Whole-genome sequencing identifies common-to-rare variants associated with human blood metabolites

Nat Genet. 2017 Apr;49(4):568-578. doi: 10.1038/ng.3809. Epub 2017 Mar 6.


Genetic factors modifying the blood metabolome have been investigated through genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of common genetic variants and through exome sequencing. We conducted a whole-genome sequencing study of common, low-frequency and rare variants to associate genetic variations with blood metabolite levels using comprehensive metabolite profiling in 1,960 adults. We focused the analysis on 644 metabolites with consistent levels across three longitudinal data collections. Genetic sequence variations at 101 loci were associated with the levels of 246 (38%) metabolites (P ≤ 1.9 × 10-11). We identified 113 (10.7%) among 1,054 unrelated individuals in the cohort who carried heterozygous rare variants likely influencing the function of 17 genes. Thirteen of the 17 genes are associated with inborn errors of metabolism or other pediatric genetic conditions. This study extends the map of loci influencing the metabolome and highlights the importance of heterozygous rare variants in determining abnormal blood metabolic phenotypes in adults.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood
  • Exome / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation / genetics*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolome / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci