A study of 90,000 people has uncovered new genetic variants that influence fat mass, weight and risk of obesity. The variants act in addition to the recently described variants of the FTO gene: adults carrying variants in both genes are, on average, 3.8 kg (or 8.5 lb) heavier.
The variants map close to a gene called MC4R: mutations in this gene are the most common genetic cause of severe familial obesity. The study highlights the power of large collections of volunteer samples to uncover common variants that influence health.
"By working together with many international groups we have been able to assemble a sample collection which was large enough to allow this finding to be made," explains Dr Ruth Loos, leading author from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit. "Several groups had shown that rare, highly disruptive variants in the MC4R gene were responsible for very severe, genetic forms of obesity: this collaboration has uncovered more common variants that affect more people."
The study, published in Nature Genetics, is led by investigators from the Cambridge GEM consortium (Genetics of Energy Metabolism) and Oxford University and is a collaboration between 77 institutions from the UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Finland and Sweden.
The team studied more than 77,000 adults and found that two copies of genetic variants resulted in an average increase in weight of about 1.5 kg.
This is the second set of common variants that are associated with weight and obesity, following the study, involving many of the same team, published in April 2007 that uncovered a role for the FTO gene. People who carry two copies of an FTO variant are about 2-3 kg heavier than those who have no copies of the variant.
Importantly, the effects of the new gene add to those of FTO; people who carried both the FTO variant and new variants were on average 3.8 kg (8.5 lb) heavier.
"This is a great example of how coope
|Contact: Don Powell|
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute