The genetic underpinnings of body fat distribution.
Pulit SL., Laber S., Glastonbury CA., Lindgren CM.
INTRODUCTION: Obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) ≥ 30 kg/m2, has reached epidemic proportions; people who are overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2) or obese now comprise more than 25% of the world's population. Obese individuals have a higher risk of comorbidity development including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and fertility complications. Areas covered: The study of monogenic and syndromic forms of obesity have revealed a small number of genes key to metabolic perturbations. Further, obesity and body shape in the general population are highly heritable phenotypes. Study of obesity at the population level, through genome-wide association studies of BMI and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), have revealed > 150 genomic loci that associate with these traits, and highlight the role of adipose tissue and the central nervous system in obesity-related traits. Studies in animal models and cell lines have helped further elucidate the potential biological mechanisms underlying obesity. In particular, these studies implicate adipogenesis and expansion of adipose tissue as key biological pathways in obesity and weight gain. Expert commentary: Further work, including a focus on integrating genetic and additional genomic data types, as well as modeling obesity-like features in vitro, will be crucial in translating genome-wide association signals to the causal mechanisms driving disease.