Publications by authors named "L Ligthart"

66 Publications

Gene-by-Crisis Interaction for Optimism and Meaning in Life: The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Behav Genet 2021 Sep 13. Epub 2021 Sep 13.

Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the restrictions to reduce the spread of the virus has had a large impact on daily life. We investigated the individual differences in the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and first lockdown on optimism and meaning in life in a sample from the Netherlands Twin Register. Participants completed surveys before (N = 9964, Mean age: 48.2, SD = 14.4) and during the first months of the pandemic (i.e. April-May 2020, N = 17,464, Mean age: 44.6 SD = 14.8), with a subsample completing both surveys (N = 6461, Mean age T1: 48.8, SD = 14.5). We applied genetic covariance structure models to twin data to investigate changes in the genetic architecture of the outcome traits due to the pandemic and the interaction of genes with the environmental exposure. Although 56% and 35% of the sample was negatively affected by the pandemic in their optimism and meaning in life, many participants were stable (32% and 43%) or even showed increased optimism and meaning in life (11% and 22%). Subgroups, specifically women, higher educated people, and people with poorer health, experienced larger negative effects. During the first months of the pandemic, slightly lower heritability estimates for optimism and meaning in life (respectively 20% and 25%) were obtained compared to pre-pandemic (respectively 26% and 32%), although confidence intervals overlap. The lower than unity genetic correlations across time (.75 and .63) suggest gene-environment interactions, where the expression of genes that influence optimism and meaning in life differs before and during the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic is a strong exposure that leads to imbalanced effects on the well-being of individuals. Some people decrease in well-being, while others get more optimistic and consider their lives as more meaningful during the pandemic. These differences are partly explained by individual differences in genetic sensitivity to extreme environmental change. More knowledge on the person-specific response to specific environmental variables underlying these individual differences is urgently needed to prevent further inequality.
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September 2021

Predicting Complex Traits and Exposures From Polygenic Scores and Blood and Buccal DNA Methylation Profiles.

Front Psychiatry 2021 29;12:688464. Epub 2021 Jul 29.

Department of Biological Psychology, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

We examined the performance of methylation scores (MS) and polygenic scores (PGS) for birth weight, BMI, prenatal maternal smoking exposure, and smoking status to assess the extent to which MS could predict these traits and exposures over and above the PGS in a multi-omics prediction model. MS may be seen as the epigenetic equivalent of PGS, but because of their dynamic nature and sensitivity of non-genetic exposures may add to complex trait prediction independently of PGS. MS and PGS were calculated based on genotype data and DNA-methylation data in blood samples from adults (Illumina 450 K; = 2,431; mean age 35.6) and in buccal samples from children (Illumina EPIC; = 1,128; mean age 9.6) from the Netherlands Twin Register. Weights to construct the scores were obtained from results of large epigenome-wide association studies (EWASs) based on whole blood or cord blood methylation data and genome-wide association studies (GWASs). In adults, MSs in blood predicted independently from PGSs, and outperformed PGSs for BMI, prenatal maternal smoking, and smoking status, but not for birth weight. The largest amount of variance explained by the multi-omics prediction model was for current vs. never smoking (54.6%) of which 54.4% was captured by the MS. The two predictors captured 16% of former vs. never smoking initiation variance (MS:15.5%, PGS: 0.5%), 17.7% of prenatal maternal smoking variance (MS:16.9%, PGS: 0.8%), 11.9% of BMI variance (MS: 6.4%, PGS 5.5%), and 1.9% of birth weight variance (MS: 0.4%, PGS: 1.5%). In children, MSs in buccal samples did not show independent predictive value. The largest amount of variance explained by the two predictors was for prenatal maternal smoking (2.6%), where the MSs contributed 1.5%. These results demonstrate that blood DNA MS in adults explain substantial variance in current smoking, large variance in former smoking, prenatal smoking, and BMI, but not in birth weight. Buccal cell DNA methylation scores have lower predictive value, which could be due to different tissues in the EWAS discovery studies and target sample, as well as to different ages. This study illustrates the value of combining polygenic scores with information from methylation data for complex traits and exposure prediction.
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July 2021

Male microchimerism in females: a quantitative study of twin pedigrees to investigate mechanisms.

Hum Reprod 2021 Aug;36(9):2529-2537

Amsterdam Reproduction and Development (AR&D) Research Institute, Amsterdam UMC, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Study Question: Does having a male co-twin, older brothers, or sons lead to an increased probability of persistent male microchimerism in female members of twin pedigrees?

Summary Answer: The presence of a male co-twin did not increase risk of male microchimerism and the prevalence of male microchimerism was not explained by having male offspring or by having an older brother.

What Is Known Already: Microchimerism describes the presence of cells within an organism that originate from another zygote and is commonly described as resulting from pregnancy in placental mammals. It is associated with diseases with a female predilection including autoimmune diseases and pregnancy-related complications. However, microchimerism also occurs in nulliparous women; signifying gaps in the understanding of risk factors contributing to persistent microchimerism and the origin of the minor cell population.

Study Design, Size, Duration: This cross-sectional study composed of 446 adult female participants of the Netherlands Twin Register (NTR).

Participants/materials, Setting, Methods: Participants included in the study were female monozygotic (MZ) twins, female dizygotic same-sex twins and females of dizygotic opposite-sex twin pairs, along with the mothers and sisters of these twins. Peripheral blood samples collected from adult female participants underwent DNA extraction and were biobanked prior to the study. To detect the presence of male-origin microchimerism, DNA samples were tested for the relative quantity of male specific Y chromosome gene DYS14 compared to a common β-globin gene using a highly sensitive quantitative PCR assay.

Main Results And The Role Of Chance: We observed a large number of women (26.9%) having detectable male microchimerism in their peripheral blood samples. The presence of a male co-twin did not increase risk of male microchimerism (odds ratio (OR) = 1.23: SE 0.40, P = 0.61) and the prevalence of male microchimerism was not explained by having male offspring (OR 0.90: SE 0.19, P = 0.63) or by having an older brother (OR = 1.46: SE 0.32, P = 0.09). The resemblance (correlation) for the presence of microchimerism was similar (P = 0.66) in MZ pairs (0.27; SE 0.37) and in first-degree relatives (0.091; SE 0.092). However, age had a positive relationship with the presence of male microchimerism (P = 0.02).

Limitations, Reasons For Caution: After stratifying for variables of interest, some participant groups resulted in a low numbers of subjects. We investigated microchimerism in peripheral blood due to the proposed mechanism of cell acquisition via transplacental blood exchange; however, this does not represent global chimerism in the individual and microchimerism may localize to numerous other tissues.

Wider Implications Of The Findings: Immune regulation during pregnancy is known to mitigate allosensitization and support tolerance to non-inherited antigens found on donor cells. While unable to identify a specific source that promotes microchimerism prevalence within pedigrees, this study points to the underlying complexities of natural microchimerism in the general population. These findings support previous studies which have identified the presence of male microchimerism among women with no history of pregnancy, suggesting alternative sources of microchimerism. The association of detectable male microchimerism with age is suggestive of additional factors including time, molecular characteristics and environment playing a critical role in the prevalence of persistent microchimerism. The present study necessitates investigation into the molecular underpinnings of natural chimerism to provide insight into women's health, transplant medicine and immunology.

Study Funding/competing Interest(s): This work is funded by Royal Netherlands Academy of Science Professor Award (PAH/6635 to D.I.B.); The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw)-Genotype/phenotype database for behavior genetic and genetic epidemiological studies (ZonMw 911-09-032); Biobanking and Biomolecular Research Infrastructure (BBMRI-NL, 184.021.007; 184.033.111); The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)-Netherlands Twin Registry Repository (NWO-Groot 480-15-001/674); the National Institutes of Health-The Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository cooperative agreement (NIMH U24 MH068457-06), Grand Opportunity grants Integration of genomics and transcriptomics in normal twins and major depression (NIMH 1RC2 MH089951-01), and Developmental trajectories of psychopathology (NIMH 1RC2 MH089995); and European Research Council-Genetics of Mental Illness (ERC 230374). C.B.L. declares a competing interest as editor-in-chief of Human Reproduction and his department receives unrestricted research grants from Ferring, Merck and Guerbet. All remaining authors have no conflict-of-interest to declare in regards to this work.

Trial Registration Number: N/A.
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August 2021

Ketone body 3-hydroxybutyrate as a biomarker of aggression.

Sci Rep 2021 Mar 12;11(1):5813. Epub 2021 Mar 12.

Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Human aggression is a complex behaviour, the biological underpinnings of which remain poorly known. To gain insights into aggression biology, we studied relationships with aggression of 11 low-molecular-weight metabolites (amino acids, ketone bodies), processed using H nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. We used a discovery sample of young adults and an independent adult replication sample. We studied 725 young adults from a population-based Finnish twin cohort born 1983-1987, with aggression levels rated in adolescence (ages 12, 14, 17) by multiple raters and blood plasma samples at age 22. Linear regression models specified metabolites as the response variable and aggression ratings as predictor variables, and included several potential confounders. All metabolites showed low correlations with aggression, with only one-3-hydroxybutyrate, a ketone body produced during fasting-showing significant (negative) associations with aggression. Effect sizes for different raters were generally similar in magnitude, while teacher-rated (age 12) and self-rated (age 14) aggression were both significant predictors of 3-hydroxybutyrate in multi-rater models. In an independent replication sample of 960 adults from the Netherlands Twin Register, higher aggression (self-rated) was also related to lower levels of 3-hydroxybutyrate. These exploratory epidemiologic results warrant further studies on the role of ketone metabolism in aggression.
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March 2021

DNA methylation signatures of aggression and closely related constructs: A meta-analysis of epigenome-wide studies across the lifespan.

Mol Psychiatry 2021 Jun 8;26(6):2148-2162. Epub 2021 Jan 8.

Department of Clinical Chemistry, Fimlab Laboratories, and Finnish Cardiovascular Research Center-Tampere, Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University, Tampere, 33520, Finland.

DNA methylation profiles of aggressive behavior may capture lifetime cumulative effects of genetic, stochastic, and environmental influences associated with aggression. Here, we report the first large meta-analysis of epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS) of aggressive behavior (N = 15,324 participants). In peripheral blood samples of 14,434 participants from 18 cohorts with mean ages ranging from 7 to 68 years, 13 methylation sites were significantly associated with aggression (alpha = 1.2 × 10; Bonferroni correction). In cord blood samples of 2425 children from five cohorts with aggression assessed at mean ages ranging from 4 to 7 years, 83% of these sites showed the same direction of association with childhood aggression (r = 0.74, p = 0.006) but no epigenome-wide significant sites were found. Top-sites (48 at a false discovery rate of 5% in the peripheral blood meta-analysis or in a combined meta-analysis of peripheral blood and cord blood) have been associated with chemical exposures, smoking, cognition, metabolic traits, and genetic variation (mQTLs). Three genes whose expression levels were associated with top-sites were previously linked to schizophrenia and general risk tolerance. At six CpGs, DNA methylation variation in blood mirrors variation in the brain. On average 44% (range = 3-82%) of the aggression-methylation association was explained by current and former smoking and BMI. These findings point at loci that are sensitive to chemical exposures with potential implications for neuronal functions. We hope these results to be a starting point for studies leading to applications as peripheral biomarkers and to reveal causal relationships with aggression and related traits.
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June 2021