Background: Obesity is a major health problem. Although heritability is substantial, genetic mechanisms predisposing to obesity are not very well understood. We have performed a genome wide association study (GWA) for early onset (extreme) obesity.
Methodology/principal findings: a) GWA (Genome-Wide Human SNP Array 5.0 comprising 440,794 single nucleotide polymorphisms) for early onset extreme obesity based on 487 extremely obese young German individuals and 442 healthy lean German controls; b) confirmatory analyses on 644 independent families with at least one obese offspring and both parents. We aimed to identify and subsequently confirm the 15 SNPs (minor allele frequency > or =10%) with the lowest p-values of the GWA by four genetic models: additive, recessive, dominant and allelic. Six single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in FTO (fat mass and obesity associated gene) within one linkage disequilibrium (LD) block including the GWA SNP rendering the lowest p-value (rs1121980; log-additive model: nominal p = 1.13 x 10(-7), corrected p = 0.0494; odds ratio (OR)(CT) 1.67, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.22-2.27; OR(TT) 2.76, 95% CI 1.88-4.03) belonged to the 15 SNPs showing the strongest evidence for association with obesity. For confirmation we genotyped 11 of these in the 644 independent families (of the six FTO SNPs we chose only two representing the LD bock). For both FTO SNPs the initial association was confirmed (both Bonferroni corrected p<0.01). However, none of the nine non-FTO SNPs revealed significant transmission disequilibrium.
Conclusions/significance: Our GWA for extreme early onset obesity substantiates that variation in FTO strongly contributes to early onset obesity. This is a further proof of concept for GWA to detect genes relevant for highly complex phenotypes. We concurrently show that nine additional SNPs with initially low p-values in the GWA were not confirmed in our family study, thus suggesting that of the best 15 SNPs in the GWA only the FTO SNPs represent true positive findings.