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MDPI, Genes, 12(14), p. 2123, 2023

DOI: 10.3390/genes14122123



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Genome-Wide Association Study of Blood Mercury in European Pregnant Women and Children

This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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Mercury has high industrial utility and is present in many products, and environmental contamination and occupational exposure are widespread. There are numerous biological systems involved in the absorption, metabolism, and excretion of Hg, and it is possible that some systems may be impacted by genetic variation. If so, genotype may affect tissue concentrations of Hg and subsequent toxic effects. Genome-wide association testing was performed on blood Hg samples from pregnant women of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (n = 2893) and children of the Human Early Life Exposome (n = 1042). Directly-genotyped single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were imputed to the Haplotype Reference Consortium r1.1 panel of whole genotypes and modelled againstlog-transformed Hg. Heritability was estimated using linkage disequilibrium score regression. The heritability of Hg was estimated as 24.0% (95% CI: 16.9% to 46.4%) in pregnant women, but could not be determined in children. There were 16 SNPs associated with Hg in pregnant women above a suggestive p-value threshold (p < 1 × 10−5), and 21 for children. However, no SNP passed this threshold in both studies, and none were genome-wide significant (p < 5 × 10−8). SNP-Hg associations were highly discordant between women and children, and this may reflect differences in metabolism, a gene–age interaction, or dose–response effects. Several suggestive variants had plausible links to Hg metabolism, such as rs146099921 in metal transporter SLC39A14, and two variants (rs28618224, rs7154700) in potassium voltage-gated channel genes. The findings would benefit from external validation, as suggestive results may contain both true associations and false positives.