Genetic Regulation of Adipose Gene Expression and Cardio-Metabolic Traits

Am J Hum Genet. 2017 Mar 2;100(3):428-443. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2017.01.027.


Subcutaneous adipose tissue stores excess lipids and maintains energy balance. We performed expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) analyses by using abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue of 770 extensively phenotyped participants of the METSIM study. We identified cis-eQTLs for 12,400 genes at a 1% false-discovery rate. Among an approximately 680 known genome-wide association study (GWAS) loci for cardio-metabolic traits, we identified 140 coincident cis-eQTLs at 109 GWAS loci, including 93 eQTLs not previously described. At 49 of these 140 eQTLs, gene expression was nominally associated (p < 0.05) with levels of the GWAS trait. The size of our dataset enabled identification of five loci associated (p < 5 × 10-8) with at least five genes located >5 Mb away. These trans-eQTL signals confirmed and extended the previously reported KLF14-mediated network to 55 target genes, validated the CIITA regulation of class II MHC genes, and identified ZNF800 as a candidate master regulator. Finally, we observed similar expression-clinical trait correlations of genes associated with GWAS loci in both humans and a panel of genetically diverse mice. These results provide candidate genes for further investigation of their potential roles in adipose biology and in regulating cardio-metabolic traits.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics*
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genotyping Techniques
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Subcutaneous Fat / metabolism*
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism


  • MHC class II transactivator protein
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Trans-Activators