Meta-GWAS and Meta-Analysis of Exome Array Studies Do Not Reveal Genetic Determinants of Serum Hepcidin

PLoS One. 2016 Nov 15;11(11):e0166628. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166628. eCollection 2016.


Serum hepcidin concentration is regulated by iron status, inflammation, erythropoiesis and numerous other factors, but underlying processes are incompletely understood. We studied the association of common and rare single nucleotide variants (SNVs) with serum hepcidin in one Italian study and two large Dutch population-based studies. We genotyped common SNVs with genome-wide association study (GWAS) arrays and subsequently performed imputation using the 1000 Genomes reference panel. Cohort-specific GWAS were performed for log-transformed serum hepcidin, adjusted for age and gender, and results were combined in a fixed-effects meta-analysis (total N 6,096). Six top SNVs (p<5x10-6) were genotyped in 3,821 additional samples, but associations were not replicated. Furthermore, we meta-analyzed cohort-specific exome array association results of rare SNVs with serum hepcidin that were available for two of the three cohorts (total N 3,226), but no exome-wide significant signal (p<1.4x10-6) was identified. Gene-based meta-analyses revealed 19 genes that showed significant association with hepcidin. Our results suggest the absence of common SNVs and rare exonic SNVs explaining a large proportion of phenotypic variation in serum hepcidin. We recommend extension of our study once additional substantial cohorts with hepcidin measurements, GWAS and/or exome array data become available in order to increase power to identify variants that explain a smaller proportion of hepcidin variation. In addition, we encourage follow-up of the potentially interesting genes that resulted from the gene-based analysis of low-frequency and rare variants.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Erythropoiesis / genetics
  • Exome / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genotype
  • Hepcidins / blood
  • Hepcidins / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / genetics*
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Iron / blood*
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide


  • Hepcidins
  • Iron