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Female fertility is a complex trait with age-specific changes in spontaneous dizygotic (DZ) twinning and fertility. To elucidate factors regulating female fertility and infertility, we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on mothers of spontaneous DZ twins (MoDZT) versus controls (3273 cases, 24,009 controls). This is a follow-up study to the Australia/New Zealand (ANZ) component of that previously reported (Mbarek et al., 2016), with a sample size almost twice that of the entire discovery sample meta-analysed in the previous article (and five times the ANZ contribution to that), resulting from newly available additional genotyping and representing a significant increase in power. We compare analyses with and without male controls and show unequivocally that it is better to include male controls who have been screened for recent family history, than to use only female controls. Results from the SNP based GWAS identified four genomewide significant signals, including one novel region, ZFPM1 (Zinc Finger Protein, FOG Family Member 1), on chromosome 16. Previous signals near FSHB (Follicle Stimulating Hormone beta subunit) and SMAD3 (SMAD Family Member 3) were also replicated (Mbarek et al., 2016). We also ran the GWAS with a dominance model that identified a further locus ADRB2 on chr 5. These results have been contributed to the International Twinning Genetics Consortium for inclusion in the next GWAS meta-analysis (Mbarek et al., in press).
It is widely recognized that dizygotic twinning (DZT) runs in families, but estimates of heritability from twin and family data are remarkably scarce and vary considerably. Here, we traced seven large, sometimes historical, multigeneration pedigrees from West Africans, fin de siècle French Jews, Canadians (two pedigrees), and the French royal family, in which twin births were recorded. We estimated heritability of twinning (of all types) as zygosity information was not available, diluting the true DZT heritability by a third or so. The estimates in the range 8−20% are remarkably consistent across time (8−19 generations) and ethnicities and also consistent with twin and family estimates.
Fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS) occurs in carriers of fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) X-linked small CGG expansion (gray zone [GZ] and premutation [PM]) alleles, containing 41–200 repeats. Major features comprise kinetic tremor, gait ataxia, cognitive decline and cerebellar peduncular white matter lesions, but atypical/incomplete FXTAS may occur. We explored the possibility of polygenic effects modifying the FXTAS spectrum phenotypes. We used three motor scales and selected cognitive tests in a series of three males and three females from a single sibship carrying PM or GZ alleles (44 to 75 repeats). The molecular profiles from these siblings were determined by genomewide association study with single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping by Illumina Global Screening Array. Nonparametric linkage analysis was applied and Parkinson’s disease (PD) polygenic risk scores (PRSs) were calculated for all the siblings, based on 107 known risk variants. All male and female siblings manifested similar kinetic tremor phenotypes. In contrast to FXTAS, they showed negligible gait ataxia, and few white matter lesions on MRI. Cognitive functioning was unaffected. Suggestive evidence of linkage to a broad region of the short arm of chromosome 10 was obtained, and median PD PRS for the sibship fell within the top 30% of a sample of over 500,000 UK and Australian controls. The genomewide study results are suggestive of modifying effects of genetic risk loci linked to PD, on the neurological phenotype of FMR1-CGG small expansion carriers, resulting in an oligosymptomatic kinetic tremor seen in FXTAS spectrum, but also consistent with essential tremor.
A high prevalence of asthma has been documented among the inhabitants of Tristan da Cunha, an isolated island in the South Atlantic. The population derives from just 28 founders. We performed lung function testing, including methacholine inhalation challenge, allergen skin prick testing, and collected DNA from essentially all of the current island population (269 individuals), and genotyped a panel of 43 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) reported as associated with asthma and atopy. We carried out a mixed-model association analysis using the known pedigree. There were 96 individuals diagnosed as asthmatic (36%), and heritability estimates were similar to those from nonisolated population samples (multifactorial threshold model, h2 = 48%). The first component from a genetic principal components analysis using the entire SNP panel was nonlinearly associated with asthma, with the maximum risk to those intermediate to reference (Human Genome Diversity Project) European and African samples means. The single most strongly associated SNP was rs2786098 (p = 5.5 × 10−5), known to regulate the gene DENND1B. This explained approximately one-third of the trait heritability, with an allelic odds ratio for the A allele of 2.6. Among A/A carriers, 10 out of 12 individuals were asthmatic. The rs2786098*A variant was initially reported to decrease the risk of childhood (atopic) asthma in European but slightly increase the risk in African-descended populations, and does significantly alter Th2 cell function. Despite an absence of overall association with this variant in recent asthma genome wide association studies meta-analyses, an effect may exist on the particular genetic background of the Tristan da Cunha population.
Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a chronic disease that disproportionately affects Indigenous Australians. We have previously reported the localization of a novel T2D locus by linkage analysis to chromosome 2q24 in a large admixed Indigenous Australian pedigree (Busfield et al. (2002). American Journal of Human Genetics, 70, 349–357). Here we describe fine mapping of this region in this pedigree, with the identification of SNPs showing strong association with T2D: rs3845724 (diabetes p = 7 × 10−4), rs4668106 (diabetes p = 9 × 10−4) and rs529002 (plasma glucose p = 3 × 10−4). These associations were successfully replicated in an independent collection of Indigenous Australian T2D cases and controls. These SNPs all lie within the gene encoding ceramide synthase 6 (CERS6) and thus may regulate ceramide synthesis.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) offer the benefit of a hypothesis-free approach to measuring the quantitative effect of genetic variants on affection status. Generally the findings of GWAS relying on ADHD status have been non-significant, but the one study using quantitative measures of symptoms found SLC9A9 and SLC6A1 were associated with inattention and hyperactivity–impulsivity. Accordingly, we performed a GWAS using quantitative measures of each ADHD subtype measured with the Strengths and Weaknesses of ADHD and Normal Behaviour (SWAN) scale in two community-based samples. This scale captures the full range of attention and kinetic behavior; from high levels of attention and appropriate activity to the inattention and hyperactivity–impulsivity associated with ADHD within two community-based samples. Our discovery sample comprised 1,851 participants (mean age = 22.8 years [4.8]; 50.6% female), while our replication sample comprised 155 participants (mean age = 26.3 years [3.1]; 68.4% females). Age, sex, age × sex, and age2 were included as covariates and the results from each sample were combined using meta-analysis, then analyzed with a gene-based test to estimate the combined effect of markers within genes. We compare our results with markers that have previously been found to have a strong association with ADHD symptoms. Neither the GWAS nor subsequent meta-analyses yielded genome-wide significant results; the strongest effect was observed at rs2110267 (4.62 × 10−7) for symptoms of hyperactivity–impulsivity. The strongest effect in the gene-based test was for GPR139 on symptoms of inattention (6.40 × 10−5). Replication of this study with larger samples will add to our understanding of the genetic etiology of ADHD.
Genes involved in pathways regulating body weight may operate differently in men and women. To determine whether sex-limited genes influence the obesity-related phenotype body mass index (BMI), we have conducted a general non- scalar sex-limited genome-wide linkage scan using variance components analysis in Mx (Neale, 2002). BMI measurements and genotypic data were available for 2053 Australian female and male adult twins and their siblings from 933 families. Clinical measures of BMI were available for 64.4% of these individuals, while only self-reported measures were available for the remaining participants. The mean age of participants was 39.0 years of age (SD 12.1 years). The use of a sex-limited linkage model identified areas on the genome where quantitative trait loci (QTL) effects differ between the sexes, particularly on chromosome 8 and 20, providing us with evidence that some of the genes responsible for BMI may have different effects in men and women. Our highest linkage peak was observed at 12q24 (–log10p = 3.02), which was near the recommended threshold for suggestive linkage (–log10p = 3.13). Previous studies have found evidence for a quantitative trait locus on 12q24 affecting BMI in a wide range of populations, and candidate genes for non- insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, a consequence of obesity, have also been mapped to this region. We also identified many peaks near a –log10p of 2 (threshold for replicating an existing finding) in many areas across the genome that are within regions previously identified by other studies, as well as in locations that harbor genes known to influence weight regulation.
We examined the cumulative prevalences of 22 symptoms thought to reflect immune system function reported in a questionnaire mailed to 7616 Australian twins. The associations between symptoms and demographic variables were expressed in terms of polychoric or polyserial correlations, and a principal components analysis performed. Factors representing underlying propensities respectively to allergic disease, various minor infections, diseases associated with aging such as arthritis, skin disease, and respiratory tract infection were extracted. Possible processes underlying these symptom clusters and the relative strengths and weaknesses of this type of analysis are discussed.
An evolving hypothesis postulates that melanomas may arise through ‘nevus-associated’ and ‘chronic sun exposure’ pathways. We explored this hypothesis by examining associations between nevus-associated loci and melanoma risk across strata of body site and histological subtype. We genotyped 1028 invasive case patients and 1469 controls for variants in methylthioadenosine phosphorylase (MTAP), phospholipase A2, group VI (PLA2G6), and Interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4), and compared allelic frequencies globally and by anatomical site and histological subtype of melanoma. Odds-ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using classical and multinomial logistic regression models. Among controls, MTAP rs10757257, PLA2G6 rs132985 and IRF4 rs12203592 were the variants most significantly associated with number of nevi. In adjusted models, a significant association was found between MTAP rs10757257 and overall melanoma risk (OR = 1.32, 95% CI = 1.14–1.53), with no evidence of heterogeneity across sites (Phomogeneity =.52). In contrast, MTAP rs10757257 was associated with superficial spreading/nodular melanoma (OR = 1.34, 95% CI = 1.15– 1.57), but not with lentigo maligna melanoma (OR = 0.79, 95% CI = 0.46–1.35) (Phomogeneity =.06), the subtype associated with chronic sun exposure. Melanoma was significantly inversely associated with rs12203592 in children (OR = 0.35, 95% CI = 0.16–0.77) and adolescents (OR = 0.61, 95% CI = 0.42–0.91), but not in adults (Phomogeneity =.0008). Our results suggest that the relationship between MTAP and melanoma is subtype-specific, and that the association between IRF4 and melanoma is more evident for cases with a younger age at onset. These findings lend some support to the ‘divergent pathways’ hypothesis and may provide at least one candidate gene underlying this model. Further studies are warranted to confirm these findings and improve our understanding of these relationships.
Previous studies have shown that a deficiency in DNA damage repair is associated with increased cancer risk, and exposure to UV radiation is a major risk factor for the development of malignant melanoma. High density of common nevi (moles) is a major risk factor for cutaneous melanoma. A nevus may result from a mutation in a single UV-exposed melanocyte which failed to repair DNA damage in one or more critical genes. XRCC3 and XRCC5 may have an effect on nevus count through their function as components of DNA repair processes that may be involved directly or indirectly in the repair of DNA damage due to UV radiation. This study aims to test the hypothesis that the frequency of flat or raised moles is associated with polymorphism at or near these DNA repair genes, and that certain alleles are associated with less efficient DNA repair, and greater nevus density. Twins were recruited from schools in south eastern Queensland and were examined close to their 12th birthday. Nurses examined each individual and counted all moles on the entire body surface. A 10cM genome scan of 274 families (642 individuals) was performed and microsatellite polymorphisms in XRCC3 and adjacent to XRCC5 were also typed. Linkage and association of nevus count to these loci were tested simultaneously using a structural-equation modeling approach implemented in MX. There is weak evidence for linkage of XRCC5 to a QTL influencing raised mole count, and also weak association. There is also weak evidence for association between flat mole count and XRCC3. No tests were significant after correction for testing multiple alleles, nor were any of the tests for total association significant. If variation in XRCC3 or XRCC5 influences UV sensitivity, and indirectly affects nevus density, then the effects are small.
Twin studies of diabetes mellitus can help elucidate genetic and environmental factors in etiology and can provide valuable biological samples for testing functional hypotheses, for example using expression and methylation studies of discordant pairs. We searched the volunteer Australian Twin Registry (19,387 pairs) for twins with diabetes using disease checklists from nine different surveys conducted from 1980–2000. After follow-up questionnaires to the twins and their doctors to confirm diagnoses, we eventually identified 46 pairs where one or both had type 1 diabetes (T1D), 113 pairs with type 2 diabetes (T2D), 41 female pairs with gestational diabetes (GD), 5 pairs with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and one pair with MODY. Heritabilities of T1D, T2D and GD were all high, but our samples did not have the power to detect effects of shared environment unless they were very large. Weight differences between affected and unaffected cotwins from monozygotic (MZ) discordant pairs were large for T2D and GD, but much larger again for discordant dizygotic (DZ) pairs. The bivariate genetic analysis (under the multifactorial threshold model) estimated the genetic correlation between body mass index (BMI) and T2D to be 0.46, and the environmental correlation at only 0.06.
There is evidence that tamoxifen treatment of BRCA1 and BRCA2 carriers for prior breast cancer increases risk of endometrioid subtype endometrial cancer (EC), and suggestive evidence that BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers may be predisposed to EC in the absence of tamoxifen exposure. We assessed the association of EC with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation status in Australasian breast-ovarian families. Report of at least one case of EC was significantly greater in BRCA1-positive families (35/218 (16%); p = .03) and non-significantly greater in BRCA2-positive families (23/189 (12%); p = .6), compared to high-risk breast cancer families without a BRCA1/2 mutation (86/796 (11%)). EC was the first/concurrent cancer for 41% of EC cases with multiple cancer diagnoses from BRCA1/2 families, and early onset for most of these diagnoses. Mutation status was imputed for ungeno-typed individuals from 57 BRCA1/2 pedigrees reporting EC using BRCAPRO. Effects of genotype on EC diagnosis age, and interaction with tamoxifen therapy, were assessed using Cox proportional hazards regression analysis. EC risk was non-significantly marginally greater for BRCA1 carriers (hazard ratio = 1.25, 95%CI = 0.65–2.41), and BRCA2 carriers (HR = 1.12, 95%CI = 0.51–2.45), compared to non-carrier family members. Tamoxifen therapy was highly significantly associated with EC (HR = 6.68, 95%CI = 3.12–15.15; p = 1.7 x 10-6) in BRCA1/2 families, with no evidence for interaction between tamoxifen therapy and BRCA1/2 genotype. Our family-based study supports a 7-fold increase in EC risk with tamoxifen exposure for female family members from BRCA1/2 families. Early onset EC in carriers without tamoxifen use suggests that further study is required to assess association of modest EC risk with BRCA1/2 mutation status alone.
Simultaneous analysis of handedness data from 35 samples of twins (with a combined sample size of 21,127 twin pairs) found a small but significant additive genetic effect accounting for 25.47% of the variance (95% confidence interval [CI] 15.69–29.51%). No common environmental influences were detected (C = 0.00; 95% CI 0.00–7.67%), with the majority of the variance, 74.53%, explained by factors unique to the individual (95% CI 70.49–78.67%). No significant heterogeneity was observed within studies that used similar methods to assess handedness, or across studies that used different methods. At an individual level the majority of studies had insufficient power to reject a purely unique environmental model due to insufficient power to detect familial aggregation. This lack of power is seldom mentioned within studies, and has contributed to the misconception that twin studies of handedness are not informative.
Appendicitis usually afflicts the young, but there is a large tail in the distribution of onset age. The genetics of this disease are still not well understood. A heritability analysis and genome wide linkage analysis of a large twin dataset was undertaken. Treating age of onset of appendicitis as a censored survival trait revealed a heritability of 0.21, and found evidence of linkage to Chromosome 1p37.3.
We have rated eye color on a 3-point scale (1 = blue/grey, 2 = hazel/green, 3 = brown) in 502 twin families and carried out a 5–10 cM genome scan (400–757 markers). We analyzed eye color as a threshold trait and performed multipoint sib pair linkage analysis using variance components analysis in Mx. A lod of 19.2 was found at the marker D15S1002, less than 1 cM from OCA2, which has been previously implicated in eye color variation. We estimate that 74% of variance in eye color liability is due to this QTL and a further 18% due to polygenic effects. However, a large shoulder on this peak suggests that other loci affecting eye color may be telomeric of OCA2 and inflating the QTL estimate. No other peaks reached genome-wide significance, although lods > 2 were seen on 5p and 14q and lods >1 were additionally seen on chromosomes 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 17 and 18. Most of these secondary peaks were reduced or eliminated when we repeated the scan as a two locus analysis with the 15q linkage included, although this does not necessarily exclude them as false positives. We also estimated the interaction between the 15q QTL and the other marker locus but there was only minor evidence for additive [.dotmath] additive epistasis. Elaborating the analysis to the full two-locus model including non-additive main effects and interactions did not strengthen the evidence for epistasis. We conclude that most variation in eye color in Europeans is due to polymorphism in OCA2 but that there may be modifiers at several other loci.
Aloss of function mutation in growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF9) in sheep causes increased ovulation rate and infertility in a dosage-sensitive manner. Spontaneous dizygotic (DZ) twinning in the human is under genetic control and women with a history of DZ twinning have an increased incidence of multiple follicle growth and multiple ovulation. We sequenced the GDF9 coding region in DNA samples from 20 women with DZ twins and identified a four-base pair deletion in GDF9 in two sisters with twins from one family. We screened a further 429 families and did not find the loss of function mutation in any other families. We genotyped eight single nucleotide polymorphisms across the GDF9 locus in 379 families with two sisters who have both given birth to spontaneous DZ twins (1527 individuals) and 226 triad families with mothers of twins and their parents (723 individuals). Using case control analysis and the transmission disequilibrium test we found no evidence for association between common variants in GDF9 and twinning in the families. We conclude that rare mutations in GDF9 may influence twinning, but twinning frequency is not associated with common variation in GDF9.
Genes in the TGF9 signaling pathway play important roles in the regulation of ovarian follicle growth and ovulation rate. Mutations in three genes in this pathway, growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF9), bone morphogenetic protein 15 (BMP15) and the bone morphogenetic protein receptor B 1 (BMPRB1), influence dizygotic (DZ) twinning rates in sheep. To date, only variants in GDF9 and BMP15, but not their receptors transforming growth factor ß receptor 1 (TGFBR1), bone morphogenetic protein receptor 2 (BMPR2) and BMPR1B, have been investigated with respect to their roles in human DZ twinning. We screened for rare and novel variants in TGFBR1, BMPR2 and BMPR1B in mothers of dizygotic twins (MODZT) from twin-dense families, and assessed association between genotyped and imputed variants and DZ twinning in another large sample of MODZT. Three novel variants were found: a deep intronic variant in BMPR2, and one intronic and one non-synonymous exonic variant in BMPRB1 which would result in the replacement of glutamine by glutamic acid at amino acid position 294 (p.Gln294Glu). None of these variants were predicted to have major impacts on gene function. However, the p.Gln294Glu variant changes the same amino acid as a sheep BMPR1B functional variant and may have functional consequences. Six BMPR1B variants were marginally associated with DZ twinning in the larger case-control sample, but these were no longer significant once multiple testing was taken into account. Our results suggest that variation in the TGF9 signaling pathway type II receptors has limited effects on DZ twinning rates in humans.
The Korean Twin Registry is the first nationwide twin study in Korea. We compiled 154,783 twin pairs from existing nationwide data sources, mainly from address and national health insurance data. The coverage of this registry was almost complete for the twins born since 1970, but less complete as age increased, so that there were only 990 pairs who were born before 1930. The twins' health examination (N = 54,390 persons) and questionnaire (N = 44,546 persons) results were incorporated into the registry, yielding 12,894 and 9074 concordantly informative pairs. Morbidity and mortality outcomes have been followed up since 1990, for most diseases. For preliminary analysis of complex diseases, we selected ventricular septal defects (VSD) in young twins, stomach and colorectal cancers in adult twins. We identified 353 VSDs, 284 stomach cancers, and 116 colorectal cancers among twins. The prevalence rates of cancers, but not that of VSD, were lower in twins than those in population. The difference in the cancer prevalence was marked for twins born before 1926, implying some degree of selection. Like-sex (LS) twins showed familial recurrence risks (λLS) of 41.2 for VSD and 22.4 for colorectal cancers, and 1.74 for stomach cancers. For opposite-sex (OS) twins, we could estimate λOS of 19.8 for VSD only. These results were compatible with previous studies for VSD and colorectal cancers, but not for stomach cancers. Despite the strength in size, availability of health outcomes, and some lifestyle and basic laboratory data, we need accurate zygosity information to improve the validity of the results.