A genome-wide association study of northwestern Europeans involves the C-type natriuretic peptide signaling pathway in the etiology of human height variation
Northwestern Europeans are among the tallest of human populations. The increase in body height in these people appears to have reached a plateau, suggesting the ubiquitous presence of an optimal environment in which genetic factors may have exerted a particularly strong influence on human growth. Therefore, we performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of body height using 2.2 million markers in 10 074 individuals from three Dutch and one German population-based cohorts. Upon genotyping, the 12 most significantly height-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from this GWAS in 6912 additional individuals of Dutch and Swedish origin, a genetic variant (rs6717918) on chromosome 2q37.1 was found to be associated with height at a genome-wide significance level (Pcombined= 3.4 × 10-9). Notably, a second SNP (rs6718438) located ∼450 bp away and in strong LD (r2= 0.77) with rs6717918 was previously found to be suggestive of a height association in 29 820 individuals of mainly northwestern European ancestry, and the over-expression of a nearby natriuretic peptide precursor type C (NPPC) gene, has been associated with overgrowth and skeletal anomalies. We also found a SNP (rs10472828) located on 5p14 near the natriuretic peptide receptor 3 (NPR3) gene, encoding a receptor of the NPPC ligand, to be associated with body height (Pcombined= 2.1 × 10-7). Taken together, these results suggest that variation in the C-type natriuretic peptide signaling pathway, involving the NPPC and NPR3 genes, plays an important role in determining human body height.