Original Investigation

Human Genetics

, Volume 129, Issue 2, pp 221-230

Genetic risk sum score comprised of common polygenic variation is associated with body mass index

  • Roseann E. PetersonAffiliated withVirginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University School of MedicineDepartment of Human and Molecular Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine Email author 
  • , Hermine H. MaesAffiliated withVirginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University School of MedicineMassey Cancer Center, Virginia Commonwealth University School of MedicineDepartment of Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University School of MedicineDepartment of Human and Molecular Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
  • , Peter HolmansAffiliated withDepartment of Psychological Medicine and Neurology, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, School of Medicine, Cardiff University
  • , Alan R. SandersAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Center for Psychiatric Genetics, NorthShore University HealthSystem
  • , Douglas F. LevinsonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University
  • , Jianxin ShiAffiliated withDivision of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute
  • , Kenneth S. KendlerAffiliated withVirginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University School of MedicineDepartment of Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University School of MedicineDepartment of Human and Molecular Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
  • , Pablo V. GejmanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Center for Psychiatric Genetics, NorthShore University HealthSystem
  • , Bradley T. WebbAffiliated withVirginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University School of MedicineDepartment of Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine Email author 

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Abstract

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of body mass index (BMI) using large samples have yielded approximately a dozen robustly associated variants and implicated additional loci. Individually these variants have small effects and in aggregate explain a small proportion of the variance. As a result, replication attempts have limited power to achieve genome-wide significance, even with several thousand subjects. Since there is strong prior evidence for genetic influence on BMI for specific variants, alternative approaches to replication can be applied. Instead of testing individual loci sequentially, a genetic risk sum score (GRSS) summarizing the total number of risk alleles can be tested. In the current study, GRSS comprising 56 top variants catalogued from two large meta-analyses was tested for association with BMI in the Molecular Genetics of Schizophrenia controls (2,653 European-Americans, 973 African-Americans). After accounting for covariates known to influence BMI (ancestry, sex, age), GRSS was highly associated with BMI (p value = 3.19E−06) although explained a limited amount of the variance (0.66%). However, area under receiver operator criteria curve (AUC) estimates indicated that the GRSS and covariates significantly predicted overweight and obesity classification with maximum discriminative ability for predicting class III obesity (AUC = 0.697). The relative contributions of the individual loci to GRSS were examined post hoc and the results were not due to a few highly significant variants, but rather the result of numerous variants of small effect. This study provides evidence of the utility of a GRSS as an alternative approach to replication of common polygenic variation in complex traits.