South Asians are 1/4 of the world’s population and have increased susceptibility to central obesity and related cardiometabolic disease. Knowledge of genetic variants affecting risk of central obesity is largely based on genome-wide association studies of common SNPs in Europeans. To evaluate the contribution of DNA sequence variation to the higher levels of central obesity (defined as waist hip ratio adjusted for body mass index, WHR) among South Asians compared to Europeans we carried out: i) a genome-wide association analysis of >6M genetic variants in 10,318 South Asians with focused analysis of population-specific SNPs; ii) an exome-wide association analysis of ~250K SNPs in protein-coding regions in 2,637 South Asians; iii) a comparison of risk allele frequencies and effect sizes of 48 known WHR SNPs in 12,240 South Asians compared to Europeans. In genome-wide analyses, we found no novel associations between common genetic variants and WHR in South Asians at P<5x10-8; variants showing equivocal association with WHR (P<1x10-5) did not replicate at P<0.05 in an independent cohort of South Asians (N = 1,922) or in published, predominantly European meta-analysis data. In the targeted analyses of 122,391 population-specific SNPs we also found no associations with WHR in South Asians at P<0.05 after multiple testing correction. Exome-wide analyses showed no new associations between genetic variants and WHR in South Asians, either individually at P<1.5x10-6 or grouped by gene locus at P<2.5x10−6. At known WHR loci, risk allele frequencies were not higher in South Asians compared to Europeans (P = 0.77), while effect sizes were unexpectedly smaller in South Asians than Europeans (P<5.0x10-8). Our findings argue against an important contribution for population-specific or cosmopolitan genetic variants underlying the increased risk of central obesity in South Asians compared to Europeans.
Scott WR, Zhang W, Loh M, Tan S-T, Lehne B, Afzal U, et al. (2016) Investigation of Genetic Variation Underlying Central Obesity amongst South Asians. PLoS ONE 11(5): e0155478. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0155478
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