New genes discovered for adult BMI levels

A large international study has identified three new gene variants associated with body mass index (BMI) levels in adults. The scientific consortium, numbering approximately 200 researchers, performed a meta-analysis of 46 studies, covering gene data from nearly 109,000 adults, spanning four ethnic groups.

In discovering intriguing links to lipid-related diseases, type 2 diabetes and other disorders, the IBC 50K SNP Array BMI Consortium's study may provide fundamental insights into the biology of adult obesity. Scientists from the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia led the study, using the CardioChip, a gene array containing probes for some 50,000 genetic variants across 2,100 genes relevant to cardiovascular and .

The study appeared online Sept. 21 in .

"BMI is a widely used measure of obesity, which affects one third of U.S. adults, and approximately half a billion people worldwide," said first author Yiran Guo, Ph.D., of Children's Hospital, who led the meta-analysis. "Previous studies have shown that genetics plays an important role in obesity, and this study expands our knowledge of BMI genetics."

The researchers first analyzed a dataset of approximately 51,000 individuals of (EA) to discover initial gene signals, and then performed replication studies in another 27,000 EA subjects, as well as 14,500 additional EA individuals. Further analyses of data from approximately 12,300 African Americans, 2,600 Hispanics and 1,100 East Asians strengthened the team's findings.

The researchers uncovered three novel signals, from the genes TOMM40-APOE-APOC1, SREBF2 and NTRK2) that were significantly associated with BMI in adults. All had previously been linked to other important disorders. The APOE locus is well known to be involved in regulation and circulation, and plays an important role in Alzheimer's disease. The SREBF2 gene is in the same family as SREBF1, linked to type 2 diabetes in another CardioChip study. Finally, NTRK2 codes for a receptor of the BDNF protein, which is known to be related to BMI and is associated with the eating disorder anorexia.

Anorexia is a special interest of Guo, who holds a Davis Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Eating Disorders. Guo added that the large dataset from the previous studies allowed the researchers "to enhance our understanding of BMI genetics, as well as the interplay between genetic variants and metabolic disorders such as obesity, and lipid-related conditions."

Guo also noted that the team was able to test for conditional associations within genes—-independent signals from within the same gene locus. In particular, the researchers discovered that two genes, BDNF and MC4R, each harbor two independent signals for BMI. Both genes were among eight genes previously associated with BMI that the current study was able to replicate, including FTO, SH2B1 and COL4A3BP-HMGCR.

Guo concluded that "while the individual effects of each gene may be small, they may provide fundamental clues to the biology of ." He added that further studies will investigate gene-gene interactions for the same trait.

Related Stories

Finding genes that expand waistlines

Jul 20, 2012

Some common genetic variants associated with obesity in east Asians have been identified by two international research teams involving RIKEN researchers. Yukinori Okada and Toshihiro Tanaka at the RIKEN Center ...

Large-scale analysis identifies 32 genetic loci for obesity

Oct 11, 2010

An international team of researchers has identified 18 new genetic loci associated with obesity assessed by BMI, and confirmed a link between obesity and 14 previously known loci. Almost 250,000 individuals were included ...

'Obesity genes' may influence food choices, eating patterns

May 23, 2012

Blame it on your genes? Researchers from The Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center say individuals with variations in certain "obesity genes" tend to eat more meals and snacks, consume more calories ...

Recommended for you

Diagnostic criteria for Christianson Syndrome

22 hours ago

Because the severe autism-like condition Christianson Syndrome was only first reported in 1999 and some symptoms take more than a decade to appear, families and doctors urgently need fundamental information ...

New technique maps life's effects on our DNA

Jul 20, 2014

Researchers at the BBSRC-funded Babraham Institute, in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Single Cell Genomics Centre, have developed a powerful new single-cell technique to help investigate how the environment ...

User comments