Reduced risk of prostate cancer per category increase in morning-preference (OR = 0.90, 95% CI: 0.83, 0.97) and II) Increased risk of prostate cancer per SD increase in bioavailable testosterone (OR = 1.22, 95% CI: 1.08, 1.37). No bidirectional effects were found between morning-preference and testosterone in males. While testosterone levels were causally implicated with both chronotype and cancer, there was inconsistent evidence for testosterone as a mediator of the relationship. The protective effect of morning-preference on both breast and prostate cancer is clinically interesting, although it may be difficult to effectively modify chronotype. Further studies are needed to investigate other potentially modifiable intermediates.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1009887DOI Listing
January 2022

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

Genome-wide association study meta-analysis identifies three novel loci for circulating anti-Müllerian hormone levels in women.

medRxiv 2020 Nov 3. Epub 2020 Nov 3.

Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) is expressed by antral stage ovarian follicles in women. Consequently, circulating AMH levels are detectable until menopause. Variation in age-specific AMH levels has been associated with breast cancer and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), amongst other diseases. Identification of genetic variants underlying variation in AMH levels could provide clues about the physiological mechanisms that explain these AMH-disease associations. To date, only one variant in has been identified to be associated with circulating AMH levels in women. We aimed to identify additional variants for AMH through a GWAS meta-analysis including data from 7049 premenopausal women of European ancestry, which more than doubles the sample size of the largest previous GWAS. We identified four loci associated with AMH levels at p < 5×10 : the previously reported locus and three novel signals in or near , and . The strongest signal was a missense variant in the gene (rs10417628). Most prioritized genes at the other three identified loci were involved in cell cycle regulation. Genetic correlation analyses indicated a strong positive correlation among SNPs for AMH levels and for age at menopause (r = 0.82, FDR=0.003). Exploratory Mendelian randomization analyses did not support a causal effect of AMH on breast cancer or PCOS risk, but should be interpreted with caution as they may be underpowered and the validity of genetic instruments could not be extensively explored. In conclusion, we identified a variant in the gene and three other loci that may affect circulating AMH levels in women.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.10.29.20221390DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7654897PMC
November 2020

Large Copy-Number Variants in UK Biobank Caused by Clonal Hematopoiesis May Confound Penetrance Estimates.

Am J Hum Genet 2020 08 22;107(2):325-329. Epub 2020 Jun 22.

Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Science, University of Exeter Medical School, RILD Building, Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, Barrack Road, Exeter EX2 5DW, UK. Electronic address:

Large copy-number variants (CNVs) are strongly associated with both developmental delay and cancer, but the type of disease depends strongly on when and where the mutation occurred, i.e., germline versus somatic. We used microarray data from UK Biobank to investigate the prevalence and penetrance of large autosomal CNVs and chromosomal aneuploidies using a standard CNV detection algorithm not designed for detecting mosaic variants. We found 160 individuals that carry >10 Mb copy number changes, including 56 with whole chromosome aneuploidies. Nineteen (12%) individuals had a diagnosis of Down syndrome or other developmental disorder, while 84 (52.5%) individuals had a diagnosis of hematological malignancies or chronic myeloproliferative disorders. Notably, there was no evidence of mosaicism in the blood for many of these large CNVs, so they could easily be mistaken for germline alleles even when caused by somatic mutations. We therefore suggest that somatic mutations associated with blood cancers may result in false estimates of rare variant penetrance from population biobanks.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.06.001DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413842PMC
August 2020

Using human genetics to understand the disease impacts of testosterone in men and women.

Nat Med 2020 02 10;26(2):252-258. Epub 2020 Feb 10.

Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Testosterone supplementation is commonly used for its effects on sexual function, bone health and body composition, yet its effects on disease outcomes are unknown. To better understand this, we identified genetic determinants of testosterone levels and related sex hormone traits in 425,097 UK Biobank study participants. Using 2,571 genome-wide significant associations, we demonstrate that the genetic determinants of testosterone levels are substantially different between sexes and that genetically higher testosterone is harmful for metabolic diseases in women but beneficial in men. For example, a genetically determined 1 s.d. higher testosterone increases the risks of type 2 diabetes (odds ratio (OR) = 1.37 (95% confidence interval (95% CI): 1.22-1.53)) and polycystic ovary syndrome (OR = 1.51 (95% CI: 1.33-1.72)) in women, but reduces type 2 diabetes risk in men (OR = 0.86 (95% CI: 0.76-0.98)). We also show adverse effects of higher testosterone on breast and endometrial cancers in women and prostate cancer in men. Our findings provide insights into the disease impacts of testosterone and highlight the importance of sex-specific genetic analyses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-0751-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7025895PMC
February 2020

Maternal and fetal genetic effects on birth weight and their relevance to cardio-metabolic risk factors.

Nat Genet 2019 05 1;51(5):804-814. Epub 2019 May 1.

Medical Research Council Integrative Epidemiology Unit, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

Birth weight variation is influenced by fetal and maternal genetic and non-genetic factors, and has been reproducibly associated with future cardio-metabolic health outcomes. In expanded genome-wide association analyses of own birth weight (n = 321,223) and offspring birth weight (n = 230,069 mothers), we identified 190 independent association signals (129 of which are novel). We used structural equation modeling to decompose the contributions of direct fetal and indirect maternal genetic effects, then applied Mendelian randomization to illuminate causal pathways. For example, both indirect maternal and direct fetal genetic effects drive the observational relationship between lower birth weight and higher later blood pressure: maternal blood pressure-raising alleles reduce offspring birth weight, but only direct fetal effects of these alleles, once inherited, increase later offspring blood pressure. Using maternal birth weight-lowering genotypes to proxy for an adverse intrauterine environment provided no evidence that it causally raises offspring blood pressure, indicating that the inverse birth weight-blood pressure association is attributable to genetic effects, and not to intrauterine programming.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41588-019-0403-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6522365PMC
May 2019

Genetic studies of accelerometer-based sleep measures yield new insights into human sleep behaviour.

Nat Commun 2019 04 5;10(1):1585. Epub 2019 Apr 5.

Genetics of Complex Traits, College of Medicine and Health, University of Exeter, Exeter, EX2 5DW, UK.

Sleep is an essential human function but its regulation is poorly understood. Using accelerometer data from 85,670 UK Biobank participants, we perform a genome-wide association study of 8 derived sleep traits representing sleep quality, quantity and timing, and validate our findings in 5,819 individuals. We identify 47 genetic associations at P < 5 × 10, of which 20 reach a stricter threshold of P < 8 × 10. These include 26 novel associations with measures of sleep quality and 10 with nocturnal sleep duration. The majority of identified variants associate with a single sleep trait, except for variants previously associated with restless legs syndrome. For sleep duration we identify a missense variant (p.Tyr727Cys) in PDE11A as the likely causal variant. As a group, sleep quality loci are enriched for serotonin processing genes. Although accelerometer-derived measures of sleep are imperfect and may be affected by restless legs syndrome, these findings provide new biological insights into sleep compared to previous efforts based on self-report sleep measures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09576-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6451011PMC
April 2019

Protein-coding variants implicate novel genes related to lipid homeostasis contributing to body-fat distribution.

Nat Genet 2019 03 18;51(3):452-469. Epub 2019 Feb 18.

Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Genetics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.

Body-fat distribution is a risk factor for adverse cardiovascular health consequences. We analyzed the association of body-fat distribution, assessed by waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for body mass index, with 228,985 predicted coding and splice site variants available on exome arrays in up to 344,369 individuals from five major ancestries (discovery) and 132,177 European-ancestry individuals (validation). We identified 15 common (minor allele frequency, MAF ≥5%) and nine low-frequency or rare (MAF <5%) coding novel variants. Pathway/gene set enrichment analyses identified lipid particle, adiponectin, abnormal white adipose tissue physiology and bone development and morphology as important contributors to fat distribution, while cross-trait associations highlight cardiometabolic traits. In functional follow-up analyses, specifically in Drosophila RNAi-knockdowns, we observed a significant increase in the total body triglyceride levels for two genes (DNAH10 and PLXND1). We implicate novel genes in fat distribution, stressing the importance of interrogating low-frequency and protein-coding variants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41588-018-0334-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6560635PMC
March 2019

Genome-wide association analyses of chronotype in 697,828 individuals provides insights into circadian rhythms.

Nat Commun 2019 01 29;10(1):343. Epub 2019 Jan 29.

23andMe Inc., 899W. Evelyn Avenue, Mountain View, CA, 94041, USA.

Being a morning person is a behavioural indicator of a person's underlying circadian rhythm. Using genome-wide data from 697,828 UK Biobank and 23andMe participants we increase the number of genetic loci associated with being a morning person from 24 to 351. Using data from 85,760 individuals with activity-monitor derived measures of sleep timing we find that the chronotype loci associate with sleep timing: the mean sleep timing of the 5% of individuals carrying the most morningness alleles is 25 min earlier than the 5% carrying the fewest. The loci are enriched for genes involved in circadian regulation, cAMP, glutamate and insulin signalling pathways, and those expressed in the retina, hindbrain, hypothalamus, and pituitary. Using Mendelian Randomisation, we show that being a morning person is causally associated with better mental health but does not affect BMI or risk of Type 2 diabetes. This study offers insights into circadian biology and its links to disease in humans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-08259-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6351539PMC
January 2019

Genome-wide association study of anti-Müllerian hormone levels in pre-menopausal women of late reproductive age and relationship with genetic determinants of reproductive lifespan.

Hum Mol Genet 2019 04;28(8):1392-1401

Genetics of Complex Traits, University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK.

Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) is required for sexual differentiation in the fetus, and in adult females AMH is produced by growing ovarian follicles. Consequently, AMH levels are correlated with ovarian reserve, declining towards menopause when the oocyte pool is exhausted. A previous genome-wide association study identified three genetic variants in and around the AMH gene that explained 25% of variation in AMH levels in adolescent males but did not identify any genetic associations reaching genome-wide significance in adolescent females. To explore the role of genetic variation in determining AMH levels in women of late reproductive age, we carried out a genome-wide meta-analysis in 3344 pre-menopausal women from five cohorts (median age 44-48 years at blood draw). A single genetic variant, rs16991615, previously associated with age at menopause, reached genome-wide significance at P = 3.48 × 10-10, with a per allele difference in age-adjusted inverse normal AMH of 0.26 standard deviations (SD) (95% confidence interval (CI) [0.18,0.34]). We investigated whether genetic determinants of female reproductive lifespan were more generally associated with pre-menopausal AMH levels. Genetically-predicted age at menarche had no robust association but genetically-predicted age at menopause was associated with lower AMH levels by 0.18 SD (95% CI [0.14,0.21]) in age-adjusted inverse normal AMH per one-year earlier age at menopause. Our findings provide genetic support for the well-established use of AMH as a marker of ovarian reserve.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddz015DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6452199PMC
April 2019

GWAS Identifies Risk Locus for Erectile Dysfunction and Implicates Hypothalamic Neurobiology and Diabetes in Etiology.

Am J Hum Genet 2019 01 21;104(1):157-163. Epub 2018 Dec 21.

National Institute for Health Research Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Oxford University Hospital, Old Road, Oxford OX3 7LE, UK; Clinical Trial Service Unit & Epidemiological Studies Unit (CTSU), Nuffield Department of Population Health, Big Data Institute Building, Roosevelt Drive, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK; Medical Research Council Population Health Research Unit at the University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common condition affecting more than 20% of men over 60 years, yet little is known about its genetic architecture. We performed a genome-wide association study of ED in 6,175 case subjects among 223,805 European men and identified one locus at 6q16.3 (lead variant rs57989773, OR 1.20 per C-allele; p = 5.71 × 10), located between MCHR2 and SIM1. In silico analysis suggests SIM1 to confer ED risk through hypothalamic dysregulation. Mendelian randomization provides evidence that genetic risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus is a cause of ED (OR 1.11 per 1-log unit higher risk of type 2 diabetes). These findings provide insights into the biological underpinnings and the causes of ED and may help prioritize the development of future therapies for this common disorder.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2018.11.004DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6323625PMC
January 2019

Using genetics to understand the causal influence of higher BMI on depression.

Int J Epidemiol 2019 06;48(3):834-848

Australian Centre for Precision Health, University of South Australia Cancer Research Institute, Adelaide, SA, Australia.

Background: Depression is more common in obese than non-obese individuals, especially in women, but the causal relationship between obesity and depression is complex and uncertain. Previous studies have used genetic variants associated with BMI to provide evidence that higher body mass index (BMI) causes depression, but have not tested whether this relationship is driven by the metabolic consequences of BMI nor for differences between men and women.

Methods: We performed a Mendelian randomization study using 48 791 individuals with depression and 291 995 controls in the UK Biobank, to test for causal effects of higher BMI on depression (defined using self-report and Hospital Episode data). We used two genetic instruments, both representing higher BMI, but one with and one without its adverse metabolic consequences, in an attempt to 'uncouple' the psychological component of obesity from the metabolic consequences. We further tested causal relationships in men and women separately, and using subsets of BMI variants from known physiological pathways.

Results: Higher BMI was strongly associated with higher odds of depression, especially in women. Mendelian randomization provided evidence that higher BMI partly causes depression. Using a 73-variant BMI genetic risk score, a genetically determined one standard deviation (1 SD) higher BMI (4.9 kg/m2) was associated with higher odds of depression in all individuals [odds ratio (OR): 1.18, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.09, 1.28, P = 0.00007) and women only (OR: 1.24, 95% CI: 1.11, 1.39, P = 0.0001). Meta-analysis with 45 591 depression cases and 97 647 controls from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) strengthened the statistical confidence of the findings in all individuals. Similar effect size estimates were obtained using different Mendelian randomization methods, although not all reached P < 0.05. Using a metabolically favourable adiposity genetic risk score, and meta-analysing data from the UK biobank and PGC, a genetically determined 1 SD higher BMI (4.9 kg/m2) was associated with higher odds of depression in all individuals (OR: 1.26, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.50], P = 0.010), but with weaker statistical confidence.

Conclusions: Higher BMI, with and without its adverse metabolic consequences, is likely to have a causal role in determining the likelihood of an individual developing depression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyy223DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6659462PMC
June 2019

Genome-Wide and Abdominal MRI Data Provide Evidence That a Genetically Determined Favorable Adiposity Phenotype Is Characterized by Lower Ectopic Liver Fat and Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Hypertension.

Diabetes 2019 01 23;68(1):207-219. Epub 2018 Oct 23.

Section of Investigative Medicine, Imperial College London, London, U.K.

Recent genetic studies have identified alleles associated with opposite effects on adiposity and risk of type 2 diabetes. We aimed to identify more of these variants and test the hypothesis that such favorable adiposity alleles are associated with higher subcutaneous fat and lower ectopic fat. We combined MRI data with genome-wide association studies of body fat percentage (%) and metabolic traits. We report 14 alleles, including 7 newly characterized alleles, associated with higher adiposity but a favorable metabolic profile. Consistent with previous studies, individuals carrying more favorable adiposity alleles had higher body fat % and higher BMI but lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. These individuals also had higher subcutaneous fat but lower liver fat and a lower visceral-to-subcutaneous adipose tissue ratio. Individual alleles associated with higher body fat % but lower liver fat and lower risk of type 2 diabetes included those in , , and , whereas the allele in was paradoxically associated with higher visceral fat but lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Most identified favorable adiposity alleles are associated with higher subcutaneous and lower liver fat, a mechanism consistent with the beneficial effects of storing excess triglycerides in metabolically low-risk depots.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2337/db18-0708DOI Listing
January 2019

Mosaic Turner syndrome shows reduced penetrance in an adult population study.

Genet Med 2019 04 5;21(4):877-886. Epub 2018 Sep 5.

Genetics of Complex Traits, University of Exeter Medical School, RILD Level 3, Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, Barrack Road, Exeter, UK.

Purpose: Many women with X chromosome aneuploidy undergo lifetime clinical monitoring for possible complications. However, ascertainment of cases in the clinic may mean that the penetrance has been overestimated.

Methods: We characterized the prevalence and phenotypic consequences of X chromosome aneuploidy in a population of 244,848 women over 40 years of age from UK Biobank, using single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array data.

Results: We detected 30 women with 45,X; 186 with mosaic 45,X/46,XX; and 110 with 47,XXX. The prevalence of nonmosaic 45,X (12/100,000) and 47,XXX (45/100,000) was lower than expected, but was higher for mosaic 45,X/46,XX (76/100,000). The characteristics of women with 45,X were consistent with the characteristics of a clinically recognized Turner syndrome phenotype, including short stature and primary amenorrhea. In contrast, women with mosaic 45,X/46,XX were less short, had a normal reproductive lifespan and birth rate, and no reported cardiovascular complications. The phenotype of women with 47,XXX included taller stature (5.3 cm; SD = 5.52 cm; P = 5.8 × 10) and earlier menopause age (5.12 years; SD = 5.1 years; P = 1.2 × 10).

Conclusion: Our results suggest that the clinical management of women with 45,X/46,XX mosaicism should be minimal, particularly those identified incidentally.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41436-018-0271-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6752315PMC
April 2019

A Common Allele in FGF21 Associated with Sugar Intake Is Associated with Body Shape, Lower Total Body-Fat Percentage, and Higher Blood Pressure.

Cell Rep 2018 Apr;23(2):327-336

Genetics of Complex Traits, University of Exeter Medical School, RILD Level 3, Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, Barrack Road, Exeter EX2 5DW, UK.

Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is a hormone that has insulin-sensitizing properties. Some trials of FGF21 analogs show weight loss and lipid-lowering effects. Recent studies have shown that a common allele in the FGF21 gene alters the balance of macronutrients consumed, but there was little evidence of an effect on metabolic traits. We studied a common FGF21 allele (A:rs838133) in 451,099 people from the UK Biobank study, aiming to use the human allele to inform potential adverse and beneficial effects of targeting FGF21. We replicated the association between the A allele and higher percentage carbohydrate intake. We then showed that this allele is more strongly associated with higher blood pressure and waist-hip ratio, despite an association with lower total body-fat percentage, than it is with BMI or type 2 diabetes. These human phenotypes of variation in the FGF21 gene will inform research into FGF21's mechanisms and therapeutic potential.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2018.03.070DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5912948PMC
April 2018

Publisher Correction: Protein-altering variants associated with body mass index implicate pathways that control energy intake and expenditure in obesity.

Nat Genet 2018 05;50(5):766-767

Department of Genetic Epidemiology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

In the version of this article originally published, one of the two authors with the name Wei Zhao was omitted from the author list and the affiliations for both authors were assigned to the single Wei Zhao in the author list. In addition, the ORCID for Wei Zhao (Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA) was incorrectly assigned to author Wei Zhou. The errors have been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the article.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41588-018-0082-3DOI Listing
May 2018

Genome-wide association study of offspring birth weight in 86 577 women identifies five novel loci and highlights maternal genetic effects that are independent of fetal genetics.

Hum Mol Genet 2018 02;27(4):742-756

FIMM Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, Helsinki University, Helsinki FI-00014, Finland.

Genome-wide association studies of birth weight have focused on fetal genetics, whereas relatively little is known about the role of maternal genetic variation. We aimed to identify maternal genetic variants associated with birth weight that could highlight potentially relevant maternal determinants of fetal growth. We meta-analysed data on up to 8.7 million SNPs in up to 86 577 women of European descent from the Early Growth Genetics (EGG) Consortium and the UK Biobank. We used structural equation modelling (SEM) and analyses of mother-child pairs to quantify the separate maternal and fetal genetic effects. Maternal SNPs at 10 loci (MTNR1B, HMGA2, SH2B3, KCNAB1, L3MBTL3, GCK, EBF1, TCF7L2, ACTL9, CYP3A7) were associated with offspring birth weight at P < 5 × 10-8. In SEM analyses, at least 7 of the 10 associations were consistent with effects of the maternal genotype acting via the intrauterine environment, rather than via effects of shared alleles with the fetus. Variants, or correlated proxies, at many of the loci had been previously associated with adult traits, including fasting glucose (MTNR1B, GCK and TCF7L2) and sex hormone levels (CYP3A7), and one (EBF1) with gestational duration. The identified associations indicate that genetic effects on maternal glucose, cytochrome P450 activity and gestational duration, and potentially on maternal blood pressure and immune function, are relevant for fetal growth. Further characterization of these associations in mechanistic and causal analyses will enhance understanding of the potentially modifiable maternal determinants of fetal growth, with the goal of reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with low and high birth weights.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddx429DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5886200PMC
February 2018

Protein-altering variants associated with body mass index implicate pathways that control energy intake and expenditure in obesity.

Nat Genet 2018 01 22;50(1):26-41. Epub 2017 Dec 22.

Department of Genetic Epidemiology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified >250 loci for body mass index (BMI), implicating pathways related to neuronal biology. Most GWAS loci represent clusters of common, noncoding variants from which pinpointing causal genes remains challenging. Here we combined data from 718,734 individuals to discover rare and low-frequency (minor allele frequency (MAF) < 5%) coding variants associated with BMI. We identified 14 coding variants in 13 genes, of which 8 variants were in genes (ZBTB7B, ACHE, RAPGEF3, RAB21, ZFHX3, ENTPD6, ZFR2 and ZNF169) newly implicated in human obesity, 2 variants were in genes (MC4R and KSR2) previously observed to be mutated in extreme obesity and 2 variants were in GIPR. The effect sizes of rare variants are ~10 times larger than those of common variants, with the largest effect observed in carriers of an MC4R mutation introducing a stop codon (p.Tyr35Ter, MAF = 0.01%), who weighed ~7 kg more than non-carriers. Pathway analyses based on the variants associated with BMI confirm enrichment of neuronal genes and provide new evidence for adipocyte and energy expenditure biology, widening the potential of genetically supported therapeutic targets in obesity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41588-017-0011-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5945951PMC
January 2018

CNV-association meta-analysis in 191,161 European adults reveals new loci associated with anthropometric traits.

Nat Commun 2017 09 29;8(1):744. Epub 2017 Sep 29.

Department of Genetics, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, 9713 GZ, The Netherlands.

There are few examples of robust associations between rare copy number variants (CNVs) and complex continuous human traits. Here we present a large-scale CNV association meta-analysis on anthropometric traits in up to 191,161 adult samples from 26 cohorts. The study reveals five CNV associations at 1q21.1, 3q29, 7q11.23, 11p14.2, and 18q21.32 and confirms two known loci at 16p11.2 and 22q11.21, implicating at least one anthropometric trait. The discovered CNVs are recurrent and rare (0.01-0.2%), with large effects on height (>2.4 cm), weight (>5 kg), and body mass index (BMI) (>3.5 kg/m). Burden analysis shows a 0.41 cm decrease in height, a 0.003 increase in waist-to-hip ratio and increase in BMI by 0.14 kg/m for each Mb of total deletion burden (P = 2.5 × 10, 6.0 × 10, and 2.9 × 10). Our study provides evidence that the same genes (e.g., MC4R, FIBIN, and FMO5) harbor both common and rare variants affecting body size and that anthropometric traits share genetic loci with developmental and psychiatric disorders.Individual SNPs have small effects on anthropometric traits, yet the impact of CNVs has remained largely unknown. Here, Kutalik and co-workers perform a large-scale genome-wide meta-analysis of structural variation and find rare CNVs associated with height, weight and BMI with large effect sizes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017-00556-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622064PMC
September 2017

Red blood cell distribution width: Genetic evidence for aging pathways in 116,666 volunteers.

PLoS One 2017 28;12(9):e0185083. Epub 2017 Sep 28.

Epidemiology and Public Health Group, University of Exeter Medical School, RILD Level 3, Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, Exeter, EX2 5DW, United Kingdom.

Introduction: Variability in red blood cell volumes (distribution width, RDW) increases with age and is strongly predictive of mortality, incident coronary heart disease and cancer. We investigated inherited genetic variation associated with RDW in 116,666 UK Biobank human volunteers.

Results: A large proportion RDW is explained by genetic variants (29%), especially in the older group (60+ year olds, 33.8%, <50 year olds, 28.4%). RDW was associated with 194 independent genetic signals; 71 are known for conditions including autoimmune disease, certain cancers, BMI, Alzheimer's disease, longevity, age at menopause, bone density, myositis, Parkinson's disease, and age-related macular degeneration. Exclusion of anemic participants did not affect the overall findings. Pathways analysis showed enrichment for telomere maintenance, ribosomal RNA, and apoptosis. The majority of RDW-associated signals were intronic (119 of 194), including SNP rs6602909 located in an intron of oncogene GAS6, an eQTL in whole blood.

Conclusions: Although increased RDW is predictive of cardiovascular outcomes, this was not explained by known CVD or related lipid genetic risks, and a RDW genetic score was not predictive of incident disease. The predictive value of RDW for a range of negative health outcomes may in part be due to variants influencing fundamental pathways of aging.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0185083PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5619771PMC
October 2017

Genomic analyses identify hundreds of variants associated with age at menarche and support a role for puberty timing in cancer risk.

Nat Genet 2017 Jun 24;49(6):834-841. Epub 2017 Apr 24.

Institute of Genetics and Biophysics, CNR, Naples, Italy.

The timing of puberty is a highly polygenic childhood trait that is epidemiologically associated with various adult diseases. Using 1000 Genomes Project-imputed genotype data in up to ∼370,000 women, we identify 389 independent signals (P < 5 × 10) for age at menarche, a milestone in female pubertal development. In Icelandic data, these signals explain ∼7.4% of the population variance in age at menarche, corresponding to ∼25% of the estimated heritability. We implicate ∼250 genes via coding variation or associated expression, demonstrating significant enrichment in neural tissues. Rare variants near the imprinted genes MKRN3 and DLK1 were identified, exhibiting large effects when paternally inherited. Mendelian randomization analyses suggest causal inverse associations, independent of body mass index (BMI), between puberty timing and risks for breast and endometrial cancers in women and prostate cancer in men. In aggregate, our findings highlight the complexity of the genetic regulation of puberty timing and support causal links with cancer susceptibility.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.3841DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5841952PMC
June 2017

Rare and low-frequency coding variants alter human adult height.

Nature 2017 02 1;542(7640):186-190. Epub 2017 Feb 1.

Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation, Utrecht, 3501 DB, The Netherlands.

Height is a highly heritable, classic polygenic trait with approximately 700 common associated variants identified through genome-wide association studies so far. Here, we report 83 height-associated coding variants with lower minor-allele frequencies (in the range of 0.1-4.8%) and effects of up to 2 centimetres per allele (such as those in IHH, STC2, AR and CRISPLD2), greater than ten times the average effect of common variants. In functional follow-up studies, rare height-increasing alleles of STC2 (giving an increase of 1-2 centimetres per allele) compromised proteolytic inhibition of PAPP-A and increased cleavage of IGFBP-4 in vitro, resulting in higher bioavailability of insulin-like growth factors. These 83 height-associated variants overlap genes that are mutated in monogenic growth disorders and highlight new biological candidates (such as ADAMTS3, IL11RA and NOX4) and pathways (such as proteoglycan and glycosaminoglycan synthesis) involved in growth. Our results demonstrate that sufficiently large sample sizes can uncover rare and low-frequency variants of moderate-to-large effect associated with polygenic human phenotypes, and that these variants implicate relevant genes and pathways.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature21039DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5302847PMC
February 2017

Gene-obesogenic environment interactions in the UK Biobank study.

Int J Epidemiol 2017 04;46(2):559-575

Genetics of Complex Traits, University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter, UK.

Background: Previous studies have suggested that modern obesogenic environments accentuate the genetic risk of obesity. However, these studies have proven controversial as to which, if any, measures of the environment accentuate genetic susceptibility to high body mass index (BMI).

Methods: We used up to 120 000 adults from the UK Biobank study to test the hypothesis that high-risk obesogenic environments and behaviours accentuate genetic susceptibility to obesity. We used BMI as the outcome and a 69-variant genetic risk score (GRS) for obesity and 12 measures of the obesogenic environment as exposures. These measures included Townsend deprivation index (TDI) as a measure of socio-economic position, TV watching, a 'Westernized' diet and physical activity. We performed several negative control tests, including randomly selecting groups of different average BMIs, using a simulated environment and including sun-protection use as an environment.

Results: We found gene-environment interactions with TDI (Pinteraction = 3 × 10 -10 ), self-reported TV watching (Pinteraction = 7 × 10 -5 ) and self-reported physical activity (Pinteraction = 5 × 10 -6 ). Within the group of 50% living in the most relatively deprived situations, carrying 10 additional BMI-raising alleles was associated with approximately 3.8 kg extra weight in someone 1.73 m tall. In contrast, within the group of 50% living in the least deprivation, carrying 10 additional BMI-raising alleles was associated with approximately 2.9 kg extra weight. The interactions were weaker, but present, with the negative controls, including sun-protection use, indicating that residual confounding is likely.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the obesogenic environment accentuates the risk of obesity in genetically susceptible adults. Of the factors we tested, relative social deprivation best captures the aspects of the obesogenic environment responsible.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyw337DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5837271PMC
April 2017

Quantifying the extent to which index event biases influence large genetic association studies.

Hum Mol Genet 2017 03;26(5):1018-1030

Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne 1010, Switzerland.

As genetic association studies increase in size to 100 000s of individuals, subtle biases may influence conclusions. One possible bias is 'index event bias' (IEB) that appears due to the stratification by, or enrichment for, disease status when testing associations between genetic variants and a disease-associated trait. We aimed to test the extent to which IEB influences some known trait associations in a range of study designs and provide a statistical framework for assessing future associations. Analyzing data from 113 203 non-diabetic UK Biobank participants, we observed three (near TCF7L2, CDKN2AB and CDKAL1) overestimated (body mass index (BMI) decreasing) and one (near MTNR1B) underestimated (BMI increasing) associations among 11 type 2 diabetes risk alleles (at P  <  0.05). IEB became even stronger when we tested a type 2 diabetes genetic risk score composed of these 11 variants (-0.010 standard deviations BMI per allele, P  =  5 × 10- 4), which was confirmed in four additional independent studies. Similar results emerged when examining the effect of blood pressure increasing alleles on BMI in normotensive UK Biobank samples. Furthermore, we demonstrated that, under realistic scenarios, common disease alleles would become associated at P <  5 × 10- 8 with disease-related traits through IEB alone, if disease prevalence in the sample differs appreciably from the background population prevalence. For example, some hypertension and type 2 diabetes alleles will be associated with BMI in sample sizes of  >500 000 if the prevalence of those diseases differs by >10% from the background population. In conclusion, IEB may result in false positive or negative genetic associations in very large studies stratified or strongly enriched for/against disease cases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddw433DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5661557PMC
March 2017

Genome-wide associations for birth weight and correlations with adult disease.

Nature 2016 10 28;538(7624):248-252. Epub 2016 Sep 28.

Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

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). 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 (R = -0.22, P = 5.5 × 10), T2D (R = -0.27, P = 1.1 × 10) and coronary artery disease (R = -0.30, P = 6.5 × 10). 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). 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.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature19806DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5164934PMC
October 2016

Length of FMR1 repeat alleles within the normal range does not substantially affect the risk of early menopause.

Hum Reprod 2016 10 9;31(10):2396-403. Epub 2016 Sep 9.

Genetics of Complex Traits, University of Exeter Medical School, RILD Level 3, Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, Barrack Road, Exeter, EX2 5DW, UK

Study Question: Is the length of FMR1 repeat alleles within the normal range associated with the risk of early menopause?

Summary Answer: The length of repeat alleles within the normal range does not substantially affect risk of early menopause.

What Is Known Already: There is a strong, well-established relationship between length of premutation FMR1 alleles and age at menopause, suggesting that this relationship could continue into the normal range. Within the normal range, there is conflicting evidence; differences in ovarian reserve have been identified with FMR1 repeat allele length, but a recent population-based study did not find any association with age at menopause as a quantitative trait.

Study Design, Size, Duration: We analysed cross-sectional baseline survey data collected at recruitment from 2004 to 2010 from a population-based, prospective epidemiological cohort study of >110 000 women to investigate whether repeat allele length was associated with early menopause.

Participants/materials, Setting, Method: We included 4333 women from the Breakthrough Generations Study (BGS), of whom 2118 were early menopause cases (menopause under 46 years) and 2215 were controls. We analysed the relationship between length of FMR1 alleles and early menopause using logistic regression with allele length as continuous and categorical variables. We also conducted analyses with the outcome age at menopause as a quantitative trait as well as appropriate sensitivity and exploratory analyses.

Main Results And The Role Of Chance: There was no association of the shorter or longer FMR1 allele or their combined genotype with the clinically relevant end point of early menopause in our main analysis. Likewise, there were no associations with age at menopause as a quantitative trait in our secondary analysis.

Limitations, Reasons For Caution: Women with homozygous alleles in the normal range may have undetected FMR1 premutation alleles, although there was no evidence to suggest this. We estimate minor dilution of risk of early menopause from the likely inclusion of some women with menopause at over 45 years in the early menopause cases due to age-rounding bias in self-reports.

Wider Implications Of The Findings: There is no robust evidence in this large study that variation within the normal range of FMR1 repeat alleles influences timing of menopause in the general population, which contradicts findings from some earlier, mainly smaller studies. The FMR1 CGG repeat polymorphism in the normal range is unlikely to contribute to genetic susceptibility to early menopause.

Study Funding/competing Interests: We thank Breast Cancer Now and The Institute of Cancer Research for funding the BGS. The Institute of Cancer Research acknowledges NHS funding to the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre. The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust (grant number 085943). There are no competing interests.

Trial Registration Number: Not applicable.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/humrep/dew204DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5027929PMC
October 2016

Lessons from Genome-Wide Association Studies in Reproductive Medicine: Menopause.

Semin Reprod Med 2016 07 11;34(4):215-23. Epub 2016 Aug 11.

Genetics of Complex Traits, University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter, United Kingdom.

In recent years, common genetic variants have been identified by genome-wide association studies (GWASs) that have led to the detection of 44 genetic loci associated with approximately 6% of common variation in age at natural menopause. In the latest GWAS, doubling the sample size to approximately 70,000 women more than doubled the number of signals identified, from 17 to 56. In addition, low-frequency coding variants (< 5% minor allele frequency), with relatively large effect sizes, have been identified in two genes, by analyzing genome-wide exome data. GWAS has been very successful in identifying novel biological pathways involved in reproductive aging. Approximately two-thirds of the loci reported so far include genes involved in DNA damage response (DDR), highlighting the importance of this pathway in determining oocyte reserve. In addition, GWAS demonstrates that the hypothalamic-pituitary axis is involved in menopause timing as well as puberty timing, showing the first genetic link between timing of the start and end of reproductive life. Genetic variants have been used to explore the causal relationships between menopause timing and breast cancer. These studies demonstrate that for a 1 year increase in menopause age, there is a 6% increase in breast cancer risk, a value approximately double the estimate from epidemiological studies. Prolonged exposure to estrogen during reproductive life is the likely mechanism, rather than a direct effect of DDR variants on cancer risk. Further work is needed to determine the mechanism for the effect of each variant identified by GWAS and more variants will undoubtedly be discovered as sample sizes increase, denser single nucleotide polymorphism arrays and reference genomes are used, and populations from diverse ethnic groups are studied.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1055/s-0036-1585404DOI Listing
July 2016
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