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  1. All, I'm usually reluctant to post studies that try to associate single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with health or longevity outcomes. There are several reasons to be skeptical of such gene studies, including: They often fail to replicate across different populations The effects of individual SNP variations are often quite small - since there are usually many genes and polymorphisms that contribute to any important health/longevity outcome Often it's not even clear from the study what the specific allele variation(s) the authors are evaluating You often can't even find out what variant of an allele you have - since only some of us have our own genetic data and even that is only partial coverage through 23andMe. There is nothing you can do about it anyway - your genes are your genes. These polymorphisms and their effects often have nothing to do with CR. But this new meta-analysis [1] posted by Al Pater (thanks Al!) seems to suffer from none of these shortcomings. It focuses on a SNP in the FoxO3 gene (rs2802292) which has been previously associated with longevity - is it overrepresented in centenarians [2], as discussed here, and summarized as: [T]he odds ratio for reaching 100 years of age for rs2802292(G;G) vs (T;T) carriers was 2.75 (p = 0.00009; adjusted p = 0.00135). One's odds of living to 100 with one copy of 'G' for rs2802292 (i.e. G:T), appears to be about 1.5-2 times greater than people with T:T. Those results were encouraging, but didn't address causality, and was limited to a homogeneous population of men. Plus it only seemed relevant for people without other 'gotchas' (genetic or otherwise) that might kill them off long before reaching 100. What about the rest of us mortals, who may not be destined to live that long? Does having copies of the 'G' allele for rs2802292 do the rest of us any good on the way to extreme longevity? Apparently - Yes! Study [1] followed three pretty large groups of Americans with Japanese (N ≈ 3600), Caucasian (N ≈ 1600), or African (N ≈ 1000) ancestory for 17 years to assess the association between SNP rs2802292 status and mortality. Interestingly, the frequency of being a lucky 'G' Allele Carrier (GAC) for this SNP varied between the three populations - 47% of Japanese, 58% of Caucasian and 92% of African ancestry folks were GACs. Across all three populations, being a GAC was associated with a 10% reduction in all-cause mortality over the 17 year follow-up, with virtually all of the benefit resulting from a 26% reduction in heart disease mortality. Here is the most important figure from the free full text: As you can see the effect was quite consistent across the three populations. The difference in the confidence interval for the three groups was a result of the different population sizes. The cool thing is that those of us with 23andMe data can find out our status for SNP rs2802292. Simply log in to 23andMe and follow this link. I'm fortunate to be in the ~60% of caucasian people who is a 'G' carrier for this allele (I've got one copy). But for anyone who isn't lucky enough to be a GAC for this allele, there is still hope. Why? Because FoxO3 gene activity is something we know quite a bit about, including ways of boosting its activity, like the G allele for rs2802292 apparently does. Curiously, cider vinegar appears to upregulate DAF-16, the C. Elegans equivalent of FoxO3, which in turn resulted in the worms living 25% longer, as discussed here. So maybe cider vinegar is worth including in one's diet. I do. But even more relevant, we know that both CR and cold exposure increase FoxO3 gene expression largely by upregulating SIRT1, as discussed recently here. So everybody wins! --Dean ------------------ [1] The FoxO3 gene and cause-specific mortality. Willcox BJ, Tranah GJ, Chen R, Morris BJ, Masaki KH, He Q, Willcox DC, Allsopp RC, Moisyadi S, Poon LW, Rodriguez B, Newman AB, Harris TB, Cummings SR, Liu Y, Parimi N, Evans DS, Davy P, Gerschenson M, Donlon TA. Aging Cell. 2016 Apr 13. doi: 10.1111/acel.12452. [Epub ahead of print] Free Article http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/acel.12452/full http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/acel.12452/pdf Abstract The G allele of the FOXO3 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs2802292 exhibits a consistently replicated genetic association with longevity in multiple populations worldwide. The aims of this study were to quantify the mortality risk for the longevity-associated genotype and to discover the particular cause(s) of death associated with this allele in older Americans of diverse ancestry. It involved a 17-year prospective cohort study of 3584 older American men of Japanese ancestry from the Honolulu Heart Program cohort, followed by a 17-year prospective replication study of 1595 white and 1056 black elderly individuals from the Health Aging and Body Composition cohort. The relation between FOXO3 genotype and cause-specific mortality was ascertained for major causes of death including coronary heart disease (CHD), cancer, and stroke. Age-adjusted and multivariable Cox proportional hazards models were used to compute hazard ratios (HRs) for all-cause and cause-specific mortality. We found G allele carriers had a combined (Japanese, white, and black populations) risk reduction of 10% for total (all-cause) mortality (HR = 0.90; 95% CI, 0.84-0.95; P = 0.001). This effect size was consistent across populations and mostly contributed by 26% lower risk for CHD death (HR = 0.74; 95% CI, 0.64-0.86; P = 0.00004). No other causes of death made a significant contribution to the survival advantage for G allele carriers. In conclusion, at older age, there is a large risk reduction in mortality for G allele carriers, mostly due to lower CHD mortality. The findings support further research on FOXO3 and FoxO3 protein as potential targets for therapeutic intervention in aging-related diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease. KEYWORDS: FOXO3; heart disease; longevity; mortality PMID: 27071935 -------------- [2] Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Sep 16;105(37):13987-92. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0801030105. Epub 2008 Sep 2. FOXO3A genotype is strongly associated with human longevity. Willcox BJ(1), Donlon TA, He Q, Chen R, Grove JS, Yano K, Masaki KH, Willcox DC, Rodriguez B, Curb JD. Author information: (1)Pacific Health Research Institute, 846 South Hotel Street, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA. bjwillcox@phrihawaii.org Human longevity is a complex phenotype with a significant familial component, yet little is known about its genetic antecedents. Increasing evidence from animal models suggests that the insulin/IGF-1 signaling (IIS) pathway is an important, evolutionarily conserved biological pathway that influences aging and longevity. However, to date human data have been scarce. Studies have been hampered by small sample sizes, lack of precise phenotyping, and population stratification, among other challenges. Therefore, to more precisely assess potential genetic contributions to human longevity from genes linked to IIS signaling, we chose a large, homogeneous, long-lived population of men well-characterized for aging phenotypes, and we performed a nested-case control study of 5 candidate longevity genes. Genetic variation within the FOXO3A gene was strongly associated with human longevity. The OR for homozygous minor vs. homozygous major alleles between the cases and controls was 2.75 (P = 0.00009; adjusted P = 0.00135). Long-lived men also presented several additional phenotypes linked to healthy aging, including lower prevalence of cancer and cardiovascular disease, better self-reported health, and high physical and cognitive function, despite significantly older ages than controls. Several of these aging phenotypes were associated with FOXO3A genotype. Long-lived men also exhibited several biological markers indicative of greater insulin sensitivity and this was associated with homozygosity for the FOXO3A GG genotype. Further exploration of the FOXO3A gene, human longevity and other aging phenotypes is warranted in other populations. PMCID: PMC2544566 PMID: 18765803
  2. Dean Pomerleau

    Genetics of Obesity

    There is an new study on the link between genetics and obesity reported on in this popular press article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/obesity-gene-discovery-could-forever-change-weight-loss_55d4f994e4b0ab468d9fc0f4 Study [1] is the (rather technical) abstract for the paper associated with the story. I'll do my best to summarize the background and the findings of this study, which I found really interesting. First a little background. It has been known for a while that a particular gene on chromosome 16 named FTO has many (over 200) SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms - i.e. common variations in particular base pairs along this gene), several of which appear to be associated with obesity. Here are two older studies [2][3] that address this linkage. Study [2] focused on SNP rs9939609. It found that people who carry one (or especially two) copies of the 'obese' allele ('A') for this SNP were significantly more likely to be obese than those who carry the 'lean' variant ('T'). Study [3] found the same thing for three other FTO SNPs, rs1421085, rs17817449 and rs8043757. It found that people with the 'obese' variants for these three SNPs ('C', 'G' and 'T', respectively) were about 2.5 times more likely to be obese than those who had the lean variants for these three SNPs ('T', 'T', 'A', respectively). The newest study [1], focused on the first of the three SNPs from [3], namely SNP rs1421085, and did something really cool and cutting edge. They took fat cells from mice and humans and used the recently-developed CRISPR gene editing technique to change this particular SNP from the 'obese' variant ('C') to the 'lean' variant ('T'), and then observed what happened to the cells. What they found was that the fat cells converted from being thermogenically active, 'beige' fat cells (i.e. like brown fat cells) to 'white' fat cells that are much more efficient at storing fat, rather than burning it. This can be spun as a nice mechanistic story to explain why at least this SNP is associated with obesity. People who have 'C' for rs1421085 produce more white fat cells, making them more efficient at storing fat - i.e. they have a more 'thrifty' genotype and will therefore (presumably) store more fat for a given calorie intake. Now comes the interesting citizen science part. Data on all four of obesity-related SNPs mentioned above are available to subscribers of 23andMe. Simply log in, then go to this page: https://www.23andme.com/you/explorer/gene/?gene_name=FTO to get a list of all 200+ SNPs from the FTO gene that 23andMe sequences, and search on the page for these four SNPs. Here are my results: rs9939609 TT (lean variant = T) rs1421085 TT (lean variant = T) rs17817449 TT (lean variant = T) rs8043757 AA (lean variant = A) As you can see, I've inherited two copies (one from each of my parents) of the 'lean' allele for each of these four SNPs. So it is no wonder that unintended weight gain has never been an problem for me - at least according to these SNPs I have the antithesis of the 'thrifty genotype'. I'm curious what other CRONies who are also subscribers to 23andMe have for these SNPs, and whether they consider themselves to have a 'thrifty genotype' (easily gain weight) or not. I also wonder whether long-term success on a CR lifestyle is in any way correlated with the values for these SNPs. There is some indication [4] that some of the FTO SNPs (including rs9939609) have an effect on energy intake and preference for energy dense (i.e. high fat) foods, and from [2] we saw that people with the 'obese' allele for rs9939609 and who eat a high-fat, low-carb diet have a higher BMI, which could discourage people trying to practice CR in order to lose weight. Conversely, having a 'thrifty genotype' might make it easier to maintain a low calorie intake without becoming terribly skinny, which can sometimes result in social pressure to eat more to avoid looking like a concentration camp victim. :) Anyway, I've probably grossly oversimplified the science, but I found it fascinating and would be interested to hear what other 23andMe subscribers have for these alleles. --Dean ------------------------------- [1] N Engl J Med. 2015 Aug 19. [Epub ahead of print] FTO Obesity Variant Circuitry and Adipocyte Browning in Humans. Claussnitzer M(1), Dankel SN, Kim KH, Quon G, Meuleman W, Haugen C, Glunk V, Sousa IS, Beaudry JL, Puviindran V, Abdennur NA, Liu J, Svensson PA, Hsu YH, Drucker DJ, Mellgren G, Hui CC, Hauner H, Kellis M. Background Genomewide association studies can be used to identify disease-relevant genomic regions, but interpretation of the data is challenging. The FTO region harbors the strongest genetic association with obesity, yet the mechanistic basis of this association remains elusive. Methods We examined epigenomic data, allelic activity, motif conservation, regulator expression, and gene coexpression patterns, with the aim of dissecting the regulatory circuitry and mechanistic basis of the association between the FTO region and obesity. We validated our predictions with the use of directed perturbations in samples from patients and from mice and with endogenous CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing in samples from patients. Results Our data indicate that the FTO allele associated with obesity represses mitochondrial thermogenesis in adipocyte precursor cells in a tissue-autonomous manner. The rs1421085 T-to-C single-nucleotide variant disrupts a conserved motif for the ARID5B repressor, which leads to derepression of a potent preadipocyte enhancer and a doubling of IRX3 and IRX5 expression during early adipocyte differentiation. This results in a cell-autonomous developmental shift from energy-dissipating beige (brite) adipocytes to energy-storing white adipocytes, with a reduction in mitochondrial thermogenesis by a factor of 5, as well as an increase in lipid storage. Inhibition of Irx3 in adipose tissue in mice reduced body weight and increased energy dissipation without a change in physical activity or appetite. Knockdown of IRX3 or IRX5 in primary adipocytes from participants with the risk allele restored thermogenesis, increasing it by a factor of 7, and overexpression of these genes had the opposite effect in adipocytes from nonrisk-allele carriers. Repair of the ARID5B motif by CRISPR-Cas9 editing of rs1421085 in primary adipocytes from a patient with the risk allele restored IRX3 and IRX5 repression, activated browning expression programs, and restored thermogenesis, increasing it by a factor of 7. Conclusions Our results point to a pathway for adipocyte thermogenesis regulation involving ARID5B, rs1421085, IRX3, and IRX5, which, when manipulated, had pronounced pro-obesity and anti-obesity effects. (Funded by the German Research Center for Environmental Health and others.). PMID: 26287746 --------------- [2] Br J Nutr. 2012 Nov 28;108(10):1859-65. doi: 10.1017/S0007114511007410. Epub 2012 Jan 23. Association of the fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) gene variant (rs9939609) with dietary intake in the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study. Lappalainen T(1), Lindström J, Paananen J, Eriksson JG, Karhunen L, Tuomilehto J, Uusitupa M. A cluster of variants in the fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) gene are associated with the common form of obesity. Well-documented dietary data are required for identifying how the genetic risk can be modified by dietary factors. The objective of the present study was to investigate the associations between the FTO risk allele (rs9939609) and dietary intake, and to evaluate how dietary intake affects the association between FTO and BMI in the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study during a mean follow-up of 3·2 years. A total of 479 (BMI >25 kg/m2) men and women were genotyped for rs9939609. The participants completed a 3 d food record at baseline and before every annual study visit. The average intakes at baseline and during the years 1, 2 and 3 were calculated. At baseline, the FTO variant rs9939609 was not associated with the mean values of total energy intake, macronutrients or fibre. At baseline, a higher BMI by the FTO risk genotype was detected especially in those who reported a diet high in fat with mean BMI of 30·6 (sd 4·1), 31·3 (sd 4·6) and 34·5 (sd 6·2) kg/m2 for TT, TA and AA carriers, respectively (P =0·005). Higher BMI was also observed in those who had a diet low in carbohydrates (P =0·028) and fibre (P =0·015). However, in the analyses adjusted for total energy intake, age and sex, significant interactions between FTO and dietary intakes were not found. These findings suggest that the association between the FTO genotype and obesity is influenced by the components of dietary intake, and the current dietary recommendations are particularly beneficial for those who are genetically susceptible for obesity. PMID: 22265018 ----------------------- [3] Gene. 2015 Mar 1;558(1):75-81. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2014.12.050. Epub 2014 Dec 24. Common variations in the FTO gene and obesity in Thais: a family-based study. Chuenta W(1), Phonrat B(2), Tungtrongchitr A(3), Limwongse C(4), Chongviriyaphan N(5), Santiprabhob J(6), Tungtrongchitr R(7). Several studies have revealed the association between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the first intron of fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) gene and obesity. To date, more than 100 SNPs in the FTO gene have been identified in various populations. Nevertheless, this association has not yet been confirmed in Thai populations. The aim of this study was to investigate whether FTO variants are associated with obesity in Thais. We analyzed ten variants in the FTO gene (rs9939609, rs9926289, rs8050136, rs9930501, rs9930506, rs9940646, rs9940128, rs1421085, rs17817449, and rs8043757) in 12 families (83 persons); composed of 12 proband cases and 71 associated family members. All participants were genotyped using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method and DNA sequencing assay. We found significant associations between three SNPs located in the first intron of FTO gene (rs1421085, rs17817449, and rs8043757) and obesity. The odds ratios were 2.82 (95% CI, 1.16-6.90, p=0.02) for rs1421085 and rs17817449, and 3.15 (95% CI, 1.28-7.76, p=0.01) for rs8043757. Strong linkage disequilibrium among ten SNPs was observed (D'>0.8). Haplotype analysis (combination of rs1421085 (T/C), rs17817449 (T/G), and rs8043757 (A/T)) showed that the CGT haplotype is associated with an increased risk of obesity (OR, 2.42; 95% CI, 1.18-4.97; p=0.018) when compared to the reference haplotype (TTA). The SNPs rs1421085, rs17817449 and rs8043757 in the first intron of the FTO gene are associated with increasing risk of obesity in Thais. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. PMID: 25542809 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE] ------------------ [4] N Engl J Med. 2008 Dec 11;359(24):2558-66. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0803839. An obesity-associated FTO gene variant and increased energy intake in children. Cecil JE(1), Tavendale R, Watt P, Hetherington MM, Palmer CN. Author information: (1)Bute Medical School, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, United Kingdom. Comment in N Engl J Med. 2009 Apr 9;360(15):1571-2; author reply 1572. N Engl J Med. 2008 Dec 11;359(24):2603-4. BACKGROUND: Variation in the fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) gene has provided the most robust associations with common obesity to date. However, the role of FTO variants in modulating specific components of energy balance is unknown. METHODS: We studied 2726 Scottish children, 4 to 10 years of age, who underwent genotyping for FTO variant rs9939609 and were measured for height and weight. A subsample of 97 children was examined for possible association of the FTO variant with adiposity, energy expenditure, and food intake. RESULTS: In the total study group and the subsample, the A allele of rs9939609 was associated with increased weight (P=0.003 and P=0.049, respectively) and body-mass index (P=0.003 and P=0.03, respectively). In the intensively phenotyped subsample, the A allele was also associated with increased fat mass (P=0.01) but not with lean mass. Although total and resting energy expenditures were increased in children with the A allele (P=0.009 and P=0.03, respectively), resting energy expenditure was identical to that predicted for the age and weight of the child, indicating that there is no defect in metabolic adaptation to obesity in persons bearing the risk-associated allele. The A allele was associated with increased energy intake (P=0.006) independently of body weight. In contrast, the weight of food ingested by children who had the allele was similar to that in children who did not have the allele (P=0.82). CONCLUSIONS: The FTO variant that confers a predisposition to obesity does not appear to be involved in the regulation of energy expenditure but may have a role in the control of food intake and food choice, suggesting a link to a hyperphagic phenotype or a preference for energy-dense foods. 2008 Massachusetts Medical Society PMID: 19073975
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