Meta-analysis of genome-wide association data identifies novel susceptibility loci for obesity

Hum Mol Genet. 2014 Feb 1;23(3):820-30. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddt464. Epub 2013 Sep 23.


Obesity is a major public health problem with strong genetic determination. Multiple genetic variants have been implicated for obesity by conducting genome-wide association (GWA) studies, primarily focused on body mass index (BMI). Fat body mass (FBM) is phenotypically more homogeneous than BMI and is more appropriate for obesity research; however, relatively few studies have been conducted on FBM. Aiming to identify variants associated with obesity, we carried out meta-analyses of seven GWA studies for BMI-related traits including FBM, and followed these analyses by de novo replication. The discovery cohorts consisted of 21 969 individuals from diverse ethnic populations and a total of over 4 million genotyped or imputed SNPs. The de novo replication cohorts consisted of 6663 subjects from two independent samples. To complement individual SNP-based association analyses, we also carried out gene-based GWA analyses in which all variations within a gene were considered jointly. Individual SNP-based association analyses identified a novel locus 1q21 [rs2230061, CTSS (Cathepsin S)] that was associated with FBM after the adjustment of lean body mass (LBM) (P = 3.57 × 10(-8)) at the genome-wide significance level. Gene-based association analyses identified a novel gene NLK (nemo-like kinase) in 17q11 that was significantly associated with FBM adjusted by LBM. In addition, we confirmed three previously reported obesity susceptibility loci: 16q12 [rs62033400, P = 1.97 × 10(-14), FTO (fat mass and obesity associated)], 18q22 [rs6567160, P = 8.09 × 10(-19), MC4R (melanocortin 4 receptor)] and 2p25 [rs939583, P = 1.07 × 10(-7), TMEM18 (transmembrane protein 18)]. We also found that rs6567160 may exert pleiotropic effects to both FBM and LBM. Our results provide additional insights into the molecular genetic basis of obesity and may provide future targets for effective prevention and therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology
  • Cathepsins / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • TMEM18 protein, human
  • NLK protein, human
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Cathepsins
  • cathepsin S