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Type 2 diabetes, which is caused by both genetic and environmental factors, may be diagnosed using the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). Recent studies demonstrated specific patterns in glucose curves during OGTT associated with cardiometabolic risk profiles. As the relative contribution of genetic and environmental influences on glucose curve patterns is unknown, we aimed to investigate the heritability of these patterns. We studied twins from the Danish GEMINAKAR cohort aged 18–67 years and free from diabetes at baseline during 1997–2000; glucose concentrations were measured three times during a 2-h OGTT. Heterogeneity of the glucose response during OGTT was examined with latent class mixed-effects models, evaluating goodness of fit by Bayes information criterion. The genetic influence on curve patterns was estimated using quantitative genetic modeling based on linear structural equations. Overall, 1455 twins (41% monozygotic) had valid glucose concentrations measured from the OGTT, and four latent classes with different glucose response patterns were identified. Statistical modeling demonstrated genetic influence for belonging to a specific class or not, with heritability estimated to be between 45% and 67%. During ∼12 years of follow-up, the four classes were each associated with different incidence of type 2 diabetes. Hence, glucose response curve patterns associated with type 2 diabetes risk appear to be moderately to highly heritable.
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.
Genome-wide association analysis on monozygotic twin-pairs offers a route to discovery of gene–environment interactions through testing for variability loci associated with sensitivity to individual environment/lifestyle. We present a genome-wide scan of loci associated with intra-pair differences in serum lipid and apolipoprotein levels. We report data for 1,720 monozygotic female twin-pairs from GenomEUtwin project with 2.5 million SNPs, imputed or genotyped, and measured serum lipid fractions for both twins. We found one locus associated with intra-pair differences in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, rs2483058 in an intron of SRGAP2, where twins carrying the C allele are more sensitive to environmental factors (P = 3.98 × 10−8). We followed up the association in further genotyped monozygotic twins (N = 1,261), which showed a moderate association for the variant (P = 0.200, same direction of an effect). In addition, we report a new association on the level of apolipoprotein A-II (P = 4.03 × 10−8).
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.
Physical activity is influenced by genetic factors whose expression may change with age. We employed an extension to the classical twin model that allows a modifier variable, age, to interact with the effects of the latent genetic and environmental factors. The model was applied to self-reported data from twins aged 19 to 50 from seven countries that collaborated in the GenomEUtwin project: Australia, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden and United Kingdom. Results confirmed the importance of genetic influences on physical activity in all countries and showed an age-related decrease in heritability for 4 countries. In the other three countries age did not interact with heritability but those samples were smaller or had a more restricted age range. Effects of shared environment were absent, except in older Swedish participants. The study confirms the importance of taking age effects into account when exploring the genetic and environmental contribution to physical activity. It also suggests that the power of genome-wide association studies to identify the genetic variants contributing to physical activity may be larger in young adult cohorts.
The purpose of the study was to describe a large sample of twins reporting a history of seizures, to characterize seizures in the three subpopulations, and to estimate the relative importance of genetic and environmental factors in seizure occurrence. Seizure history was determined by questionnaires completed by twins in population-based twin registries in the United States, Norway and Denmark. Concordance rates were calculated for all seizure categories within and across twin populations. Of 47,626 twin pairs evaluated, 6234 reported a history of seizures in one or both twins. Concordance rates were significantly higher for monozygotic (MZ) versus dizygotic (DZ) pairs for all seizure categories within and across populations. The results of this study involving the largest unselected, population-based sample of twins with seizures assembled to date confirm the importance of genetic factors in determining risk for epilepsy, febrile seizures, other seizures and staring spells. This sample is likely to provide an important resource for studying the genetics of epilepsy subtypes and febrile seizures.
Bread is an elementary part of the western diet, and especially rye bread is regarded as an important source of fibre. We investigated the heritability of eating bread in terms of choice of white and rye bread and use-frequency of bread in female and male twins in Denmark and Finland. The study cohorts included 575 Danish (age range 18–67 years) and 2009 Finnish (age range 22–27 years) adult twin pairs. Self-reported frequency of eating bread was obtained by food frequency questionnaires. Univariate models based on linear structural equations for twin data were used to estimate the relative magnitude of the additive genetic, shared environmental and individual environmental effects on bread eating frequency and choice of bread. The analysis of bread intake frequency demonstrated moderate heritability ranging from 37–40% in the Finnish cohort and 23–26% in the Danish cohort. The genetic influence on intake of white bread was moderate (24–31%), while the genetic influence on intake of rye bread was higher in men (41–45%) than in women (24–33%). Environmental influences shared by the twins were not significant. Consumption of bread as well as choice of bread is influenced by genetic predisposition. Environmental factors shared by the co-twins (e.g., childhood environment) seem to have no significant effects on bread consumption and preference in adulthood.
Body mass index (BMI), a simple anthropometric measure, is the most frequently used measure of adiposity and has been instrumental in documenting the worldwide increase in the prevalence of obesity witnessed during the last decades. Although this increase in overweight and obesity is thought to be mainly due to environmental changes, i.e., sedentary lifestyles and high caloric diets, consistent evidence from twin studies demonstrates high heritability and the importance of genetic differences for normal variation in BMI. We analysed self-reported data on BMI from approximately 37,000 complete twin pairs (including opposite sex pairs) aged 20–29 and 30–39 from eight different twin registries participating in the GenomEUtwin project. Quantitative genetic analyses were conducted and sex differences were explored. Variation in BMI was greater for women than for men, and in both sexes was primarily explained by additive genetic variance in all countries. Sex differences in the variance components were consistently significant. Results from analyses of opposite sex pairs also showed evidence of sex-specific genetic effects suggesting there may be some differences between men and women in the genetic factors that influence variation in BMI. These results encourage the continued search for genes of importance to the body composition and the development of obesity. Furthermore, they suggest that strategies to identify predisposing genes may benefit from taking into account potential sex specific effects.
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