Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Medical Genetics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Heritability and genome-wide association analysis of renal sinus fat accumulation in the Framingham Heart Study

Meredith C Foster123, Qiong Yang4, Shih-Jen Hwang12, Udo Hoffmann5 and Caroline S Fox126*

Author Affiliations

1 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Framingham Heart Study, 73 Mt. Wayte Avenue, Suite 2, Framingham, Massachusetts, 01702, USA

2 Center for Population Studies, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

3 Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts, 02115, USA

4 Department of Biostatistics, Boston University School of Public Health, 801 Massachusetts Avenue, 3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02118, USA

5 Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street, Boston, Massachusetts, 02114, USA

6 Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medical Genetics 2011, 12:148  doi:10.1186/1471-2350-12-148

Published: 1 November 2011



Ectopic fat accumulation in the renal sinus is associated with chronic kidney disease and hypertension. The genetic contributions to renal sinus fat accumulation in humans have not been well characterized.


The present analysis consists of participants from the Framingham Offspring and Third Generation who underwent computed tomography; renal sinus fat and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) were quantified. Renal sinus fat was natural log transformed and sex- and cohort-specific residuals were created, adjusted for (1) age, (2) age and body mass index (BMI), and (3) age and VAT. Residuals were pooled and used to calculate heritability using variance-components analysis in SOLAR. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) for renal sinus fat was performed using an additive model with approximately 2.5 million imputed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Finally, we identified the associations of renal sinus fat in our GWAS results with validated SNPs for renal function (n = 16), BMI (n = 32), and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR, n = 14), and applied a multi-SNP genetic risk score method to determine if the SNPs for each renal and obesity trait were in aggregate associated with renal sinus fat.


The heritability of renal sinus fat was 39% (p < 0.0001); results were not materially different after adjustment for BMI (39%) or VAT (40%). No SNPs reached genome-wide significance in our GWAS. In our candidate gene analysis, we observed nominal, direction consistent associations with renal sinus fat for one SNP associated with renal function (p = 0.01), two associated with BMI (p < 0.03), and two associated with WHR (p < 0.03); however, none remained significant after accounting for multiple testing. Finally, we observed that in aggregate, the 32 SNPs associated with BMI were nominally associated with renal sinus fat (multi-SNP genetic risk score p = 0.03).


Renal sinus fat is a heritable trait, even after accounting for generalized and abdominal adiposity. This provides support for further research into the genetic determinants of renal sinus fat. While our study was underpowered to detect genome-wide significant loci, our candidate gene BMI risk score results suggest that variability in renal sinus fat may be associated with SNPs previously known to be associated with generalized adiposity.