Genome-wide association studies and type 2 diabetes

Brief Funct Genomics. 2011 Mar;10(2):52-60. doi: 10.1093/bfgp/elr008.


In recent years, the search for genetic determinants of type 2 diabetes (T2D) has changed dramatically. Although linkage and small-scale candidate gene studies were highly successful in the identification of genes, which, when mutated, caused monogenic forms of T2D, they were largely unsuccessful when applied to the more common forms of the disease. To date, these approaches have only identified two loci (PPARG, KCNJ11) robustly implicated in T2D susceptibility. The ability to perform large-scale association analysis, including genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in many thousands of samples from different populations, and subsequently, the shift to form large international collaborations to perform meta-analyses across many studies has taken the number of independent loci showing genome-wide significant associations with T2D to 44. This number includes six loci identified initially through the analysis of quantitative glycaemic phenotypes, illustrating the usefulness of this approach both to identify new disease genes and gain insight into the mechanisms leading to disease. Combined, these loci still only account for ∼10% of the observed familial clustering in Europeans, leaving much of the variance unexplained. In this review, we will describe what GWAS have taught us about the genetic basis of T2D and discuss possible next steps to uncover the remaining heritability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics*
  • Genetic Loci / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Humans