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Dirk Alexander Wittekind, Markus Scholz, Jürgen Kratzsch, Markus Löffler, Katrin Horn, Holger Kirsten, Veronica Witte, Arno Villringer, and Michael Kluge


Ghrelin is an orexigenic peptide hormone involved in the regulation of energy homeostasis, food intake and glucose metabolism. Serum levels increase anticipating a meal and fall afterwards. Underlying genetic mechanisms of the ghrelin secretion are unknown.


Total serum ghrelin was measured in 1501 subjects selected from the population-based LIFE-ADULT-sample after an overnight fast. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed. Gene-based expression association analyses (transcriptome-wide association study (TWAS)) are statistical tests associating genetically predicted expression to a certain trait and were done using MetaXcan.


In the GWAS, three loci reached genome-wide significance: the WW-domain containing the oxidoreductase-gene (WWOX; P = 1.80E-10) on chromosome 16q23.3-24.1 (SNP: rs76823993); the contactin-associated protein-like 2 gene (CNTNAP2; P = 9.0E-9) on chromosome 7q35-q36 (SNP: rs192092592) and the ghrelin And obestatin prepropeptide gene (GHRL; P = 2.72E-8) on chromosome 3p25.3 (SNP: rs143729751). In the TWAS, the three genes where the expression was strongest associated with serum ghrelin levels was the ribosomal protein L36 (RPL36; P = 1.3E-06, FDR = 0.011, positively correlated), AP1B1 (P = 1.1E-5, FDR = 0.048, negatively correlated) and the GDNF family receptor alpha like (GFRAL), receptor of the anorexigenic growth differentiation factor-15 (GDF15), (P = 1.8E-05, FDR = 0.15, also negatively correlated).


The three genome-wide significant genetic loci from the GWA and the genes identified in the TWA are functionally plausible and should initiate further research.

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Anke Tönjes, Annett Hoffmann, Susan Kralisch, Abdul Rashid Qureshi, Nora Klöting, Markus Scholz, Dorit Schleinitz, Anette Bachmann, Jürgen Kratzsch, Marcin Nowicki, Sabine Paeschke, Kerstin Wirkner, Cornelia Enzenbach, Ronny Baber, Joachim Beige, Matthias Anders, Ingolf Bast, Matthias Blüher, Peter Kovacs, Markus Löffler, Ming-Zhi Zhang, Raymond C. Harris, Peter Stenvinkel, Michael Stumvoll, Mathias Fasshauer, and Thomas Ebert


Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) have a high risk of premature cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and show increased mortality. Pro-neurotensin (Pro-NT) was associated with metabolic diseases and predicted incident CVD and mortality. However, Pro-NT regulation in CKD and its potential role linking CKD and mortality have not been investigated, so far.


In a central lab, circulating Pro-NT was quantified in three independent cohorts comprising 4715 participants (cohort 1: patients with CKD; cohort 2: general population study; and cohort 3: non-diabetic population study). Urinary Pro-NT was assessed in part of the patients from cohort 1. In a 4th independent cohort, serum Pro-NT was further related to mortality in patients with advanced CKD. Tissue-specific Nts expression was further investigated in two mouse models of diabetic CKD and compared to non-diabetic control mice.


Pro-NT significantly increased with deteriorating renal function (P < 0.001). In meta-analysis of cohorts 1–3, Pro-NT was significantly and independently associated with estimated glomerular filtration rate (P ≤ 0.002). Patients in the middle/high Pro-NT tertiles at baseline had a higher all-cause mortality compared to the low Pro-NT tertile (Hazard ratio: 2.11, P = 0.046). Mice with severe diabetic CKD did not show increased Nts mRNA expression in different tissues compared to control animals.


Circulating Pro-NT is associated with impaired renal function in independent cohorts comprising 4715 subjects and is related to all-cause mortality in patients with end-stage kidney disease. Our human and rodent data are in accordance with the hypotheses that Pro-NT is eliminated by the kidneys and could potentially contribute to increased mortality observed in patients with CKD.