Effect of genome and environment on metabolic and inflammatory profiles

PLoS One. 2015 Apr 8;10(4):e0120898. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120898. eCollection 2015.


Twin and family studies have established the contribution of genetic factors to variation in metabolic, hematologic and immunological parameters. The majority of these studies analyzed single or combined traits into pre-defined syndromes. In the present study, we explore an alternative multivariate approach in which a broad range of metabolic, hematologic, and immunological traits are analyzed simultaneously to determine the resemblance of monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs, twin-spouse pairs and unrelated, non-cohabiting individuals. A total of 517 participants from the Netherlands Twin Register, including 210 MZ twin pairs and 64 twin-spouse pairs, took part in the study. Data were collected on body composition, blood pressure, heart rate, and multiple biomarkers assessed in fasting blood samples, including lipid levels, glucose, insulin, liver enzymes, hematological measurements and cytokine levels. For all 51 measured traits, pair-wise Pearson correlations, correcting for family relatedness, were calculated across all the individuals in the cohort. Hierarchical clustering techniques were applied to group the measured traits into sub-clusters based on similarity. Sub-clusters were observed among metabolic traits and among inflammatory markers. We defined a phenotypic profile as the collection of all the traits measured for a given individual. Average within-pair similarity of phenotypic profiles was determined for the groups of MZ twin pairs, spouse pairs and pairs of unrelated individuals. The average similarity across the full phenotypic profile was higher for MZ twin pairs than for spouse pairs, and lowest for pairs of unrelated individuals. Cohabiting MZ twins were more similar in their phenotypic profile compared to MZ twins who no longer lived together. The correspondence in the phenotypic profile is therefore determined to a large degree by familial, mostly genetic, factors, while household factors contribute to a lesser degree to profile similarity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Genome, Human*
  • Hematologic Tests
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / genetics*
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics

Grants and funding

Funding was obtained from INRA-Pfizer, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO 911 –09–032; NWO 480-04-004), EMGO+ Institute for Health and Care Research, Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam, BBMRI –NL (Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure), and the European Research Council (Genetics of Mental Illness 230374). Pfizer provided support in the form of salaries for authors PS, SP and SJP, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the author contributions section.