A genome-wide association study of saturated, mono- and polyunsaturated red blood cell fatty acids in the Framingham Heart Offspring Study

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2015 Mar:94:65-72. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2014.11.007. Epub 2014 Dec 2.


Most genome-wide association studies have explored relationships between genetic variants and plasma phospholipid fatty acid proportions, but few have examined apparent genetic influences on the membrane fatty acid profile of red blood cells (RBC). Using RBC fatty acid data from the Framingham Offspring Study, we analyzed over 2.5 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for association with 14 RBC fatty acids identifying 191 different SNPs associated with at least 1 fatty acid. Significant associations (p<1×10(-8)) were located within five distinct 1MB regions. Of particular interest were novel associations between (1) arachidonic acid and PCOLCE2 (regulates apoA-I maturation and modulates apoA-I levels), and (2) oleic and linoleic acid and LPCAT3 (mediates the transfer of fatty acids between glycerolipids). We also replicated previously identified strong associations between SNPs in the FADS (chromosome 11) and ELOVL (chromosome 6) regions. Multiple SNPs explained 8-14% of the variation in 3 high abundance (>11%) fatty acids, but only 1-3% in 4 low abundance (<3%) fatty acids, with the notable exception of dihomo-gamma linolenic acid with 53% of variance explained by SNPs. Further studies are needed to determine the extent to which variations in these genes influence tissue fatty acid content and pathways modulated by fatty acids.

Keywords: Arachidonic acid; Glycerol‐lipids; Linoleic acid; Oleic acid; PUFA; apoA-I maturation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 1-Acylglycerophosphocholine O-Acyltransferase / genetics
  • Acetyltransferases / genetics
  • Aged
  • Chromosomes, Human / genetics*
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / genetics
  • Fatty Acid Elongases
  • Fatty Acids / blood*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods*
  • Genotype
  • Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Linkage Disequilibrium
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Fatty Acids
  • Glycoproteins
  • PCOLCE2 protein, human
  • Acetyltransferases
  • Fatty Acid Elongases
  • 1-Acylglycerophosphocholine O-Acyltransferase
  • LPCAT3 protein, human