Evidence of differential allelic effects between adolescents and adults for plasma high-density lipoprotein

Rita P.S. Middelberg, Andrew C. Heath, Pamela A.F. Madden, Grant W. Montgomery, Nicholas G. Martin, John B. Whitfield

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6 Scopus citations


A recent meta-analysis of genome-wide association (GWA) studies identified 95 loci that influence lipid traits in the adult population and found that collectively these explained about 25-30% of heritability for each trait. Little is known about how these loci affect lipid levels in early life, but there is evidence that genetic effects on HDL- and LDL-cholesterol (HDL-C, LDL-C) and triglycerides vary with age. We studied Australian adults (N = 10,151) and adolescents (N = 2,363) who participated in twin and family studies and for whom we have lipid phenotypes and genotype information for 91 of the 95 genetic variants. Heterogeneity tests between effect sizes in adult and adolescent cohorts showed an excess of heterogeneity for HDL-C (pHet<0.05 at 5 out of 37 loci), but no more than expected by chance for LDL-C (1 out of 14 loci), or trigycerides (0 out 24). There were 2 (out of 5) with opposite direction of effect in adolescents compared to adults for HDL-C, but none for LDL-C. The biggest difference in effect size was for LDL-C at rs6511720 near LDLR, adolescents (0.021±0.033 mmol/L) and adults (0.157±0.023 mmol/L), pHet = 0.013; followed by ZNF664 (pHet = 0.018) and PABPC4 (pHet = 0.034) for HDL-C. Our findings suggest that some of the previously identified variants associate differently with lipid traits in adolescents compared to adults, either because of developmental changes or because of greater interactions with environmental differences in adults.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere35605
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 18 2012


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