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Metabolomics is the comprehensive study of metabolites, which are the substrates, intermediate, and end products of cellular metabolism. The heritability of the concentrations of circulating metabolites bears relevance for evaluating their suitability as biomarkers for disease. We report aspects of familial resemblance for the concentrations in human serum of more than 100 metabolites, measured using a targeted metabolomics platform. Age- and sex-corrected monozygotic twin correlations, midparent–offspring regression coefficients, and spouse correlations in subjects from two independent cohorts (Netherlands Twin Register and Leiden Longevity Study) were estimated for each metabolite. In the Netherlands Twin Register subjects, who were largely fasting, we found significant monozygotic twin correlations for 121 out of 123 metabolites. Heritability was confirmed by midparent–offspring regression. For most detected metabolites, the correlations between spouses were considerably lower than those between twins, indicating a contribution of genetic effects to familial resemblance. Remarkably high heritability was observed for free carnitine (monozygotic twin correlation 0.66), for the amino acids serine (monozygotic twin correlation 0.77) and threonine (monozygotic twin correlation 0.64), and for phosphatidylcholine acyl-alkyl C40:3 (monozygotic twin correlation 0.77). For octenoylcarnitine, a consistent point estimate of approximately 0.50 was found for the spouse correlations in the two cohorts as well as for the monozygotic twin correlation, suggesting that familiality for this metabolite is explained by shared environment. We conclude that for the majority of metabolites targeted by the used metabolomics platform, the familial resemblance of serum concentrations is largely genetic. Our results contribute to the knowledge of the heritability of fasting serum metabolite concentrations, which is relevant for biomarker research.
Through its ability to induce the enhanced release and production of cytokines, amyloid-β is responsible for the chronic inflammatory response that contributes to Alzheimer's disease (AD). Determining whether the response of monocytes to amyloid-β stimulation is under genetic control may help understand the basis of why some people are more prone to develop neuronal degeneration than others. In the current study we investigated the heritability of the cytokine (IL-10, IL-6, IL-1β, IL-1ra, TNF-[.alpha]) production capacity upon ex vivo stimulation with amyloid-β in whole blood samples of 222 twins and 85 singleton siblings from 139 extended twin families. It was found that individual differences in amyloid-β-induced cytokine production capacity are to a large extent of genetic origin, with heritability estimates ranging from 55% (IL-1β) to 68% (IL-6). We conclude that genes influencing amyloid-β-induced cytokine response may provide clues to the progression of AD pathology.
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