Both obesity and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are complex disorders with multiple risk factors, which interact in a complicated fashion to determine the overall phenotype. In addition to environmental risk factors, each disorder has a strong genetic basis that is likely due to the summation of small to moderate effects from a large number of genetic loci. Obesity is a strong risk factor for sleep apnea, and there are some data to suggest sleep apnea may influence obesity. It is therefore not surprising that many susceptibility genes for obesity and OSA should be shared. Current research suggests that approximately half of the genetic variance in the apnea hypopnea index is shared with obesity phenotypes. Genetic polymorphisms that increase weight will also be risk factors for apnea. In addition, given the interrelated pathways regulating both weight and other intermediate phenotypes for sleep apnea such as ventilatory control, upper airway muscle function, and sleep characteristics, it is likely that there are genes with pleiotropic effects independently impacting obesity and OSA traits. Other genetic loci likely interact with obesity to influence development of OSA in a gene-by-environment type of effect. Conversely, environmental stressors such as intermittent hypoxia and sleep fragmentation produced by OSA may interact with obesity susceptibility genes to modulate the importance that these loci have on defining obesity-related traits.
- susceptibility genes
- gene × environment effects
- Copyright © 2005 the American Physiological Society