Obesity genomics: assessing the transferability of susceptibility loci across diverse populations
1 The Genetics of Obesity and Related Metabolic Traits Program, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY 10029, USA
2 The Charles Bronfman Institute of Personalized Medicine, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY 10029, USA
3 The Mindich Child Health and Development Institute, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY 10029, USA
4 The Department of Preventive Medicine, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY 10029, USA
Genome Medicine 2013, 5:55 doi:10.1186/gm459Published: 28 June 2013
The prevalence of obesity has nearly doubled worldwide over the past three decades, but substantial differences exist between nations. Although these differences are partly due to the degree of westernization, genetic factors also contribute. To date, little is known about whether the same genes contribute to obesity-susceptibility in populations of different ancestry. We review the transferability of obesity-susceptibility loci (identified by genome-wide association studies) using both single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and locus-wide comparisons. SNPs in FTO and near MC4R, obesity-susceptibility loci first identified in Europeans, replicate widely across other ancestries. SNP-to-SNP comparisons suggest that more than half of the 36 body mass index-associated loci are shared across European and East Asian ancestry populations, whereas locus-wide analyses suggest that the transferability might be even more extensive. Furthermore, by taking advantage of differences in haplotype structure, populations of different ancestries can help to narrow down loci, thereby pinpointing causal genes for functional follow-up. Larger-scale genetic association studies in ancestrally diverse populations will be needed for in-depth and locus-wide analyses aimed at determining, with greater confidence, the transferability of loci and allowing fine-mapping. Understanding similarities and differences in genetic susceptibility across populations of diverse ancestries might eventually contribute to a more targeted prevention and customized treatment of obesity.