Pleiotropic relationships between cortisol levels and adiposity: The HERITAGE family study

Mary F. Feitosa, Treva Rice, Roland Rosmond, Tuomo Rankinen, Arthur S. Leon, James S. Skinner, Jack H. Wilmore, Claude Bouchard, D. C. Rao

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Objective: To investigate familial basis for the relationship between cortisol adiposity at baseline and their training responses. Research Methods and Procedures: Bivariate correlation and segregation analyses were employed between cortisol and several adiposity measures [body mass index, fat mass (FM), fat-free mass, percentage of body fat (% BF), abdominal visceral fat (AVF), abdominal subcutaneous fat (ASF), and abdominal total fat (ATF)] from 99 white families and 105 black families. Results: In both races, significant inverse phenotypic correlations were generally observed between cortisol and adiposity measures at baseline but not for training responses. Significant cross-trait familial correlations were found for cortisol with abdominal fat (ASF, AVF, ATF) and overall body adiposity (FM, % BF) measures at baseline, which accounted for 14% to 20% of the phenotypic variance in whites. The cross-trait correlations were not significant for baseline phenotypes in blacks, perhaps because of the small sample size. A bivariate segregation analysis showed evidence of polygenic pleiotropy for cortisol with both abdominal fat and overall adiposity measures that accounted for 14% to 17% of the phenotypic covariance, but major gene pleiotropy was not suggested in whites. However, when ASF, AVF, and ATF were additionally adjusted for FM, no familial cross-trait correlations or polygenic pleiotropy between cortisol and the abdominal fat measures remained. Discussion: Evidence was found for polygenic pleiotropy but not for pleiotropic major gene effects between cortisol and overall adiposity in whites. However, the covariation of cortisol with abdominal fat phenotypes is dependent on concomitant polygenic factors for total-body fat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1222-1231
Number of pages10
JournalObesity research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2002


  • Bivariate correlation analysis
  • Bivariate segregation analysis
  • Familial resemblance
  • Heritability


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