Genome-wide association studies have shown a strong association of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the near vicinity of the TMEM18 gene. The effects of the TMEM18-associated variants are more readily observed in children. TMEM18 encodes a 3TM protein, which locates to the nuclear membrane. The functional context of TMEM18 and the effects of its associated variants are as of yet undetermined. To further explore the effects of near-TMEM18 variants, we have genotyped two TMEM18-associated SNPs, rs6548238 and rs4854344, in a cohort of 2352 Greek children (Healthy Growth Study). Included in this study are data on anthropomorphic traits body weight, BMI z-score and waist circumference. Also included are dietary energy and macronutrient intake as measured via 24-h recall interviews. Major alleles of rs6548238 and rs4854344 were significantly associated with an increased risk of obesity (odds ratio = 1.489 (1.161-1.910) and 1.494 (1.165-1.917), respectively), and positively correlated to body weight (P = 0.017, P = 0.010) and waist circumference (P = 0.003, P = 0.003). An association to energy and macronutrient intake was not observed in this cohort. We also correlated food intake and body weight in a food choice model in rats to Tmem18 expression in central regions involved in feeding behavior. We observed a strong positive correlation between TMEM18 expression and body weight in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) (r = 0.5694, P = 0.0003) indicating a potential role for TMEM18 in higher functions related to feeding involving the PFC.
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