Background: Genome-wide association (GWA) studies have identified several susceptibility loci for metabolic syndrome (MetS) component traits, but have had variable success in identifying susceptibility loci to the syndrome as an entity. We conducted a GWA study on MetS and its component traits in 4 Finnish cohorts consisting of 2637 MetS cases and 7927 controls, both free of diabetes, and followed the top loci in an independent sample with transcriptome and nuclear magnetic resonance-based metabonomics data. Furthermore, we tested for loci associated with multiple MetS component traits using factor analysis, and built a genetic risk score for MetS.
Methods and results: A previously known lipid locus, APOA1/C3/A4/A5 gene cluster region (SNP rs964184), was associated with MetS in all 4 study samples (P=7.23×10(-9) in meta-analysis). The association was further supported by serum metabolite analysis, where rs964184 was associated with various very low density lipoprotein, triglyceride, and high-density lipoprotein metabolites (P=0.024-1.88×10(-5)). Twenty-two previously identified susceptibility loci for individual MetS component traits were replicated in our GWA and factor analysis. Most of these were associated with lipid phenotypes, and none with 2 or more uncorrelated MetS components. A genetic risk score, calculated as the number of risk alleles in loci associated with individual MetS traits, was strongly associated with MetS status.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that genes from lipid metabolism pathways have the key role in the genetic background of MetS. We found little evidence for pleiotropy linking dyslipidemia and obesity to the other MetS component traits, such as hypertension and glucose intolerance.