Genetic studies of diabetes in northern Sweden
Abstract: Diabetes mellitus represents a group of metabolic disorders caused by both environmental and genetic factors. The two most common forms of diabetes are type 2 diabetes (T2D) and type 1 diabetes (T1D). T2D is associated with obesity and the disease is caused by insulin resistance and pancreatic b-cell dysfunction. T1D is an autoimmune disease in which the insulin- producing b-cells in the pancreas are destroyed by infiltration of lymphocytes.The aim of this thesis was to identify genes conferring susceptibility to diabetes. This was approached using genetic methods, both linkage and association studies, within the population of northern Sweden.The northern Swedish population is well suited for genetic studies of familial forms of disease, since an internal expansion of the northern Swedish population, coupled with a low frequency of immigration and a high frequency of consanguineous marriages, has resulted in a relatively homogeneous gene pool. This simplified genetic background increases the probability of identifying genes contributing to disease.The family-based material used for the type 2 diabetes studies (papers I and II) consisted of 231 individuals from 59 families originating in northern Sweden. The type 2 diabetes case-control material (papers I and II) consisted of 872 cases and 857 matched controls, all from northern Sweden. In paper I we performed a genome-wide linkage scan, seeking T2D susceptibility loci. Linkage to the previously identified Calpain-10 region was found, however, association studies in the case-control material revealed no association to the CAPN10 gene. Using both the family-based and the case-control material, we were able to confirm the association of polymorphisms in the TCF7L2 gene to T2D in the population of northern Sweden (paper II).CTLA-4 is a negative regulator of T cell activity, belonging to the CD28 co-stimulatory receptor family. Numerous reports, including our own, have associated CTLA-4 variants with T1D as well as other autoimmune diseases, such as autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD). Allelic variation in the 3ÚTR of the CTLA-4 gene was associated to human T1D and this variant has also been suggested to affect the level of mRNA encoding the soluble form of the molecule (sCTLA-4). We confirmed the association of allelic variation in the 3ÚTR of the CTLA-4 gene in a T1D/AITD case-control material from northern Sweden, consisting of 104 individuals with ATID, 149 individuals with T1D and 865 matched controls. However, we were unable to identify any correlation between allelic variants in the 3ÚTR of the CTLA-4 gene and expression of sCTLA-4 (paper III).Based on recently published genome-wide association (GWA) scans, 33 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) located within 16 genes were selected for an association analysis in T1D/AITD families from northern Sweden. The T1D/AITD family-based material consisted of 253 cases and 206 healthy individuals from 97 northern Swedish families. Analysis revealed association to T1D for SNPs in PTPN22, COL1A2, IL-2Ra and INS. In addition, SNPs in CTLA-4, IL-2 and C12orf30 were shown to be associated to AITD (paper IV).Together, these results underpin the notion that the population of northern Sweden is well suited for the detection of genes involved in complex diseases. The use of our more restricted patient material, compared to materials used in published GWA scans, enables the discovery of disease associated genes in a more cost effective manner and show that our population is capable of detecting general susceptibility genes.
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