The genetics of adiposity

Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2018 Jun:50:86-95. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2018.02.009. Epub 2018 Mar 9.


Genome-wide discovery efforts have identified more than 500 genetic loci associated with adiposity traits. The vast majority of these loci were found through large-scale meta-analyses for body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), and in European ancestry populations. However, alternative approaches, focusing on non-European ancestry populations, more refined adiposity measures, and low-frequency (minor allele frequency (MAF)<5%) coding variants, identified additional novel loci that had not been identified before. Loci associated with overall obesity implicate pathways that act in the brain, whereas loci associated with fat distribution point to pathways involved in adipocyte biology. Pinpointing the causal gene within each locus remains challenging, but is a critical step towards translation of genome-wide association study (GWAS) loci into new biology. Ultimately, new genes may provide pharmacological targets for the development of weight loss drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / genetics*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Waist-Hip Ratio