Mirror extreme BMI phenotypes associated with gene dosage at the chromosome 16p11.2 locus

Underweight and obese phenotypes can both pose health risks. But whereas obesity has been associated with a number of genetic variants, little is known about the genetic basis of underweight. A large-scale screen of data from 28 cytogenetic centres in Europe and North America now shows that being underweight is frequently associated with duplication of a short region on chromosome 16.Deletion of this same chromosomal region has previously been associated with obesity. The observed associated phenotypes are opposites, or mirrors, of those reported in carriers of deletions at this locus, and correlate with changes in transcript levels for genes within the duplication but not within the adjacent regions. The suggestion is that severe obesity and being underweight could have mirror etiologies, possibly through contrasting effects on energy balance.