GWAS identifies population-specific new regulatory variants in FUT6 associated with plasma B12 concentrations in Indians

Hum Mol Genet. 2017 Jul 1;26(13):2551-2564. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddx071.


Vitamin B12 is an important cofactor in one-carbon metabolism whose dysregulation is associated with various clinical conditions. Indians have a high prevalence of B12 deficiency but little is known about the genetic determinants of circulating B12 concentrations in Indians. We performed a genome-wide association study in 1001 healthy participants in the Pune Maternal Nutrition Study (PMNS), replication studies in 3418 individuals from other Indian cohorts and by meta-analysis identified new variants, rs3760775 (P = 1.2 × 10-23) and rs78060698 (P = 8.3 × 10-17) in FUT6 to be associated with circulating B12 concentrations. Although in-silico analysis replicated both variants in Europeans, differences in the effect allele frequency, effect size and the linkage disequilibrium structure of credible set variants with the reported variants suggest population-specific characteristics in this region. We replicated previously reported variants rs602662, rs601338 in FUT2, rs3760776, rs708686 in FUT6, rs34324219 in TCN1 (all P < 5 × 10-8), rs1131603 in TCN2 (P = 3.4 × 10-5), rs12780845 in CUBN (P = 3.0 × 10-3) and rs2270655 in MMAA (P = 2.0 × 10-3). Circulating B12 concentrations in the PMNS and Parthenon study showed a significant decline with increasing age (P < 0.001), however, the genetic contribution to B12 concentrations remained constant. Luciferase reporter and electrophoretic-mobility shift assay for the FUT6 variant rs78060698 using HepG2 cell line demonstrated strong allele-specific promoter and enhancer activity and differential binding of HNF4α, a key regulator of expression of various fucosyltransferases. Hence, the rs78060698 variant, through regulation of fucosylation may control intestinal host-microbial interaction which could influence B12 concentrations. Our results suggest that in addition to established genetic variants, population-specific variants are important in determining plasma B12 concentrations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Asian People / genetics
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fucosyltransferases / genetics*
  • Fucosyltransferases / metabolism
  • Gene Frequency / genetics
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • India
  • Linkage Disequilibrium
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Vitamin B 12 / blood
  • Vitamin B 12 / metabolism*
  • White People / genetics


  • Fucosyltransferases
  • FUT6 protein, human
  • Vitamin B 12