The genetic architecture of liver enzyme levels: GGT, ALT and AST

Jenny H D A van Beek, Marleen H M de Moor, Eco J C de Geus, Gitta H Lubke, Jacqueline M Vink, Gonneke Willemsen, Dorret I Boomsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

High levels of liver enzymes GGT, ALT and AST are predictive of disease and all-cause mortality and can reflect liver injury, fatty liver and/or oxidative stress. Variation in GGT, ALT and AST levels is heritable. Moderation of the heritability of these liver enzymes by age and sex has not often been explored, and it is not clear to what extent non-additive genetic and shared environmental factors may play a role. To examine the genetic architecture of GGT, ALT and AST, plasma levels were assessed in a large sample of twins, their siblings, parents and spouses (N = 8,371; age range 18-90). For GGT and ALT, but not for AST, genetic structural equation modeling showed evidence for quantitative sex differences in the genetic architecture. There was no evidence for qualitative sex differences, i.e. the same genes were expressed in males and females. Both additive and non-additive genetic factors were important for GGT in females (total heritability h(2) 60 %) and AST in both sexes (total h(2) 43 %). The heritability of GGT in males and ALT for both sexes was due to additive effects only (GGT males 30 %; ALT males 40 %, females 22 %). Evidence emerged for shared environmental factors influencing GGT in the male offspring generation (variance explained 28 %). Thus, the same genes influence liver enzyme levels across sex and age, but their relative contribution to the variation in GGT and ALT differs in males and females and for GGT across age. Given adequate sample sizes these results suggest that genome-wide association studies may result in the detection of new susceptibility loci for liver enzyme levels when pooling results over sex and age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-39
Number of pages11
JournalBehavior Genetics
Volume43
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes

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