May 12, 2008 -- Scientists are beginning to unravel the question why people distinctly
vary in size. In cooperation with scientists of the HelmholtzZentrum
München, an international genome-wide study has discovered ten new
genes that influence body height and thus provides new insights into
biological pathways that are important for human growth.
meta-analysis, published in the latest issue of Nature Genetics, is
based on data from more than 26,000 study participants. It verifies two
already known genes, but also discovered ten new genes. Altogether they
explain a difference in body size of about 3.5 centimeters.
The analysis produced some biologically insightful findings. Several of
the identified genes are targeted by the microRNA let-7, which affects
the regulation of other genes. This connection was completely unknown
until now. Several other SNPs may affect the structure of chromatin,
the chromosome-surrounding proteins. Moreover, the results could have
relevance for patients with inherited growth problems, or with problems
in bone development, because some of the newly discovered genes have
rare mutations, known to be associated with anomalous skeletal growth.
Further functional studies are necessary to completely elucidate the
biological mechanisms behind this growing list of genes related to
As German contribution to the meta-analysis, data from
about 5,600 participants of the KORA study were analyzed by the
HelmholtzZentrum scientists, Dr. Christian Gieger, Dr. Susana
Eyheramendy, PD Dr. Thomas Illig, Dr. Iris M. Heid and Prof. Dr. Dr.
H.-Erich Wichmann. In order to genotype 500,000 of the most frequent
variants in the human genome, DNA chips were analyzed at the Institute
for Human Genetics and the Institute of Epidemiology of the
HelmholtzZentrum München under the direction of Prof. Dr. Thomas
Meitinger. The coordinator of the study was Dr. Guillaume Lettre; Prof.
Joel Hirschhorn acted as the principal investigator. Both scientists
work at the Broad Institute of the MIT and the Harvard University,
Cambridge. All investigators are part of the recently formed
international consortium to study height and obesity-related traits
(GIANT, Genetic Investigation of ANthropometric Traits).
with the results of a British study that was published simultaneously
in Nature Genetics, the total number of known "height genes" now
amounts to 26.
Lettre G et al.
Identification of ten loci associated with height and previously
unknown biological pathways in human growth. Nature Genetics; 2008,
40(5): pp 584 - 591
Weedon MN et al. Genome-wide association
analysis identified 20 loci that influence adult height. Nature
Genetics; 2008, 40(5): pp 575 - 583
Source : Helmholtz Zentrum München