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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.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a common mood disorder, with a heritability of around 34%. Molecular genetic studies made significant progress and identified genetic markers associated with the risk of MDD; however, progress is slowed down by substantial heterogeneity as MDD is assessed differently across international cohorts. Here, we used a standardized online approach to measure MDD in multiple cohorts in the Netherlands and evaluated whether this approach can be used in epidemiological and genetic association studies of depression.
Within the Biobank Netherlands Internet Collaboration (BIONIC) project, we collected MDD data in eight cohorts involving 31 936 participants, using the online Lifetime Depression Assessment Self-report (LIDAS), and estimated the prevalence of current and lifetime MDD in 22 623 unrelated individuals. In a large Netherlands Twin Register (NTR) twin-family dataset (n ≈ 18 000), we estimated the heritability of MDD, and the prediction of MDD in a subset (n = 4782) through Polygenic Risk Score (PRS).
Estimates of current and lifetime MDD prevalence were 6.7% and 18.1%, respectively, in line with population estimates based on validated psychiatric interviews. In the NTR heritability estimates were 0.34/0.30 (s.e. = 0.02/0.02) for current/lifetime MDD, respectively, showing that the LIDAS gives similar heritability rates for MDD as reported in the literature. The PRS predicted risk of MDD (OR 1.23, 95% CI 1.15–1.32, R2 = 1.47%).
By assessing MDD status in the Netherlands using the LIDAS instrument, we were able to confirm previously reported MDD prevalence and heritability estimates, which suggests that this instrument can be used in epidemiological and genetic association studies of depression.
Here we provide an update of the 2013 report on the Nigerian Twin and Sibling Registry (NTSR). The major aim of the NTSR is to understand genetic and environmental influences and their interplay in psychological and mental health development in Nigerian children and adolescents. Africans have the highest twin birth rates among all human populations, and Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. Due to its combination of large population and high twin birth rates, Nigeria has one of the largest twin populations in the world. In this article, we provide current updates on the NTSR samples recruited, recruitment procedures, zygosity assessment and findings emerging from the NTSR.
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.
Twin registries often take part in large collaborative projects and are major contributors to genome-wide association (GWA) meta-analysis studies. In this article, we describe genotyping of twin-family populations from Australia, the Midwestern USA (Avera Twin Register), the Netherlands (Netherlands Twin Register), as well as a sample of mothers of twins from Nigeria to assess the extent, if any, of genetic differences between them. Genotyping in all cohorts was done using a custom-designed Illumina Global Screening Array (GSA), optimized to improve imputation quality for population-specific GWA studies. We investigated the degree of genetic similarity between the populations using several measures of population variation with genotype data generated from the GSA. Visualization of principal component analysis (PCA) revealed that the Australian, Dutch and Midwestern American populations exhibit negligible interpopulation stratification when compared to each other, to a reference European population and to globally distant populations. Estimations of fixation indices (FST values) between the Australian, Midwestern American and Netherlands populations suggest minimal genetic differentiation compared to the estimates between each population and a genetically distinct cohort (i.e., samples from Nigeria genotyped on GSA). Thus, results from this study demonstrate that genotype data from the Australian, Dutch and Midwestern American twin-family populations can be reasonably combined for joint-genetic analysis.
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.
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.
Approximately half of the variation in wellbeing measures overlaps with variation in personality traits. Studies of non-human primate pedigrees and human twins suggest that this is due to common genetic influences. We tested whether personality polygenic scores for the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) domains and for item response theory (IRT) derived extraversion and neuroticism scores predict variance in wellbeing measures. Polygenic scores were based on published genome-wide association (GWA) results in over 17,000 individuals for the NEO-FFI and in over 63,000 for the IRT extraversion and neuroticism traits. The NEO-FFI polygenic scores were used to predict life satisfaction in 7 cohorts, positive affect in 12 cohorts, and general wellbeing in 1 cohort (maximal N = 46,508). Meta-analysis of these results showed no significant association between NEO-FFI personality polygenic scores and the wellbeing measures. IRT extraversion and neuroticism polygenic scores were used to predict life satisfaction and positive affect in almost 37,000 individuals from UK Biobank. Significant positive associations (effect sizes <0.05%) were observed between the extraversion polygenic score and wellbeing measures, and a negative association was observed between the polygenic neuroticism score and life satisfaction. Furthermore, using GWA data, genetic correlations of -0.49 and -0.55 were estimated between neuroticism with life satisfaction and positive affect, respectively. The moderate genetic correlation between neuroticism and wellbeing is in line with twin research showing that genetic influences on wellbeing are also shared with other independent personality domains.
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.
Monozygotic (MZ) twins are genetically identical at conception, making them informative subjects for studies on somatic mutations. Copy number variants (CNVs) are responsible for a substantial part of genetic variation, have relatively high mutation rates, and are likely to be involved in phenotypic variation. We conducted a genome-wide survey for post-twinning de novo CNVs in 1,097 MZ twin pairs. Comparisons between MZ twins were made by CNVs measured in DNA from blood or buccal epithelium with the Affymetrix 6.0 microarray and two calling algorithms. In addition, CNV concordance rates were compared between the different sources of DNA, and gene-enrichment association analyses were conducted for thought problems (TP) and attention problems (AP) using CNVs concordant within MZ pairs. We found a total of 153 putative post-twinning de novo CNVs >100 kb, of which the majority resided in 15q11.2. Based on the discordance of raw intensity signals a selection was made of 20 de novo CNVs for a qPCR validation experiments. Two out of 20 post-twinning de novo CNVs were validated with qPCR in the same twin pair. The 13-year-old MZ twin pair that showed two discordances in CN in 15q11.2 in their buccal DNA did not show large phenotypic differences. From the remaining 18 putative de novo CNVs, 17 were deletions or duplications that were concordant within MZ twin pairs. Concordance rates within twin pairs of CNV calls with CN ≠ 2 were ~80%. Buccal epithelium-derived DNA showed a slightly but significantly higher concordance rate, and blood-derived DNA showed significantly more concordant CNVs per twin pair. The gene-enrichment analyses on concordant CNVs showed no significant associations between CNVs overlapping with genes involved in neuronal processes and TP or AP after accounting for the source of DNA.
The Netherlands Twin Register (NTR) began in 1987 with data collection in twins and their families, including families with newborn twins and triplets. Twenty-five years later, the NTR has collected at least one survey for 70,784 children, born after 1985. For the majority of twins, longitudinal data collection has been done by age-specific surveys. Shortly after giving birth, mothers receive a first survey with items on pregnancy and birth. At age 2, a survey on growth and achievement of milestones is sent. At ages 3, 7, 9/10, and 12 parents and teachers receive a series of surveys that are targeted at the development of emotional and behavior problems. From age 14 years onward, adolescent twins and their siblings report on their behavior problems, health, and lifestyle. When the twins are 18 years and older, parents are also invited to take part in survey studies. In sub-groups of different ages, in-depth phenotyping was done for IQ, electroencephalography , MRI, growth, hormones, neuropsychological assessments, and cardiovascular measures. DNA and biological samples have also been collected and large numbers of twin pairs and parents have been genotyped for zygosity by either micro-satellites or sets of short nucleotide polymorphisms and repeat polymorphisms in candidate genes. Subject recruitment and data collection is still ongoing and the longitudinal database is growing. Data collection by record linkage in the Netherlands is beginning and we expect these combined longitudinal data to provide increased insights into the genetic etiology of development of mental and physical health in children and adolescents.
With the desire to assess genetic variation across the lifespan in large-scale collaborative projects, one question is whether inference of copy number (CN) is sensitive to the source of material for deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) analysis (e.g., blood and buccal) and another question is whether CN is stable as individuals age. Here, we address these questions by applying Affymetrix 6.0 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) micro-arrays to 1,472 DNA samples from 710 individuals from the Netherlands Twin Register, including twin and non-twin individuals (372 with buccal and blood derived DNA and 388 with longitudinal data). Similar concordance for CN and genotype inference between samples from the same individual [or from the monozygotic (MZ) co-twins] was found for blood and buccal tissues. There was a small but statistically significant decrease in across-tissue concordance compared with concordance of samples from the same tissue type. No temporal effect was seen on CN variation from the 388 individuals sampled at two time points ranging from 1 to 12 years apart. The majority of our individuals were sampled at age younger than 20 years. Genotype concordance was very high (R2 > 99%) between co-twins from 43 MZ pairs. For 75 dizygotic (DZ) pairs, R2 was ≈65%. CN estimates were highly consistent between co-twins from MZ pairs for both deletions (R2 ≈ 90%) and duplications (R2 ≈ 86%). For DZ, these were similar for within-individual comparisons, but naturally lower between co-twins (R2 ≈ 50–60%). These results suggest that DNA from buccal samples perform as well as DNA from blood samples on the current generation of micro-array technologies.
Association studies, comparing elite athletes with sedentary controls, have reported a number of genes that may be related to athlete status. The present study reports the first genome wide linkage scan for athlete status. Subjects were 4488 adult female twins from the TwinsUK Adult Twin Registry (793 monozygotic [MZ] and 1000 dizygotic [DZ] complete twin pairs, and single twins). Athlete status was measured by asking the twins whether they had ever competed in sports and what was the highest level obtained. Twins who had competed at the county or national level were considered elite athletes. Using structural equation modeling in Mx, the heritability of athlete status was estimated at 66%. Seven hundred DZ twin pairs that were successfully genotyped for 1946 markers (736 microsatellites and 1210 SNPs) were included in the linkage analysis. Identical-by-descent probabilities were estimated in Merlin for a 1 cM grid, taking into account the linkage disequilibrium of correlated SNPs. The linkage scan was carried out in Mx using the -approach. Suggestive linkages were found on chromosomes 3q22-q24 and 4q31-q34. Both areas converge with findings from previous studies using exercise phenotypes. The peak on 3q22-q24 was found at the SLC9A9 gene. The region 4q31-q34 overlaps with the region for which suggestive linkages were found in two previous linkage studies for physical fitness (FABP2 gene; Bouchard et al., 2000) and physical activity (UCP1 gene; Simonen et al., 2003). Future association studies should further clarify the possible role of these genes in athlete status.
In Australian twins participating in three different studies (1979–1996), the contribution of genetic and environmental influences to variation in resting systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) was studied. The sample consisted of 368 monozygotic and 335 dizygotic twin pairs with measurements for both individuals. Blood pressure measurements in two studies were available for 115 complete twin pairs, and 49 twin pairs had measurements in three studies. This allowed assessment of blood pressure tracking over an average period of 12 years in the age range of 23 to 45 years. Multivariate analyses showed significant heritability (h2) of blood pressure in all studies (SBP h2 = 19%–56%, DBP h2 = 37%–52%). In addition, the analyses showed that the blood pressure tracking was explained by the same set of genetic factors. These results replicate an earlier finding in Dutch twins that also showed stability of the contribution of genetic factors to blood pressure tracking.
In the late 1980s The Netherlands Twin Register (NTR) was established by recruiting young twins and multiples at birth and by approaching adolescent and young adult twins through city councils. The Adult NTR (ANTR) includes twins, their parents, siblings, spouses and their adult offspring. The number of participants in the ANTR who take part in survey and / or laboratory studies is over 22,000 subjects. A special group of participants consists of sisters who are mothers of twins. In the Young NTR (YNTR), data on more than 50,000 young twins have been collected. Currently we are extending the YNTR by including siblings of twins. Participants in YNTR and ANTR have been phenotyped every 2 to 3 years in longitudinal survey studies, since 1986 and 1991 for the YNTR and ANTR, respectively. The resulting large population-based datasets are used for genetic epidemiological studies and also, for example, to advance phenotyping through the development of new syndrome scales based on existing items from other inventories. New research developments further include brain imaging studies in selected and unselected groups, clinical assessment of psychopathology through interviews, and cross-referencing the NTR database to other national databases. A large biobank enterprise is ongoing in the ANTR in which blood and urine samples are collected for genotyping, expression analysis, and meta-bolomics studies. In this paper we give an update on the YNTR and ANTR phenotyping and on the ongoing ANTR biobank studies.
Recently, Macgregor et al. (2009) demonstrated significant associations of ADH polymorphisms with reactions to alcohol and alcohol consumption measures in an Australian sample. The aim of the present study was to replicate these findings in a Dutch sample. Survey data on alcohol phenotypes came from 1,754 unrelated individuals registered with the Netherlands Twin Register. SNPs in the ADH gene cluster located on chromosome 4q (n = 491) were subdivided in seven gene sets: ADH5, ADH4, ADH6, ADH1A, ADH1B, ADH1C and ADH7. Within these sets associations of SNPs with alcohol consumption measures, age at onset variables, reactions to alcohol and problem drinking liability were examined. Of the original 38 SNPs studied by Macgregor et al. (2009), six SNPs were not available in our dataset, because one of them had a minor allele frequency < .01 (rs1229984) and five could not be imputed. The remaining SNP associations with alcohol phenotypes as identified by Macgregor et al. (2009) were not replicated in the Dutch sample, after correcting for multiple genotype and phenotype testing. Significant associations were found however, for reactions to alcohol with a SNP in ADH5 (rs6827292, p = .001) and a SNP just upstream of ADH5 (rs6819724, p = .0007) that is in strong LD with rs6827292. Furthermore, an association between age at onset of regular alcohol use and a SNP just upstream of ADH7 (rs2654849, p = .003) was observed. No significant associations were found for alcohol consumption and problem drinking liability. Although these findings do not replicate the earlier findings at the SNP level, the results confirm the role of the ADH gene cluster in alcohol phenotypes.
In this article we describe the design and implementation of a database for extended twin families. The database does not focus on probands or on index twins, as this approach becomes problematic when larger multigenerational families are included, when more than one set of multiples is present within a family, or when families turn out to be part of a larger pedigree. Instead, we present an alternative approach that uses a highly flexible notion of persons and relations. The relations among the subjects in the database have a one-to-many structure, are user-definable and extendible and support arbitrarily complicated pedigrees. Some additional characteristics of the database are highlighted, such as the storage of historical data, predefined expressions for advanced queries, output facilities for individuals and relations among individuals and an easy-to-use multi-step wizard for contacting participants. This solution presents a flexible approach to accommodate pedigrees of arbitrary size, multiple biological and nonbiological relationships among participants and dynamic changes in these relations that occur over time, which can be implemented for any type of multigenerational family study.
In 2004 the Netherlands Twin Register (NTR) started a large scale biological sample collection in twin families to create a resource for genetic studies on health, lifestyle and personality. Between January 2004 and July 2008, adult participants from NTR research projects were invited into the study. During a home visit between 7:00 and 10:00 am, fasting blood and morning urine samples were collected. Fertile women were bled on day 2–4 of the menstrual cycle, or in their pill-free week. Biological samples were collected for DNA isolation, gene expression studies, creation of cell lines and for biomarker assessment. At the time of blood sampling, additional phenotypic information concerning health, medication use, body composition and smoking was collected. Of the participants contacted, 69% participated. Blood and urine samples were collected in 9,530 participants (63% female, average age 44.4 (SD 15.5) years) from 3,477 families. Lipid profile, glucose, insulin, HbA1c, haematology, CRP, fibrinogen, liver enzymes and creatinine have been assessed. Longitudinal survey data on health, personality and lifestyle are currently available for 90% of all participants. Genome-wide SNP data are available for 3,524 participants, with additional genotyping ongoing. The NTR biobank, combined with the extensive phenotypic information available within the NTR, provides a valuable resource for the study of genetic determinants of individual differences in mental and physical health. It offers opportunities for DNA-based and gene expression studies as well as for future metabolomic and proteomic projects.
The finding of a significant gene by environment interaction effect on depression of the serotonin transporter length polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) and the Number of experienced Life Events (NLE) was not replicated in two large meta-analyses (Munafo et al., 2009; Risch et al., 2009). These meta-analyses have been criticized on the grounds that large studies that get most weight in meta-analyses have the poorest measurement quality of life events and, as a consequence, do not find an effect. Another issue is the time frame across which the NLE are measured. Proximal life events appear to be better predictors of depression than more distal events. We present the results of analyses of the 5-HTTLPR × NLE effect on anxious depression and neuroticism scores in a sample of 1,155 twins and their parents and siblings from 438 families. The interaction effect was tested separately for NLE experienced across the life span and NLE experienced in the past year. There was a significant main effect of NLE on anxious depression and neuroticism, especially when these were experienced in the past year. No interaction with 5-HTTLPR was found for NLE either experienced across the life span or across the past year. Our results support the two recent meta-analyses. Given recent insights from genome wide association studies, it seems more useful to focus on the joint effect of several genes, that are, for example, part of the same biological pathway, in interaction with the environment, than on one candidate gene.