Genetic evidence of a causal effect of insulin resistance on branched-chain amino acid levels

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Yuvaraj Mahendran, Anna Jonsson, Christian T Have, Kristine H Allin, Daniel R Witte, Marit E Jørgensen, Niels Grarup, Oluf Pedersen, Tuomas O Kilpeläinen, Torben Hansen

AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Fasting plasma levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are associated with insulin resistance, but it remains unclear whether there is a causal relation between the two. We aimed to disentangle the causal relations by performing a Mendelian randomisation study using genetic variants associated with circulating BCAA levels and insulin resistance as instrumental variables.

METHODS: We measured circulating BCAA levels in blood plasma by NMR spectroscopy in 1,321 individuals from the ADDITION-PRO cohort. We complemented our analyses by using previously published genome-wide association study (GWAS) results from the Meta-Analyses of Glucose and Insulin-related traits Consortium (MAGIC) (n = 46,186) and from a GWAS of serum BCAA levels (n = 24,925). We used a genetic risk score (GRS), calculated using ten established fasting serum insulin associated variants, as an instrumental variable for insulin resistance. A GRS of three variants increasing circulating BCAA levels was used as an instrumental variable for circulating BCAA levels.

RESULTS: Fasting plasma BCAA levels were associated with higher HOMA-IR in ADDITION-PRO (β 0.137 [95% CI 0.08, 0.19] p = 6 × 10(-7)). However, the GRS for circulating BCAA levels was not associated with fasting insulin levels or HOMA-IR in ADDITION-PRO (β -0.011 [95% CI -0.053, 0.032] p = 0.6 and β -0.011 [95% CI -0.054, 0.031] p = 0.6, respectively) or in GWAS results for HOMA-IR from MAGIC (β for valine-increasing GRS -0.012 [95% CI -0.069, 0.045] p = 0.7). By contrast, the insulin-resistance-increasing GRS was significantly associated with increased BCAA levels in ADDITION-PRO (β 0.027 [95% CI 0.005, 0.048] p = 0.01) and in GWAS results for serum BCAA levels (β 1.22 [95% CI 0.71, 1.73] p = 4 × 10(-6), β 0.96 [95% CI 0.45, 1.47] p = 3 × 10(-4), and β 0.67 [95% CI 0.16, 1.18] p = 0.01 for isoleucine, leucine and valine levels, respectively) and instrumental variable analyses in ADDITION-PRO indicated that HOMA-IR is causally related to higher circulating fasting BCAA levels (β 0.73 [95% CI 0.26, 1.19] p = 0.002).

CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: Our results suggest that higher BCAA levels do not have a causal effect on insulin resistance while increased insulin resistance drives higher circulating fasting BCAA levels.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)873-878
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2017

    Research areas

  • Journal Article

ID: 174401166