Genome-wide association study of selenium concentrations

Hum Mol Genet. 2015 Mar 1;24(5):1469-77. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddu546. Epub 2014 Oct 24.


Selenium (Se) is an essential trace element in human nutrition, but its role in certain health conditions, particularly among Se sufficient populations, is controversial. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) of blood Se concentrations previously identified a locus at 5q14 near BHMT. We performed a GW meta-analysis of toenail Se concentrations, which reflect a longer duration of exposure than blood Se concentrations, including 4162 European descendants from four US cohorts. Toenail Se was measured using neutron activation analysis. We identified a GW-significant locus at 5q14 (P < 1 × 10(-16)), the same locus identified in the published GWAS of blood Se based on independent cohorts. The lead single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) explained ∼1% of the variance in toenail Se concentrations. Using GW-summary statistics from both toenail and blood Se, we observed statistical evidence of polygenic overlap (P < 0.001) and meta-analysis of results from studies of either trait (n = 9639) yielded a second GW-significant locus at 21q22.3, harboring CBS (P < 4 × 10(-8)). Proteins encoded by genes at 5q14 and 21q22.3 function in homocysteine (Hcy) metabolism, and index SNPs for each have previously been associated with betaine and Hcy levels in GWAS. Our findings show evidence of a genetic link between Se and Hcy pathways, both involved in cardiometabolic disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Artery Disease / blood
  • Coronary Artery Disease / genetics
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Genotype
  • Genotyping Techniques
  • Homocysteine / blood
  • Humans
  • Nails / chemistry
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Selenium / blood
  • Selenium / chemistry*
  • Selenoproteins / genetics
  • Selenoproteins / metabolism
  • Thioredoxin Reductase 1 / genetics
  • Thioredoxin Reductase 1 / metabolism


  • Selenoproteins
  • Homocysteine
  • TXNRD1 protein, human
  • Thioredoxin Reductase 1
  • Selenium

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE20142
  • GEO/GSE20332
  • GEO/GSE33321
  • GEO/GSE33828
  • GEO/GSE36382
  • GEO/GSE47729
  • dbGaP/PHS000091.V2.P1
  • dbGaP/PHS000147.V1.P1