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Dis Model Mech. 2011 Mar;4(2):155-64. doi: 10.1242/dmm.000414. Epub 2011 Feb 14.

Mouse models and the interpretation of human GWAS in type 2 diabetes and obesity.

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Metabolism and Inflammation, MRC Harwell Mammalian Genetics Unit, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Oxfordshire, UK.


Within the last 3 years, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have had unprecedented success in identifying loci that are involved in common diseases. For example, more than 35 susceptibility loci have been identified for type 2 diabetes and 32 for obesity thus far. However, the causal gene and variant at a specific linkage disequilibrium block is often unclear. Using a combination of different mouse alleles, we can greatly facilitate the understanding of which candidate gene at a particular disease locus is associated with the disease in humans, and also provide functional analysis of variants through an allelic series, including analysis of hypomorph and hypermorph point mutations, and knockout and overexpression alleles. The phenotyping of these alleles for specific traits of interest, in combination with the functional analysis of the genetic variants, may reveal the molecular and cellular mechanism of action of these disease variants, and ultimately lead to the identification of novel therapeutic strategies for common human diseases. In this Commentary, we discuss the progress of GWAS in identifying common disease loci for metabolic disease, and the use of the mouse as a model to confirm candidate genes and provide mechanistic insights.

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