Genetic analysis of the IRS: Pleiotropic effects of genes influencing insulin levels on lipoprotein and obesity measures

Braxton D. Mitchell, Candace M. Kammerer, Michael C. Mahaney, John Blangero, Anthony G. Comuzzie, Larry D. Atwood, Steven M. Haffner, Michael P. Stern, Jean W. MacCluer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    126 Scopus citations


    Insulin resistance is part of a metabolic syndrome that also includes non- insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, obesity, and hypertension. It has been hypothesized that insulin resistance represents the primary physiological defect underlying this syndrome. Since insulin resistance is at least partially genetically determined, we hypothesized that genes influencing insulin resistance would have pleiotropic effects on a number of other traits, including triglyceride (TG) and HDL cholesterol levels, body mass index (BMI) and body fat distribution, and blood pressure levels. To investigate this hypothesis, we analyzed data obtained from individuals in 41 families enrolled in the San Antonio Family Heart Study. Statistical methods that take advantage of the relatedness among individuals were used to differentiate between genetic and nongenetic (ie, environmental) contributions to phenotypic variation between traits. Serum levels of fasting and 2-hour insulin (measured in 767 and 743 nondiabetic family members, respectively) were used as a measure of insulin resistance. The genetic correlations were high between insulin levels (both fasting and 2-hour) and each of the following: BMI, HDL level, waist-to-hip ratio, and subscapular- to-triceps ratio, indicating that the same gene, or set of genes, influences each pair of traits. In contrast, the genetic correlations of insulin levels with systolic and diastolic blood pressures were low. We have previously shown that a single diallelic locus accounts for 31% of the phenotypic variation in 2-hour insulin levels in this population. We conducted a bivariate segregation analysis to see if the common genetic effects on insulin and these other traits could be attributable to this single locus. These results indicated a significant effect of the 2-hour insulin locus on fasting insulin levels (P=.02) and BMI (P=.05), with the 'high' insulin allele associated with higher levels of fasting insulin but lower levels of BMI. There was no detectable effect of this locus on HDL level. TG level, subscapular-to-triceps ratio, or blood pressure. Overall, these results suggest that a common set of genes influencing insulin levels also influences other insulin resistance syndrome-treated traits, although for the most part this pleiotropy is not attributable to the 2-hour insulin level major locus.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)281-288
    Number of pages8
    JournalArteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jan 1 1996


    • body mass index
    • genetics
    • insulin
    • pleiotropy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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