Background: Two recent genome-wide association studies identified the liver-expressed transmembrane protein adiponutrin to be associated with liver-related phenotypes such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and liver function enzymes. These associations were not uniformly reported for various ethnicities. The aim of this study was to investigate a common nonsynonymous variant within adiponutrin (rs738409, exon 3) with parameters of liver function in three independent West-Eurasian study populations including a total of 4290 participants.
Methods: The study was performed in 1) the population-based Bruneck Study (n=783), 2) the SAPHIR Study from Austria based on a healthy working population (n=1705), and the Utah Obesity Case-Control Study including a group of 1019 severely obese individuals (average BMI 46.0 kg/m2) and 783 controls from the same geographical region of Utah. Liver enzymes measured were alanine-aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate-aminotransferase (AST) and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT).
Results and discussion: We found a strong recessive association of this polymorphism with age- and gender-adjusted ALT and AST levels: being homozygous for the minor allele resulted in a highly significant increase of ALT levels of 3.53 U/L (p=1.86x10-9) and of AST levels of 2.07 U/L (p=9.58x10-6), respectively. The associations were consistently found in all three study populations. In conclusion, the highly significant associations of this transversion polymorphism within the adiponutrin gene with increased ALT and AST levels support a role for adiponutrin as a susceptibility gene for hepatic dysfunction.