Shared genetic variance between obesity and white matter integrity in Mexican Americans

Elena A. Spieker, Peter Kochunov, Laura M. Rowland, Emma Sprooten, Anderson M. Winkler, Rene L. Olvera, Laura Almasy, Ravi Duggirala, Peter T. Fox, John Blangero, David C. Glahn, Joanne E. Curran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Obesity is a chronic metabolic disorder that may also lead to reduced white matter integrity, potentially due to shared genetic risk factors. Genetic correlation analyses were conducted in a large cohort of Mexican American families in San Antonio (N = 761, 58% females, ages 18-81 years; 41.3 ± 14.5) from the Genetics of Brain Structure and Function Study. Shared genetic variance was calculated between measures of adiposity [(body mass index (BMI; kg/m2) and waist circumference (WC; in)] and whole-brain and regional measurements of cerebral white matter integrity (fractional anisotropy). Whole-brain average and regional fractional anisotropy values for 10 major white matter tracts were calculated from high angular resolution diffusion tensor imaging data (DTI; 1.7 × 1.7 × 3 mm; 55 directions). Additive genetic factors explained intersubject variance in BMI (heritability, h2 = 0.58), WC (h2 = 0.57), and FA (h2 = 0.49). FA shared significant portions of genetic variance with BMI in the genu (ρG = -0.25), body (ρG = -0.30), and splenium (ρG = -0.26) of the corpus callosum, internal capsule (ρG = -0.29), and thalamic radiation (ρG = -0.31) (all p's = 0.043). The strongest evidence of shared variance was between BMI/WC and FA in the superior fronto-occipital fasciculus (ρG = -0.39, p = 0.020; ρG = -0.39, p = 0.030), which highlights region-specific variation in neural correlates of obesity. This may suggest that increase in obesity and reduced white matter integrity share common genetic risk factors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number00026
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Fractional anisotropy
  • Genetics
  • Genotype
  • Mexican American
  • Obesity
  • White matter


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