Background: Recent genome-wide association (GWA) analyses have identified common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are associated with obesity. However, the reported genetic variation in obesity explains only a minor fraction of the total genetic variation expected to be present in the population. Thus many genetic variants controlling obesity remain to be identified. The aim of this study was to use GWA followed by multiple stepwise validations to identify additional genes associated with obesity.
Methods: We performed a GWA analysis in 164 morbidly obese subjects (BMI:body mass index>40 kg/m2) and 163 Swedish subjects (>45 years) who had always been lean. The 700 SNPs displaying the strongest association with obesity in the GWA were analyzed in a second cohort comprising 460 morbidly obese subjects and 247 consistently lean Swedish adults. 23 SNPs remained significantly associated with obesity (nominal P<0.05) and were in a step-wise manner followed up in five additional cohorts from Sweden, France, and Germany together comprising 4214 obese and 5417 lean or population-based control individuals. Three samples, n=4133, were used to investigate the population-based associations with BMI. Gene expression in abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue in relation to obesity was investigated for14 adults.
Results: Potassium channel, calcium activated, large conductance, subfamily M, alpha member (KCNMA1) rs2116830*G and BDNF rs988712*G were associated with obesity in five of six investigated case-control cohorts. In meta-analysis of 4838 obese and 5827 control subjects we obtained genome-wide significant allelic association with obesity for KCNMA1 rs2116830*G with P=2.82×10(-10) and an odds ratio (OR) based on cases vs controls of 1.26 [95% C.I. 1.12-1.41] and for BDNF rs988712*G with P=5.2×10(-17) and an OR of 1.36 [95% C.I. 1.20-1.55]. KCNMA1 rs2116830*G was not associated with BMI in the population-based samples. Adipose tissue (P=0.0001) and fat cell (P=0.04) expression of KCNMA1 was increased in obesity.
Conclusions: We have identified KCNMA1 as a new susceptibility locus for obesity, and confirmed the association of the BDNF locus at the genome-wide significant level.