Objectives: An increasing number of people are at risk for developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Because obesity is a risk factor for NAFLD, the common variants of obesity-susceptible genes may be associated with NAFLD. Our aim was to identify whether the obesity-susceptible gene variants (rs9939609, rs9930506, and rs4783819 in fat mass and obesity-associated gene (FTO); rs12970134 and rs17782313 in melanocortin-4 receptor gene (MC4R); and rs7566605, rs13428113, and rs9308762 in insulin-induced gene 2 [INSIG2]) were associated with NAFLD.
Methods: The case-control study recruited 1027 Chinese children ages 7 to 18 years, including 162 children with NAFLD and 865 children without NAFLD. Anthropometric measurements, alanine transaminase (ALT) detection, liver ultrasound examination, and genotyping of 8 gene variants were performed.
Results: The A-allele of FTO rs9939609 was associated with increased NAFLD risk (P = 0.029, odds ratio 1.43), but was not significant after being adjusted for body mass index (BMI) (P = 0.268). We also found an association between the 2 variants (rs12970134 in MC4R and rs9308762 in INSIG2) and ALT level. For rs12970134, each additional A-allele increased ALT level by 1.87 IU/L (P = 0.032). For rs9308762, the homozygotes of the C-allele had a higher ALT level than the T-allele carriers (β = 3.19, P = 0.007). After adjustment for BMI, the former association did not exist, whereas the latter reminded significant (P = 0.003).
Conclusions: The FTO rs9939609 A-allele increased risk of NAFLD and MC4R rs12970134 was associated with ALT level through an effect on BMI. The association between INSIG2 rs9308762 and ALT level was independent of BMI. The results provided evidence for identifying genetic factors of NAFLD and may be useful for risk assessment and personalized medicine of NAFLD.