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Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have an impact on women's adaptation to parenthood, but mechanisms are poorly understood. Autonomic nervous system reactivity was tested as a potential mediating mechanism in a sample of 193 at-risk primiparous women. ACEs were measured retrospectively during pregnancy. A baby cry-response task was administered during pregnancy while indicators of sympathetic reactivity (pre-ejection period; PEP) and parasympathetic reactivity (respiratory sinus arrhythmia; RSA) were recorded. Parenting self-efficacy, anxiety, and depressive symptoms were measured during pregnancy and 1 year after giving birth. Harsh discipline was measured 2 years after giving birth. Structural equation modeling was employed to test whether baseline PEP and RSA and reactivity mediated links between ACEs and postnatal outcomes, adjusted for prenatal variables. High ACEs predicted less RSA reactivity (p = .02), which subsequently predicted increases in depressive symptoms (p = .03). The indirect effect was not significant (p = .06). There was no indirect link between high ACEs and harsh parenting through PEP nor RSA (n = 98). The parasympathetic nervous system may be involved in negative affective responses in the transition to parenthood among women exposed to childhood trauma.
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.
Over the past 25 years, the Adult Netherlands Twin Register (ANTR) has collected a wealth of information on physical and mental health, lifestyle, and personality in adolescents and adults. This article provides an overview of the sources of information available, the main research findings, and an outlook for the future. Between 1991 and 2012, longitudinal surveys were completed by twins, their parents, siblings, spouses, and offspring. Data are available for 33,957 participants, with most individuals having completed two or more surveys. Smaller projects provided in-depth phenotyping, including measurements of the autonomic nervous system, neurocognitive function, and brain imaging. For 46% of the ANTR participants, DNA samples are available and whole genome scans have been obtained in more than 11,000 individuals. These data have resulted in numerous studies on heritability, gene x environment interactions, and causality, as well as gene finding studies. In the future, these studies will continue with collection of additional phenotypes, such as metabolomic and telomere length data, and detailed genetic information provided by DNA and RNA sequencing. Record linkage to national registers will allow the study of morbidity and mortality, thus providing insight into the development of health, lifestyle, and behavior across the lifespan.
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.
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.
Causes of individual differences in happiness, as assessed with the Subjective Happiness Scale, are investigated in a large of sample twins and siblings from the Netherlands Twin Register. Over 12,000 twins and siblings, average age 24.7 years (range 12 to 88), took part in the study. A genetic model with an age by sex design was fitted to the data with structural equation modeling in Mx. The heritability of happiness was estimated at 22% for males and 41% in females. No effect of age was observed. To identify the genomic regions contributing to this heritability, a genome-wide linkage study for happiness was conducted in sibling pairs. A subsample of 1157 offspring from 441 families was genotyped with an average of 371 micro-satellite markers per individual. Phenotype and genotype data were analyzed in MERLIN with multipoint variance component linkage analysis and age and sex as covariates. A linkage signal (logarithm of odds score 2.73, empirical p value 0.095) was obtained at the end of the long arm of chromosome 19 for marker D19S254 at 110 cM. A second suggestive linkage peak was found at the short arm of chromosome 1 (LOD of 2.37) at 153 cM, marker D1S534 (empirical p value of .209). These two regions of interest are not overlapping with the regions found for contrasting phenotypes (such as depression, which is negatively associated with happiness). Further linkage and future association studies are warranted.
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.
Twin registries form an exceptionally rich source of information that is largely unexploited for phenotypic analyses. One obstacle to straightforward phenotypic statistical analysis is the inherent dependency, which is due to the clustering of cases within families. The present simulation study gauges the degree of the bias produced by the dependency of family data on the estimates of standard errors and chi-squared, when they are treated as independent observations in a phenotypic model, and assesses the efficiency of an estimator, which corrects for dependency. When family-clustered data are used for phenotypic analysis, in treating individuals as independent, and using standard maximum likelihood estimation, there is a tendency for the chi-square statistic to be overestimated, and the standard errors of the parameters to be underestimated. The bias increases with family resemblance, due to heritability or shared environment. The source of family resemblance — either heritability (h2) and/or shared environment (c2) — interacts with the composition of the sample. In the absence of c2, samples with twins, parents and spouses show the lowest bias, whereas in the presence of c2 samples with only twins show the lowest bias. In all conditions the bias remained below 15%. The use of the ‘complex option’ available in Mplus (clustering corrected robust maximum likelihood estimation) reduces the bias to the levels observed when only independent cases are considered. Thus with the use of robust estimates the bias due to family dependency becomes practically negligible in all conditions of dependency. In conclusion, the present study shows that the bias due to dependency in family data does not form a serious obstacle to phenotypic data analysis.
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