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We explored the genetic architecture of metabolic risk factors of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and their clustering in Chinese boys and girls. Seven metabolic traits (body mass index [BMI], waist circumference [WC], systolic blood pressure [SBP], diastolic blood pressure [DBP], total cholesterol [TC], triglyceride [TG], and uric acid [UA]) were measured in a sample of 1016 twins between 8 and 17 years of age, recruited from the Qingdao Twin Registry. Cholesky, independent pathway, and common pathway models were used to identify the latent genetic structure behind the clustering of these metabolic traits. Genetic architecture of these metabolic traits was largely similar in boys and girls. The highest heritability was found for BMI (a2 = 0.63) in boys and TC (a2 = .69) in girls. Three heritable factors, adiposity (BMI and WC), blood pressure (SBP and DBP), and metabolite factors (TC, TG, and UA), which formed one higher-order latent phenotype, were identified. Latent genetic, common environmental, and unique environmental factors indirectly impacted the three factors through one single latent factor. Our results suggest that there is one latent factor influencing several metabolic traits, which are known risk factors of CVDs in young Chinese twins. Latent genetic, common environmental, and unique environmental factors indirectly imposed on them. These results inform strategies for gene pleiotropic discovery and intervening of CVD risk factors during childhood and adolescence.
Whether monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins differ from each other in a variety of phenotypes is important for genetic twin modeling and for inferences made from twin studies in general. We analyzed whether there were differences in individual, maternal and paternal education between MZ and DZ twins in a large pooled dataset. Information was gathered on individual education for 218,362 adult twins from 27 twin cohorts (53% females; 39% MZ twins), and on maternal and paternal education for 147,315 and 143,056 twins respectively, from 28 twin cohorts (52% females; 38% MZ twins). Together, we had information on individual or parental education from 42 twin cohorts representing 19 countries. The original education classifications were transformed to education years and analyzed using linear regression models. Overall, MZ males had 0.26 (95% CI [0.21, 0.31]) years and MZ females 0.17 (95% CI [0.12, 0.21]) years longer education than DZ twins. The zygosity difference became smaller in more recent birth cohorts for both males and females. Parental education was somewhat longer for fathers of DZ twins in cohorts born in 1990–1999 (0.16 years, 95% CI [0.08, 0.25]) and 2000 or later (0.11 years, 95% CI [0.00, 0.22]), compared with fathers of MZ twins. The results show that the years of both individual and parental education are largely similar in MZ and DZ twins. We suggest that the socio-economic differences between MZ and DZ twins are so small that inferences based upon genetic modeling of twin data are not affected.
We analyzed birth order differences in means and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) in monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins from infancy to old age. The data were derived from the international CODATwins database. The total number of height and BMI measures from 0.5 to 79.5 years of age was 397,466. As expected, first-born twins had greater birth weight than second-born twins. With respect to height, first-born twins were slightly taller than second-born twins in childhood. After adjusting the results for birth weight, the birth order differences decreased and were no longer statistically significant. First-born twins had greater BMI than the second-born twins over childhood and adolescence. After adjusting the results for birth weight, birth order was still associated with BMI until 12 years of age. No interaction effect between birth order and zygosity was found. Only limited evidence was found that birth order influenced variances of height or BMI. The results were similar among boys and girls and also in MZ and DZ twins. Overall, the differences in height and BMI between first- and second-born twins were modest even in early childhood, while adjustment for birth weight reduced the birth order differences but did not remove them for BMI.
A trend toward greater body size in dizygotic (DZ) than in monozygotic (MZ) twins has been suggested by some but not all studies, and this difference may also vary by age. We analyzed zygosity differences in mean values and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) among male and female twins from infancy to old age. Data were derived from an international database of 54 twin cohorts participating in the COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins), and included 842,951 height and BMI measurements from twins aged 1 to 102 years. The results showed that DZ twins were consistently taller than MZ twins, with differences of up to 2.0 cm in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.9 cm in adulthood. Similarly, a greater mean BMI of up to 0.3 kg/m2 in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.2 kg/m2 in adulthood was observed in DZ twins, although the pattern was less consistent. DZ twins presented up to 1.7% greater height and 1.9% greater BMI than MZ twins; these percentage differences were largest in middle and late childhood and decreased with age in both sexes. The variance of height was similar in MZ and DZ twins at most ages. In contrast, the variance of BMI was significantly higher in DZ than in MZ twins, particularly in childhood. In conclusion, DZ twins were generally taller and had greater BMI than MZ twins, but the differences decreased with age in both sexes.
For over 100 years, the genetics of human anthropometric traits has attracted scientific interest. In particular, height and body mass index (BMI, calculated as kg/m2) have been under intensive genetic research. However, it is still largely unknown whether and how heritability estimates vary between human populations. Opportunities to address this question have increased recently because of the establishment of many new twin cohorts and the increasing accumulation of data in established twin cohorts. We started a new research project to analyze systematically (1) the variation of heritability estimates of height, BMI and their trajectories over the life course between birth cohorts, ethnicities and countries, and (2) to study the effects of birth-related factors, education and smoking on these anthropometric traits and whether these effects vary between twin cohorts. We identified 67 twin projects, including both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins, using various sources. We asked for individual level data on height and weight including repeated measurements, birth related traits, background variables, education and smoking. By the end of 2014, 48 projects participated. Together, we have 893,458 height and weight measures (52% females) from 434,723 twin individuals, including 201,192 complete twin pairs (40% monozygotic, 40% same-sex dizygotic and 20% opposite-sex dizygotic) representing 22 countries. This project demonstrates that large-scale international twin studies are feasible and can promote the use of existing data for novel research purposes.
The genetic influences on aging-related phenotypes, including cognition and depression, have been well confirmed in the Western populations. We performed the first twin-based analysis on cognitive performance, memory and depression status in middle-aged and elderly Chinese twins, representing the world's largest and most rapidly aging population. The sample consisted of 384 twin pairs with a median age of 50 years. Cognitive function was measured using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) scale; memory was assessed using the revised Wechsler Adult Intelligence scale; depression symptomatology was evaluated by the self-reported 30-item Geriatric Depression (GDS-30)scale. Both univariate and multivariate twin models were fitted to the three phenotypes with full and nested models and compared to select the best fitting models. Univariate analysis showed moderate-to-high genetic influences with heritability 0.44 for cognition and 0.56 for memory. Multivariate analysis by the reduced Cholesky model estimated significant genetic (rG = 0.69) and unique environmental (rE = 0.25) correlation between cognitive ability and memory. The model also estimated weak but significant inverse genetic correlation for depression with cognition (-0.31) and memory (-0.28). No significant unique environmental correlation was found for depression with other two phenotypes. In conclusion, there can be a common genetic architecture for cognitive ability and memory that weakly correlates with depression symptomatology, but in the opposite direction.
We evaluated the genetic and environmental contributions to metabolic cardiovascular risk factors and their mutual associations. Eight metabolic factors (body mass index, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, total serum cholesterol, serum triglycerides, and serum uric acid) were measured in 508 twin pairs aged 8–17 years from the Qingdao Twin Registry, China. Linear structural equation models were used to estimate the heritability of these traits, as well as the genetic and environmental correlations between them. Among boys, body mass index and uric acid showed consistently high heritability (0.49–0.81), whereas other traits showed moderate to high common environmental variance (0.37–0.73) in children (8–12 years) and adolescents (13–17 years) except total cholesterol. For girls, moderate to high heritability (0.39–0.75) were obtained for six metabolic traits in children, while only two traits showed high heritability and others mostly medium to large common environmental variance in adolescents. Genetic correlations between the traits were strong in both boys and girls in children (rg = 0.64–0.99 between body mass index and diastolic blood pressure; rg = 0.71–1.00 between body mass index and waist circumference), but decreased for adolescent girls (rg = 0.51 between body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio; rg = 0.55 between body mass index and uric acid; rg = 0.61 between body mass index and systolic blood pressure). The effect of genetic factors on most metabolic traits decreased from childhood to adolescence. Both common genetic and specific environmental factors influence the mutual associations among most of the metabolic traits.
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