Genetics of Obesity: What have we Learned?

Curr Genomics. 2011 May;12(3):169-79. doi: 10.2174/138920211795677895.


Candidate gene and genome-wide association studies have led to the discovery of nine loci involved in Mendelian forms of obesity and 58 loci contributing to polygenic obesity. These loci explain a small fraction of the heritability for obesity and many genes remain to be discovered. However, efforts in obesity gene identification greatly modified our understanding of this disorder. In this review, we propose an overlook of major lessons learned from 15 years of research in the field of genetics and obesity. We comment on the existence of the genetic continuum between monogenic and polygenic forms of obesity that pinpoints the role of genes involved in the central regulation of food intake and genetic predisposition to obesity. We explain how the identification of novel obesity predisposing genes has clarified unsuspected biological pathways involved in the control of energy balance that have helped to understand past human history and to explore causality in epidemiology. We provide evidence that obesity predisposing genes interact with the environment and influence the response to treatment relevant to disease prediction.

Keywords: Biologic pathways; Mendelian randomization; disease prediction; food intake; gene x environment interactions; genetic continuum; obesity; positive selection..