Nonadditive Effects of Genes in Human Metabolomics

Genetics. 2015 Jul;200(3):707-18. doi: 10.1534/genetics.115.175760. Epub 2015 May 14.


Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are widely applied to analyze the genetic effects on phenotypes. With the availability of high-throughput technologies for metabolite measurements, GWAS successfully identified loci that affect metabolite concentrations and underlying pathways. In most GWAS, the effect of each SNP on the phenotype is assumed to be additive. Other genetic models such as recessive, dominant, or overdominant were considered only by very few studies. In contrast to this, there are theories that emphasize the relevance of nonadditive effects as a consequence of physiologic mechanisms. This might be especially important for metabolites because these intermediate phenotypes are closer to the underlying pathways than other traits or diseases. In this study we analyzed systematically nonadditive effects on a large panel of serum metabolites and all possible ratios (22,801 total) in a population-based study [Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg (KORA) F4, N = 1,785]. We applied four different 1-degree-of-freedom (1-df) tests corresponding to an additive, dominant, recessive, and overdominant trait model as well as a genotypic model with two degree-of-freedom (2-df) that allows a more general consideration of genetic effects. Twenty-three loci were found to be genome-wide significantly associated (Bonferroni corrected P ≤ 2.19 × 10(-12)) with at least one metabolite or ratio. For five of them, we show the evidence of nonadditive effects. We replicated 17 loci, including 3 loci with nonadditive effects, in an independent study (TwinsUK, N = 846). In conclusion, we found that most genetic effects on metabolite concentrations and ratios were indeed additive, which verifies the practice of using the additive model for analyzing SNP effects on metabolites.

Keywords: KORA; genome-wide association studies; genotypic model; metabolomics; nonadditive models.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Loci*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns*
  • Metabolome / genetics*
  • Metabolomics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide