Hundreds of genomic variants are associated with human anthropometric traits

Via the CoLaus and Hypergenes cohorts our group contributed to the meta-analysis of the GIANT consortium that revealed hundreds of genetic variants associated with human height; 18 new loci for body mass index; and 13 new loci for waist-hip-ratio.

Our group – as the analyst of the CoLaus and Hypergenes cohorts – provided genome-wide association summary statistics for the meta-analytic effort of the GIANT consortium. The meta-analysis used 183,727 individuals to reveal 180 loci harbouring genetic variants associated with adult height. These variants are clustered in genomic loci and biological pathways.

A further association analysis of 249,796 individuals revealed 18 new loci associated with body mass index. Some loci (at MC4R, POMC, SH2B1 and BDNF) map near key hypothalamic regulators of energy balance, and one of these loci is near GIPR, an incretin receptor. Furthermore, genes in other newly associated loci may provide new insights into human body weight regulation.

Finally, a meta-analysis identified 13 new loci associated with waist-hip ratio. Seven of these loci exhibited marked sexual dimorphism, all with a stronger effect on WHR in women than men. These findings provide evidence for multiple loci that modulate body fat distribution independent of overall adiposity and reveal strong gene-by-sex interactions.