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In studies of singletons, a range of early-life characteristics have been reported to be associated with handedness, but some of these associations have failed to replicate. We examined associations between 23 early life characteristics with handedness in a large sample of 37,495 5-year-old twins. We considered three definitions of handedness: left-handedness (LH), mixed-handedness (MH), and non-right-handedness (NRH). Our main aim was to test whether the associations with sex, birth weight, gestational age, and season of birth — as reported in singletons — replicate in twins, and to examine twin-specific variables, including zygosity, chorionicity, birth order, and intertwin delivery time. Compared to previously published data from adults born as singletons (7.23%), the prevalence of NRH was higher in both twins (16.19%) and their parents (15.09%). In the twins, LH and NRH were associated with parents’ LH. Male sex and lower gestational age were associated with NRH, and LH was associated with not being breastfed. MH was related to neurodevelopmental delays and higher externalizing problems later in childhood. Other previously reported associations were not replicated, and no twin-specific characteristics were related to handedness. These results emphasize the importance of considering multiple definitions of handedness and indicate a small number of replicated associations across studies.
There are research questions whose answers require record linkage of multiple databases that may be characterized by limited options for full data sharing. For this purpose, the Open Data Infrastructure for Social Science and Economic Innovations (ODISSEI) consortium has supported the development of the ODISSEI Secure Supercomputer (OSSC) platform that allows researchers to link cohort data to data from Statistics Netherlands and run large-scale analyses in a high-performance computing (HPC) environment. Here, we report a successful record linkage genomewide association (GWA) study on expenditure for total health, mental health, primary and hospital care, and medication. Record linkage for genotype data from 16,726 participants from the Netherlands Twin Register (NTR) with data from Statistics Netherlands was accomplished in the secure OSSC platform, followed by gene-based tests and estimation of total and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)-based heritability. The total heritability of expenditure ranged between 29.4% (SE 0.8) and 37.5% (SE 0.8), but GWA analyses did not identify SNPs or genes that were genomewide significantly associated with health care expenditure. SNP-based heritability was between 0.0% (SE 3.5) and 5.4% (SE 4.0) and was different from zero for mental health care and primary care expenditure. We conclude that successfully linking genotype data to administrative health care expenditure data from Statistics Netherlands is feasible and demonstrates a series of analyses on health care expenditure. The OSSC platform offers secure possibilities for analyzing linked data in large scale and realizing sample sizes required for GWA studies, providing invaluable opportunities to answer many new research questions.
Our current society is characterized by an increased availability of industrially processed foods with high salt, fat and sugar content. How is it that some people prefer these unhealthy foods while others prefer more healthy foods? It is suggested that both genetic and environmental factors play a role. The aim of this study was to (1) identify food preference clusters in the largest twin-family study into food preference to date and (2) determine the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors to individual differences in food preference in the Netherlands. Principal component analysis was performed to identify the preference clusters by using data on food liking/disliking from 16,541 adult multiples and their family members. To estimate the heritability of food preference, the data of 7833 twins were used in structural equation models. We identified seven food preference clusters (Meat, Fish, Fruits, Vegetables, Savory snacks, Sweet snacks and Spices) and one cluster with Drinks. Broad-sense heritability (additive [A] + dominant [D] genetic factors) for these clusters varied between .36 and .60. Dominant genetic effects were found for the clusters Fruit, Fish (males only) and Spices. Quantitative sex differences were found for Meat, Fish and Savory snacks and Drinks. To conclude, our study convincingly showed that genetic factors play a significant role in food preference. A next important step is to identify these genes because genetic vulnerability for food preference is expected to be linked to actual food consumption and different diet-related disorders.
Loneliness is related to mental and somatic health outcomes, including borderline personality disorder. Here, we analyze the sources of variation that are responsible for the relationship between borderline personality features (including four dimensions, affective instability, identity disturbance, negative relationships, self-harm and a total score) and loneliness. Using genetically informative data from two large nonclinical samples of adult twin pairs from Australia and the Netherlands (N = 11,329), we estimate the phenotypic, genetic and environmental correlations between self-reported borderline personality features and loneliness. Individual differences in borderline personality and loneliness were best explained by additive genetic factors with heritability estimates h2 = 41% for the borderline personality total score and h2 = 36% for loneliness, with the remaining variation explained by environmental influences that were not shared by twins from the same pair. Genetic and environmental factors influencing borderline personality (total score and four subscales separately) were also partial causes of loneliness. The correlation between loneliness and the borderline personality total score was rph = .51. The genetic correlation was estimated at rg = .64 and the environmental correlation at re = .40. Our study suggests common etiological factors in loneliness and borderline personality features.
Metabolites are small molecules involved in cellular metabolism where they act as reaction substrates or products. The term ‘metabolomics’ refers to the comprehensive study of these molecules. The concentrations of metabolites in biological tissues are under genetic control, but this is limited by environmental factors such as diet. In adult mono- and dizygotic twin pairs, we estimated the contribution of genetic and shared environmental influences on metabolite levels by structural equation modeling and tested whether the familial resemblance for metabolite levels is mainly explained by genetic or by environmental factors that are shared by family members. Metabolites were measured across three platforms: two based on proton nuclear magnetic resonance techniques and one employing mass spectrometry. These three platforms comprised 237 single metabolic traits of several chemical classes. For the three platforms, metabolites were assessed in 1407, 1037 and 1116 twin pairs, respectively. We carried out power calculations to establish what percentage of shared environmental variance could be detected given these sample sizes. Our study did not find evidence for a systematic contribution of shared environment, defined as the influence of growing up together in the same household, on metabolites assessed in adulthood. Significant heritability was observed for nearly all 237 metabolites; significant contribution of the shared environment was limited to 6 metabolites. The top quartile of the heritability distribution was populated by 5 of the 11 investigated chemical classes. In this quartile, metabolites of the class lipoprotein were significantly overrepresented, whereas metabolites of classes glycerophospholipids and glycerolipids were significantly underrepresented.
Much progress has been made in twin research since our last special issue on twin registries (Hur, Y.-M., & Craig, J. M. (2013). Twin Research and Human Genetics, 16, 1–12.). This special issue provides an update on the state of twin family registries around the world. This issue includes 61 papers on twin family registries from 25 countries, of which 3 describe consortia based on collaborations of several twin family registries. The articles included in this issue discuss the establishment and maintenance of twin registries, recruitment strategies, methods of zygosity assessment, research aims and major findings from twin family cohorts, as well as other important topics related to twin studies. The papers amount to approximately 1.3 million monozygotic, dizygotic twins and higher order multiples and their family members who participate in twin studies around the world. Nine new twin family registries have been established across the world since our last issue, which demonstrates that twin registers are increasingly important in studies of the determinants and correlates of complex traits from disease susceptibility to healthy development.
The Netherlands Twin Register (NTR) is a national register in which twins, multiples and their parents, siblings, spouses and other family members participate. Here we describe the NTR resources that were created from more than 30 years of data collections; the development and maintenance of the newly developed database systems, and the possibilities these resources create for future research. Since the early 1980s, the NTR has enrolled around 120,000 twins and a roughly equal number of their relatives. The majority of twin families have participated in survey studies, and subsamples took part in biomaterial collection (e.g., DNA) and dedicated projects, for example, for neuropsychological, biomarker and behavioral traits. The recruitment into the NTR is all inclusive without any restrictions on enrollment. These resources — the longitudinal phenotyping, the extended pedigree structures and the multigeneration genotyping — allow for future twin-family research that will contribute to gene discovery, causality modeling, and studies of genetic and cultural inheritance.
Studies on neighbourhood characteristics and depression show equivocal results.
This large-scale pooled analysis examines whether urbanisation, socioeconomic, physical and social neighbourhood characteristics are associated with the prevalence and severity of depression.
Cross-sectional design including data are from eight Dutch cohort studies (n= 32 487). Prevalence of depression, either DSM-IV diagnosis of depressive disorder or scoring for moderately severe depression on symptom scales, and continuous depression severity scores were analysed. Neighbourhood characteristics were linked using postal codes and included (a) urbanisation grade, (b) socioeconomic characteristics: socioeconomic status, home value, social security beneficiaries and non-Dutch ancestry, (c) physical characteristics: air pollution, traffic noise and availability of green space and water, and (d) social characteristics: social cohesion and safety. Multilevel regression analyses were adjusted for the individual's age, gender, educational level and income. Cohort-specific estimates were pooled using random-effects analysis.
The pooled analysis showed that higher urbanisation grade (odds ratio (OR) = 1.05, 95% CI 1.01–1.10), lower socioeconomic status (OR = 0.90, 95% CI 0.87–0.95), higher number of social security beneficiaries (OR = 1.12, 95% CI 1.06–1.19), higher percentage of non-Dutch residents (OR = 1.08, 95% CI 1.02–1.14), higher levels of air pollution (OR = 1.07, 95% CI 1.01–1.12), less green space (OR = 0.94, 95% CI 0.88–0.99) and less social safety (OR = 0.92, 95% CI 0.88–0.97) were associated with higher prevalence of depression. All four socioeconomic neighbourhood characteristics and social safety were also consistently associated with continuous depression severity scores.
This large-scale pooled analysis across eight Dutch cohort studies shows that urbanisation and various socioeconomic, physical and social neighbourhood characteristics are associated with depression, indicating that a wide range of environmental aspects may relate to poor mental health.
Objective: The human gut microbiota has been demonstrated to be associated with a number of host phenotypes, including obesity and a number of obesity-associated phenotypes. This study is aimed at further understanding and describing the relationship between the gut microbiota and obesity-associated measurements obtained from human participants. Subjects/Methods: Here, we utilize genetically informative study designs, including a four-corners design (extremes of genetic risk for BMI and of observed BMI; N = 50) and the BMI monozygotic (MZ) discordant twin pair design (N = 30), in order to help delineate the role of host genetics and the gut microbiota in the development of obesity. Results: Our results highlight a negative association between BMI and alpha diversity of the gut microbiota. The low genetic risk/high BMI group of individuals had a lower gut microbiota alpha diversity when compared to the other three groups. Although the difference in alpha diversity between the lean and heavy groups of the BMI-discordant MZ twin design did not achieve significance, this difference was observed to be in the expected direction, with the heavier participants having a lower average alpha diversity. We have also identified nine OTUs observed to be associated with either a leaner or heavier phenotype, with enrichment for OTUs classified to the Ruminococcaceae and Oxalobacteraceae taxonomic families. Conclusion: Our study presents evidence of a relationship between BMI and alpha diversity of the gut microbiota. In addition to these findings, a number of OTUs were found to be significantly associated with host BMI. These findings may highlight separate subtypes of obesity, one driven by genetic factors, the other more heavily influenced by environmental factors.
Twin registers are wonderful research resources for research applications in medical and behavioral genetics, epidemiology, psychology, molecular genetics, and other areas of research. New registers continue to be launched all over the world as researchers from different disciplines recognize the potential to boost and widen their research agenda. In this article, we discuss multiple aspects that need to be taken into account when initiating a register, from its preliminary sketch to its actual development. This encompasses aspects related to the strategic planning and key elements of research designs, promotion and management of a twin register, including recruitment and retaining of twins and family members of twins, phenotyping, database organization, and collaborations between registers. We also present information on questions unique to twin registers and twin-biobanks, such as the assessment of zygosity by SNP arrays, the design of (biomarker) studies involving related participants, and the analyses of clustered data. Altogether, we provide a number of basic guidelines and recommendations for reflection when planning a twin register.
Migraine and tension-type headache (TTH) are often viewed as distinct entities and defined as such in the International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd edition (ICHD-II) criteria, although there is also empirical evidence to suggest they may be etiologically similar. This study aims to investigate whether migraine and TTH are etiologically related conditions. First, we explored whether migraine and TTH were associated with the same environmental and lifestyle risk factors at the population level. Second, we examined comorbidity of migraine and TTH in a twin design. By comparing the associations in monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs, we investigated whether the comorbidity can be explained by genetic factors that influence both conditions. Results indicated that migraine and TTH were largely associated with the same environmental and lifestyle factors, including younger age, female sex, higher body mass index, more depression, stress at home, and less participation in regular exercise, with consistently stronger effects for migraine than for TTH. Migraine in one twin was significantly associated with TTH in the other twin. A stronger cross-trait, cross-twin association in MZ than DZ twins suggested that this comorbidity may also be partly due to shared genetic factors, although the difference in associations was not significant. In conclusion, our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that migraine and TTH have partly shared etiologies. For both treatment and research, it may be advisable not to make a rigid distinction, but to treat migraine and TTH as related conditions.
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.
The Avera Twin Register (ATR) aims to study environmental and genetic influences on health and disease using a longitudinal repository of biological specimens, survey data, and health information provided by multiples and their family members. The ATR is located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which is a rural and frontier area in the Midwestern United States with a density of four people per square kilometer. The target area of the ATR is South Dakota and the four surrounding states: Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, and Nebraska. Enrollment of twins and higher-order multiples of all ages and their family members started on May 18, 2016. A description of the first 13 months of enrollment in this longitudinal register will be provided. The ATR will collect longitudinal data on lifestyle, including diet and activity levels, aging, complex traits, and diseases. Upon registration, all participants are genotyped on the Illumina Global Screening Array (GSA) and twins and higher order multiples receive information on their zygosity. The ATR aims to contribute to large international GWAS consortia and collaborates closely with the Netherlands Twin Register, allowing for the comparison of collected data and analyses of results. In addition, the ATR will address twin-specific questions.
Depression and obesity are highly prevalent, and major impacts on public health frequently co-occur. Recently, we reported that having depression moderates the effect of the FTO gene, suggesting its implication in the association between depression and obesity.
To confirm these findings by investigating the FTO polymorphism rs9939609 in new cohorts, and subsequently in a meta-analysis.
The sample consists of 6902 individuals with depression and 6799 controls from three replication cohorts and two original discovery cohorts. Linear regression models were performed to test for association between rs9939609 and body mass index (BMI), and for the interaction between rs9939609 and depression status for an effect on BMI. Fixed and random effects meta-analyses were performed using METASOFT.
In the replication cohorts, we observed a significant interaction between FTO, BMI and depression with fixed effects meta-analysis (β=0.12, P = 2.7 × 10−4) and with the Han/Eskin random effects method (P = 1.4 × 10−7) but not with traditional random effects (β = 0.1, P = 0.35). When combined with the discovery cohorts, random effects meta-analysis also supports the interaction (β = 0.12, P = 0.027) being highly significant based on the Han/Eskin model (P = 6.9 × 10−8). On average, carriers of the risk allele who have depression have a 2.2% higher BMI for each risk allele, over and above the main effect of FTO.
This meta-analysis provides additional support for a significant interaction between FTO, depression and BMI, indicating that depression increases the effect of FTO on BMI. The findings provide a useful starting point in understanding the biological mechanism involved in the association between obesity and depression.
In 2009, the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) for major depressive disorder (MDD) highlighted an association with PCLO locus on chromosome 7, although not reaching genome-wide significance level. In the present study, we revisited the original GWAS after increasing the overall sample size and the number of interrogated SNPs. In an analysis comparing 1,942 cases with lifetime diagnosis of MDD and 4,565 controls, PCLO showed a genome-wide significant association with MDD at SNP (rs2715157, p = 2.91 × 10−8) and gene-based (p = 1.48 × 10−7) level. Our results confirm the potential role of the PCLO gene in MDD, which is worth further replication and functional studies.
The monocyte–lymphocyte ratio (MLR) is a useful biomarker for disease development, but little is known about the extent to which genetic and environmental factors influence MLR variation. Here, we study the genetic architecture of MLR and determine the influence of demographic and lifestyle factors on MLR in data from a Dutch non-patient twin-family population. Data were obtained in 9,501 individuals from the Netherlands Twin Register. We used regression analyses to determine the effects of age, sex, smoking, and body mass index (BMI) on MLR and its subcomponents. Data on twins, siblings and parents (N = 7,513) were analyzed by genetic structural equation modeling to establish heritability and genome wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data from a genotyped subsample (N = 5,892) and used to estimate heritability explained by SNPs. SNP and phenotype data were also analyzed in a genome-wide association study to identify the genes involved in MLR. Linkage disequilibrium (LD) score regression and expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analyses were performed to further explore the genetic findings. Results showed that age, sex, and age × sex interaction effects were present for MLR and its subcomponents. Variation in MLR was not related to BMI, but smoking was positively associated with MLR. Heritability was estimated at 40% for MLR, 58% for monocyte, and 58% for lymphocyte count. The Genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified a locus on ITGA4 that was associated with MLR and only marginally significantly associated with monocyte count. For monocyte count, additional genetic variants were identified on ITPR3, LPAP1, and IRF8. For lymphocyte count, GWAS provided no significant findings. Taking all measured SNPs together, their effects accounted for 13% of the heritability of MLR, while all known and identified genetic loci explained 1.3% of variation in MLR. eQTL analyses showed that these genetic variants were unlikely to be eQTLs. In conclusion, variation in MLR level in the general population is heritable and influenced by age, sex, and smoking. We identified gene variants in the ITGA4 gene associated with variation in MLR. The significant SNP-heritability indicates that more genetic variants are likely to be involved.
We identified the genetic variants for eye color by Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) in a Dutch Caucasian family-based population sample and examined the genetic correlation between hair and eye color using data from unrelated participants from the Netherlands Twin Register. With the Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis software package, we found strong genetic correlations between various combinations of hair and eye colors. The strongest positive correlations were found for blue eyes with blond hair (0.87) and brown eyes with dark hair (0.71), whereas blue eyes with dark hair and brown eyes with blond hair showed the strongest negative correlations (-0.64 and -0.94, respectively). Red hair with green/hazel eyes showed the weakest correlation (-0.14). All analyses were corrected for age and sex, and we explored the effects of correcting for principal components (PCs) that represent ancestry and describe the genetic stratification of the Netherlands. When including the first three PCs as covariates, the genetic correlations between the phenotypes disappeared. This is not unexpected since hair and eye colors strongly indicate the ancestry of an individual. This makes it difficult to separate the effects of population stratification and the true genetic effects of variants on these particular phenotypes.
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.
Persistent tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption are major public health concerns worldwide. Both alcohol and nicotine dependence (AD, ND) are genetically influenced complex disorders that exhibit a high degree of comorbidity. To identify gene variants contributing to one or both of these addictions, we first conducted a pooling-based genomewide association study (GWAS) in an Australian population, using Illumina Infinium 1M arrays. Allele frequency differences were compared between pooled DNA from case and control groups for: (1) AD, 1224 cases and 1162 controls; (2) ND, 1273 cases and 1113 controls; and (3) comorbid AD and ND, 599 cases and 488 controls. Secondly, we carried out a GWAS in independent samples from the Netherlands for AD and for ND. Thirdly, we performed a meta-analysis of the 10, 000 most significant AD- and ND-related SNPs from the Australian and Dutch samples. In the Australian GWAS, one SNP achieved genomewide significance (p < 5 x 10-8) for ND (rs964170 in ARHGAPlOon chromosome 4, p = 4.43 x 10”8) and three others for comorbid AD/ND (rs7530302 near MARK1 on chromosome 1 (p = 1.90 x 10-9), rs1784300 near DDX6 on chromosome 11 (p = 2.60 x 10-9) and rs12882384 in KIAA1409 on chromosome 14 (p = 4.86 x 10-8)). None of the SNPs achieved genomewide significance in the Australian/Dutch meta-analysis, but a gene network diagram based on the top-results revealed overrepre-sentation of genes coding for ion-channels and cell adhesion molecules. Further studies will be requirec before the detailed causes of comorbidity between AC and ND are understood.
Twin pairs discordant for disease may help elucidate the epigenetic mechanisms and causal environmental factors in disease development and progression. To obtain the numbers of pairs, especially monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs, necessary for in-depth studies while also allowing for replication, twin studies worldwide need to pool their resources. The Discordant Twin (DISCOTWIN) consortium was established for this goal. Here, we describe the DISCOTWIN Consortium and present an analysis of type 2 diabetes (T2D) data in nearly 35,000 twin pairs. Seven twin cohorts from Europe (Denmark, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) and one from Australia investigated the rate of discordance for T2D in same-sex twin pairs aged 45 years and older. Data were available for 34,166 same-sex twin pairs, of which 13,970 were MZ, with T2D diagnosis based on self-reported diagnosis and medication use, fasting glucose and insulin measures, or medical records. The prevalence of T2D ranged from 2.6% to 12.3% across the cohorts depending on age, body mass index (BMI), and national diabetes prevalence. T2D discordance rate was lower for MZ (5.1%, range 2.9–11.2%) than for same-sex dizygotic (DZ) (8.0%, range 4.9–13.5%) pairs. Across DISCOTWIN, 720 discordant MZ pairs were identified. Except for the oldest of the Danish cohorts (mean age 79), heritability estimates based on contingency tables were moderate to high (0.47–0.77). From a meta-analysis of all data, the heritability was estimated at 72% (95% confidence interval 61–78%). This study demonstrated high T2D prevalence and high heritability for T2D liability across twin cohorts. Therefore, the number of discordant MZ pairs for T2D is limited. By combining national resources, the DISCOTWIN Consortium maximizes the number of discordant MZ pairs needed for in-depth genotyping, multi-omics, and phenotyping studies, which may provide unique insights into the pathways linking genes to the development of many diseases.