Ethnic-specific association of amylase gene copy number with adiposity traits in a large Middle Eastern biobank

Niccolo' Rossi, Elbay Aliyev, Alessia Visconti, Ammira S A Akil, Najeeb Syed, Waleed Aamer, Sujitha S Padmajeya, Mario Falchi, Khalid A Fakhro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Studies assessing the impact of amylase genes copy number (CN) on adiposity report conflicting findings in different global populations, likely reflecting the impact of ancestral and ethnic-specific environment and lifestyle on selection at the amylase loci. Here, we leverage population size and detailed adiposity measures from a large population biobank to resolve confounding effects and determine the relationship between salivary (AMY1) and pancreatic (AMY2A) amylase genes CN and adiposity in 2935 Qatari individuals who underwent whole-genome sequencing (WGS) as part of the Qatar Genome Programme. We observe a negative association between AMY1 CNs and trunk fat percentage in the Qatari population (P = 7.50 × 10 −3) and show that Qataris of Arab descent have significantly lower CN at AMY1 (P = 1.32 × 10 −10) as well as less favorable adiposity and metabolic profiles (P < 1.34 × 10 −8) than Qataris with Persian ancestry. Indeed, lower AMY1 CN was associated with increased total and trunk fat percentages in Arabs (P < 4.60 × 10 −3) but not in Persians. Notably, overweight and obese Persians reported a significant trend towards dietary restraint following weight gain compared to Arabs (P = 4.29 × 10 −5), with AMY1 CN showing negative association with dietary self-restraint (P = 3.22 × 10 −3). This study reports an association between amylase gene CN and adiposity traits in a large Middle Eastern population. Importantly, we leverage rich biobank data to demonstrate that the strength of this association varies with ethnicity, and may be influenced by population-specific behaviors that also contribute to adiposity traits.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Pages (from-to)8
JournalNPJ Genomic medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2021


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