Fall T, Mendelson M, Speliotes EK
Gastroenterology 152 (7) 1695-1706 [2017-05-00; online 2017-02-15]
Obesity is a heritable trait that contributes to substantial global morbidity and mortality. Here, we summarize findings from the past decade of genetic and epigenetic research focused on unravelling the underpinnings of adiposity. More than 140 genetic regions now are known to influence adiposity traits. The genetics of general adiposity, as measured by body mass index, and that of abdominal obesity, as measured by waist-to-hip ratio, have distinct biological backgrounds. Gene expression associated with general adiposity is enriched in the nervous system. In contrast, genes associated with abdominal adiposity function in adipose tissue. Recent population-based epigenetic analyses have highlighted additional distinct loci. We discuss how associated genetic variants can lead to understanding causal mechanisms, and to disentangling reverse causation in epigenetic analyses. Discoveries emerging from population genomics are identifying new disease markers and potential novel drug targets to better define and combat obesity and related diseases.