Functional genetics

Besides the genes chemical (epigenetic) modifications of the genes can influence the deveolpment of obesity. Epigenetics are central in the research of this group of scientists.

Funtionelle Genetik - Epigenetik
Team NWG Funktionelle Genetik
The team of the research group "functional genetics" (Photo: IFB Adiposity)

Obesity is a major healthcare challenge and although genome-wide association studies (GWAS) were tremendously successful in identifying novel variants for fat distribution (Heid IM et al.) and overall obesity (Speliotes EK et al.) only a small part of the overall heritability can be explained so far.  Moreover, adipose tissue distribution, especially visceral obesity is strongly associated with increased risk for further metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes (T2D), dyslipidemia and hypertension.

Recently, it has been shown that also non-genetic factors such as epigenetic modifications may influence obesity development and may provide a link to its related diseases (Lavebratt C et al.; Pirola L et al.).

Epigenetics research investigates non-genetic, mostly chemical modifications of the DNA (environmental factors) that are able to alter gene activity and whether some of these changes are heritable. One modification is the DNA methylation which can activate or de-activate genes.

Several studies have shown that weight loss (Barres R et al.) or exercise (Rönn T et al.) significantly alter methylation levels in skeletal muscle or subcutaneous fat.

Scientific foci of the junior research group

  • investigating the epigenetic background causing inter-depot specific variability between human visceral adipose tissue (vis) and subcutaneous adipose tissue (sc) and its relationship with obesity and fat distribution
  • investigating the genetics of eating behavior and the
  • parent-of-origin effects in obesity

The research group is closely collaborating with Prof. Dr. Matthias Blüher who established the unique adipose tissue bio-bank in Leipzig and with Prof. Dr. Peter Kovacs (“Genetics of Type-2-Diabetes and Obesity”).

Particularly, our research group established an epigenetics research branch within the IFB AdiposityDiseases. We apply genome wide approaches to paired samples of visceral and subcutaneous human adipose tissue as well as candidate gene based analyses to further elucidate the concerted action of environmental and genetic factors contributing to the obesity epidemics and individual fat distribution.

Further Information on this junior research gruoup offers its own website.

Duration:  2011 - 2015

The team members (photo above, from left to right) are Kerstin Rohde (PhD student; nutrition scientist ); Ines Müller (technical assistance); Maria Keller (PhD student; nutrition scientist); Xuanshi Shirley Liu (PhD student; bioinformatician); Matthias Klös (nutrition scientist; master student); Yvonne Böttcher (PhD; Biologist; Head of the group).

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Yvonne Böttcher

Head of research group "Functional genetics of adiposity"
Former member: student career board
Head of project

+49 341 97-15377

yvonne [dot] boettcher [at] medizin [dot] uni-leipzig [dot] de

Speliotes EK et al.: Association analyses of 249,796 individuals reveal 18 new loci associated with body mass index. Nat Genet. 2010; 42:937-948
Heid IM, et al.: Meta-analysis identifies 13 new loci associated with waist-hip ratio and reveals sexual dimorphism in the genetic basis of fat distribution. Nat Genet. 2010; 42:949-960
Manolio TA, et al.: Finding the missing heritability of complex diseases. Nature 2009; 461:747-753
Lavebratt C, Almgren M, Ekstrom TJ: Epigenetic regulation in obesity. Int.J.Obes.(Lond). 2012; 36:757-765
Pirola L, Balcerczyk  A, Okabe J, El Osta A: Epigenetic phenomena linked to diabetic complications. Nat.Rev.Endocrinol. 2010; 6:665-675
Barres R, Kirchner H, Rasmussen M, Yan J, Kantor FR, Krook A, Naslund E, Zierath JR: Weight loss after gastric bypass surgery in human obesity remodels promoter methylation. Cell Rep. 2013; 3:1020-1027
Rönn T, et al.: A six months exercise intervention influences the genome-wide DNA methylation pattern in human adipose tissue. PLoS Genet. 2013; 9:e1003572