Ilse Mertens

University of Antwerp, Antwerpen, Flemish, Belgium

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Publications (65)375.62 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Animal studies, genome-wide association and genomic structural variation studies have identified the SH2B1 gene as a candidate gene for obesity. Therefore, we have designed an extensive mutation and copy number variation (CNV) analysis investigating the prevalence of genetic and structural variations in SH2B1 in the Belgian population. In the first part of this study, we performed a mutation screen for variants in the SH2B1 coding region in 581 obese children and adolescents and 433 healthy, lean individuals with high-resolution melting curve analysis followed by direct sequencing. In the second part of this study, Multiplex Amplicon Quantification (MAQ) analysis was used to identify CNVs in the distal SH2B1-containing chr.16p11.2 region in 421 obese children and adolescents with no developmental delay or behavioral phenotype. Mutation analysis resulted in the identification of fifteen rare non-synonymous heterozygous variants. Several of these were found both in lean and obese subjects, suggesting that these are neutral polymorphisms. However, six private, heterozygous, non-synonymous variations were present in obese children only. Furthermore, we also identified six missense variants solely in lean individuals. CNV analysis could not identify carriers of the distal 16p11.2 deletion in our population. Our mutation analysis has demonstrated that variation in the SH2B1 gene is frequent in both lean and obese groups, with distinctive variations being present on either side of the weight spectrum. Although the equal variation frequency does not immediately support disease causality, it cannot be excluded that some variations are weight-increasing or -decreasing. Further functional testing of the variants will be necessary to fully understand the impact of these variants on SH2B1. We were not able to detect carriers of the distal 16p11.2 deletion in our study population. As we excluded patients with developmental or behavioral problems, we suggest that in addition to obesity, the distal deletion might predispose for these traits. Further characterization of the phenotype is therefore necessary to clearly identify the phenotype of the distal 16p11.2 microdeletion syndrome. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 05/2015; 115(4). DOI:10.1016/j.ymgme.2015.05.010 · 2.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) have been implicated in NASH pathogenesis, mainly based on animal data. Gene expression data in NASH patients are scarce. We studied liver PPARα, β/δ and γ expression in a large cohort of obese patients assessed for presence of NAFLD at baseline and 1 year follow-up. Patients presenting to the obesity clinic underwent a hepatic work-up. If NAFLD was suspected, liver biopsy was performed. Gene expression was studied by mRNA quantification. Patients were reassessed after 1 year. 125 patients were consecutively included with follow-up including liver biopsy in n=85. Liver PPARα expression negatively correlated with presence of NASH (p=0.001) and with severity of steatosis (p=0.003), ballooning (p=0.001), NASH activity score (p=0.008) and fibrosis (p=0.003). PPARα expression was positively correlated to adiponectin (R(2)=0.345, p=0.010) and inversely correlated to visceral fat (R(2)=-0.343, p<0.001), HOMA IR (R(2)=-0.411, p<0.001) and CK18 (R(2)=-0.233, p=0.012). Liver PPARβ/δ and PPARγ expression did not correlate with any histological feature nor with glucose metabolism or serum lipids. At 1 year, correlation of PPARα expression with liver histology was confirmed. In longitudinal analysis, an increase in expression of PPARα and its target genes was significantly associated with histological improvement (p=0.008). Human liver PPARα gene expression negatively correlates with NASH severity, visceral adiposity and insulin resistance and positively with adiponectin. Histological improvement is associated with an increase in expression of PPARα and its target genes. These data might suggest that PPARα is a potential therapeutic target in NASH. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier B.V.
    Journal of Hepatology 02/2015; 63(1). DOI:10.1016/j.jhep.2015.02.019 · 11.34 Impact Factor
  • Article: Reply.
    An Verrijken · Sven Francque · Ilse Mertens · Luc Van Gaal
    Hepatology 04/2014; DOI:10.1002/hep.27167 · 11.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Unlabelled: An independent role of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in the development of cardiovascular disease has been suggested, probably mediated through increased levels of prothrombotic factors. Therefore, we examined whether NAFLD is linked to a prothrombotic state, independently of metabolic risk factors in a large single-center cohort of overweight/obese patients. Patients presenting to the obesity clinic underwent a detailed metabolic and liver assessment, including an extensive panel of coagulation factors. If NAFLD was suspected, a liver biopsy was proposed. A series of 273 consecutive patients (65% female) with a liver biopsy were included (age, 44 ± 0.76 years; body mass index: 39.6 ± 0.40 kg/m(2)). Increase in fibrinogen, factor VIII, and von Willebrand factor and decrease in antithrombin III correlated with metabolic features, but not with liver histology. Levels of plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) increased significantly with increasing severity of steatosis (P < 0.001), lobular inflammation (P < 0.001), ballooning (P = 0.002), and fibrosis (P < 0.001). Patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis had significantly higher PAI-1 values than those with normal liver (P < 0.001). In multiple regression, including anthropometric and metabolic parameters, steatosis remained an independent predictor of PAI-1 levels, explaining, together with fasting C-peptide and waist circumference, 21% of the variance in PAI-1. No consistent correlations with histology were found for the other coagulation factors. Conclusion: In obesity, NAFLD severity independently contributes to the increase in PAI-1 levels, whereas other coagulation factors are unaltered. This finding might, in part, explain the increased cardiovascular risk associated with NAFLD.
    Hepatology 01/2014; 59(1):121-9. DOI:10.1002/hep.26510 · 11.06 Impact Factor
  • Journal of Hepatology 04/2013; 58:S34. DOI:10.1016/S0168-8278(13)60078-1 · 11.34 Impact Factor
  • Journal of Hepatology 04/2013; 58:S538. DOI:10.1016/S0168-8278(13)61334-3 · 11.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Nesfatin-1 is the N-terminal fragment of nucleobindin-2 (NUCB2) that was identified as a novel satiety molecule in rodents. The protein is reported to exert anorexigenic effects and appears to play an important role in hypothalamic pathways regulating energy homeostasis and food intake. In this study, we hypothesized that mutations in the nesfatin encoding gene NUCB2 might cause obesity in humans. Therefore, we screened the entire coding region of the NUCB2 gene for mutations in a population of 471 obese children and adolescents. Mutation analysis of NUCB2 identified a total of seven sequence variants of which four were previously reported as polymorphisms. The remaining three variants included ex9+6G>C, L125H and K178X and were found in 3 unrelated individuals in the obese population only (0.6%). Biochemical experiments including ELISA and western blot were performed on plasma samples of the obese patient carrying the nonsense mutation K178X. However, neither NUCB2/nesfatin-1 immunoreactive plasma levels of the patient, nor expression of full length NUCB2 differed significantly from matched obese control individuals. In conclusion, we have identified the first genetic variants in the NUCB2 gene in obese individuals, although further functional characterization will be essential to verify disease causality of the mutations.
    Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 10/2012; 107(4). DOI:10.1016/j.ymgme.2012.10.014 · 2.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Lipotoxicity is a risk factor for developing obesity-related metabolic complications, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes (DM2), cardiovascular disease and stroke. Yet, the mechanisms underlying the development of lipotoxicity itself remain poorly understood. Here, we investigated whether glucose intolerance aggravates lipotoxicity by evaluating the association between triglyceride (TG) concentrations and glucose tolerance status in a cross-sectional study on obese Caucasian women at risk for DM2. 913 obese females unknown to have diabetes were recruited (mean age: 41.2±SD 12.3; median BMI: 36.2, IQR 32.9-40.2). Visceral (VAT) and subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue volumes were quantified with computed tomography. Glucose, insulin, and triglyceride concentrations were determined in fasting state and following a 75 gram oral glucose tolerance test. Based on fasting and 2 h post-load glucose levels, 27% of the women had impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), and 8% had newly diagnosed DM2. Fasting TG concentrations were similar between the IGT- and DM2-groups, and increased as compared to women with normal glucose tolerance (NGT). Even when adjusting for age, hip circumference and VAT, fasting TG concentrations remained elevated as compared to NGT. Mixed modelling analysis of post-load responses showed that TG concentrations declined more slowly in the DM2-group as compared to IGT and NGT. However, when adjusting for VAT the difference in decline between the glucose tolerance groups disappeared. Glucose intolerance associates with elevated fasting TG concentrations in obese Caucasian women. We propose that glucose intolerance and increased VAT reduce lipid disposal mechanisms and may accelerate lipotoxicity.
    PLoS ONE 09/2012; 7(9):e45145. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0045145 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Reliable noninvasive tools are needed for staging nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Published scoring systems have not been validated in prospective assessments of unselected patients. We aimed to identify factors that predicted development of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in a large group of overweight or obese patients and compared these with established factors. We performed a prospective analysis of factors associated with the development and severity of NAFLD in patients at a single obesity center. We evaluated liver involvement in 542 patients by a large set of routine and non-routine parameters, including ultrasound and genetic testing. Those suspected of having NAFLD underwent liver biopsy (57.7%). Patients were divided into design cohort (n = 200) and validation cohort (n = 113) to identify factors associated with the presence and severity of NAFLD and NASH. Factors independently associated with development of NASH included increased levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), fasting levels of C-peptide, and ultrasound steatosis scores (USSs), with area under the receiver operating curve (AUROC) values of 0.854 in the design cohort and 0.823 in the validation cohort. NASH activity scores also correlated with level of ALT, USS, and fasting level of C-peptide (R(2) = 0.491). Independent predictors of advanced fibrosis included waist circumference and level of aspartate aminotransferase (AUROC values of 0.839 and 0.846 for design and validation cohorts, respectively; negative predictive values of 98% and 97%, respectively, for a cutoff of -2.14). Previously published scoring systems had significantly lower AUROC values. Levels of CK18 and PNPLA3 polymorphisms correlated with development of NASH but did not add value. Parameters routinely analyzed in assessing obese patients can be used to determine the presence of NASH and advanced fibrosis. Non-routine tests do not increase diagnostic accuracy. Previously published scores are significantly less accurate.
    Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology: the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association 07/2012; 10(10):1162-8. DOI:10.1016/j.cgh.2012.06.019 · 7.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: AdipoR1 is one of the adiponectin receptors which are important for adiponectin signaling. Because adiponectin is a candidate gene for common obesity, it is also hypothesized that variations in AdipoR1 may be involved in the development of complex obesity. Therefore, we designed an association study for the AdipoR1 gene. We performed a case-control association study including 1,021 obese subjects (mean age 42 ± 12 years; mean BMI 38.2 ± 6.2 kg/m²) and 226 lean, healthy individuals (mean age 36 ± 7 years; mean BMI 22.1 ± 1.7 kg/m²). Nine tagSNPs were selected to cover the entire AdipoR1 gene and surrounding 7 kb region (based on HapMap data). TagSNPs were genotyped using AcycloPrime-Fluorescence Polarization (FP) SNP Detection kits and TaqMan Pre-Designed SNP Genotyping assays according to manufacturer's protocols. We found that the rs1075399 non-reference allele decreases obesity risk by 45 % in men only [odds ratio (OR) = 0.55, 95 % CI 0.35-0.87, nominal P = 0.010]. However, after Bonferroni correction for multiple testing, this association is lost. None of the other tagSNPs were associated with obesity when studying the entire population, nor when looking at men and women separately. Quantitative analysis of the effect of each SNP on height, weight, and BMI revealed that none of the tagSNPs are associated with weight or BMI. We report here that we found no decisive evidence for association between AdipoR1 tagSNPs and complex obesity in our Belgian Caucasian population.
    Endocrine 07/2012; 43(1). DOI:10.1007/s12020-012-9736-6 · 3.88 Impact Factor
  • Journal of Hepatology 04/2012; 56:S523. DOI:10.1016/S0168-8278(12)61340-3 · 11.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recently, genome-wide association studies have discovered several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) involved in the etiology of complex obesity. A variant downstream from the melanocortin-4 receptor gene (MC4R), a gene known to be involved in monogenic obesity, was reported to be highly associated with BMI. In the present study, we performed a replication study with the previously reported SNP rs17782313. We also included 3 tagSNPs (rs8087522, rs11872992, and rs1943226) for the MC4R gene region in our study to understand the role of this gene in complex obesity. We genotyped all 4 SNPs in a population of 1049 obese cases (mean BMI=38.2±6.2) and 312 healthy lean individuals (mean BMI 22.0±1.7). We could confirm that rs17782313 is highly associated with complex obesity in our population (odds ratio=1.42, 95% CI 1.14-1.77, P=0.002). Furthermore, we found this SNP to be associated with BMI (B=0.92, 95% CI 0.19-1.65, P=0.01) and body weight (B=2.44, 95% CI 0.28-4.60, P=0.03). In addition, we could also detect an association between rs11872992 and complex obesity (odds ratio=0.74, 95% CI 0.57-0.98, P=0.03). Through conditional analysis, we demonstrate that this effect is independent from the rs17782313 association signal. No associations with obesity could be found for rs8087522 and rs1943226. In conclusion, we could replicate the previously reported association between rs17782313 and complex obesity. Furthermore, our data do not support the hypothesis that a SNP in MC4R causes the rs17782313 association signal.
    Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 05/2011; 103(1):71-5. DOI:10.1016/j.ymgme.2011.01.007 · 2.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are endocrine-disrupting chemicals associated with the development of the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. In humans, little is known about their role in the potential origin of obesity. This study aims to assess the associations between serum levels of POPs and the prevalence of obesity in a cohort of obese and lean adult men and women. POP serum samples were investigated cross-sectionally in 98 obese and 47 lean participants, aged ≥18 years. Serum samples were analyzed for the presence of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners 153, 138, 180, and 170 and for the organochlorine pesticides, dichloro-diphenyl-dichloroethylene (pp-DDE), and β-hexachlorocyclohexane (βHCH). We established a significant negative correlation between BMI, waist, fat mass percentage, total and subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue, and serum levels of PCB 153, 180, 170, and the sumPCBs. For βHCH, we demonstrated a positive correlation with BMI, waist, fat mass percentage, and total and subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue. PCBs 180, 170, and the sum of PCBs correlated significantly negative with homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance (HOMA(IR)). βHCH correlated significantly positively with HOMA(IR). A strong correlation was established between all POP serum levels and age. We established a positive relationship between high serum levels of βHCH and BMI and HOMA(IR), whereas serum PCB levels were inversely correlated with BMI and HOMA(IR). Combined, these results suggest that the diabetogenic effect of low-dose exposure to POPs might be more complicated than a simple obesogenic effect.
    Obesity 04/2011; 19(4):709-14. DOI:10.1038/oby.2010.133 · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hypertriglyceridemia and fatty liver are common in patients with type 2 diabetes, but the factors connecting alterations in glucose metabolism with plasma and liver lipid metabolism remain unclear. Apolipoprotein CIII (apoCIII), a regulator of hepatic and plasma triglyceride metabolism, is elevated in type 2 diabetes. In this study, we analyzed whether apoCIII is affected by altered glucose metabolism. Liver-specific insulin receptor-deficient mice display lower hepatic apoCIII mRNA levels than controls, suggesting that factors other than insulin regulate apoCIII in vivo. Glucose induces apoCIII transcription in primary rat hepatocytes and immortalized human hepatocytes via a mechanism involving the transcription factors carbohydrate response element-binding protein and hepatocyte nuclear factor-4α. ApoCIII induction by glucose is blunted by treatment with agonists of farnesoid X receptor and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α but not liver X receptor, ie, nuclear receptors controlling triglyceride metabolism. Moreover, in obese humans, plasma apoCIII protein correlates more closely with plasma fasting glucose and glucose excursion after oral glucose load than with insulin. Glucose induces apoCIII transcription, which may represent a mechanism linking hyperglycemia, hypertriglyceridemia, and cardiovascular disease in type 2 diabetes.
    Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology 03/2011; 31(3):513-9. DOI:10.1161/ATVBAHA.110.220723 · 6.00 Impact Factor
  • Journal of Hepatology 03/2011; 54. DOI:10.1016/S0168-8278(11)60841-6 · 11.34 Impact Factor
  • Journal of Hepatology 03/2011; 54. DOI:10.1016/S0168-8278(11)60840-4 · 11.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In this study, we hypothesized that mutations in the resistin encoding gene, RETN, may cause a monogenic form of obesity. We screened the coding region of RETN in 81 morbidly obese adults, 263 overweight and obese children/adolescents, and 116 healthy lean subjects. In vitro experiments include qPCR, ELISA, and western blot for WT and mutant resistin transfected into 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Mutation analysis identified five sequence variants in our patient populations: 3'-UTR +87 G/A, 3'-UTR +100 A/G, T73T, IV3-61 C/A, and C78S. In our control population, we only found the 3'-UTR +87 G/A variant. We started functional experiments for the C78S mutation that was found in a 20-year-old obese male (body mass index (BMI)=39.7 kg/m(2)) and his obese mother (BMI=31.9 kg/m(2)). In vitro testing demonstrated that the mutation does not impair mRNA expression. We identified a 100-fold lower extracellular protein concentration for mutant resistin compared with WT levels using a resistin ELISA on cell culture medium (P=4.87×10(-6)). We also detected a decreased intracellular concentration for the mutant protein (tenfold lower relative levels, P=0.007). The plasma resistin levels of the proband and his mother, however, did not differ significantly from lean control individuals. In conclusion, we identified the first missense mutation in resistin in a morbidly obese proband and his obese mother. Functional testing of the mutant protein suggests that the C78S mutant protein is degraded, possibly resulting in a decreased extracellular concentration, which may predispose to obesity.
    European Journal of Endocrinology 03/2011; 164(6):927-36. DOI:10.1530/EJE-10-1080 · 4.07 Impact Factor
  • Journal of Hepatology 03/2011; 54. DOI:10.1016/S0168-8278(11)60839-8 · 11.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Nesfatin-1, which originates from its precursor protein nucleobindin-2 (NUCB2), is a novel appetite-regulating molecule that might be associated with the melanocortin signalling pathway in the hypothalamus. The secreted protein appears to play an important role in metabolic control through its anorexigenic and anti-hyperglycemic effects. Therefore, we hypothesized that polymorphisms in the NUCB2 gene might influence the susceptibility for the development of obesity. In this study, we investigated the association of NUCB2 polymorphisms with the development of obesity in an extensive Caucasian population comprising 1049 obese subjects and 315 normal weight control individuals. We selected 8 tagSNPs, which after additional analysis of 6 multi-marker tests, cover most information on common genetic variation in the selected region. We found association with obesity for 3 SNPs (rs1330, rs214101 and rs757081) and 3 multi-marker tests, only when analyzing the male population separately. We subsequently performed linear regression analysis, again in the male population only, and found that several SNPs were associated with BMI, weight and fat free mass. These data indicate that polymorphisms in the NUCB2 gene could play an important role in the protection against the development of obesity in male subjects and might have an influence on energy homeostasis. Nevertheless, further research including replication of our results and elucidation of the molecular mechanism remains necessary.
    Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 03/2011; 103(3):282-6. DOI:10.1016/j.ymgme.2011.03.007 · 2.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We previously demonstrated in an animal model that steatosis, in the absence of fibrosis, induces a significant rise in portal pressure, indicating substantial changes in liver hemodynamics. As assessment of portal pressure is an invasive procedure, non-invasive parameters are needed to identify patients at risk. To study the portal pressure in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients and to identify factors that are possibly related to steatosis-induced changes in liver hemodynamics. Patients presenting with a problem of overweight or obesity, and in whom non-invasive investigations showed signs of liver involvement, were proposed for transjugular hepatic vein catheterization and liver biopsy. The biopsy was scored according to the Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Clinical Research Network Scoring System. A total of 50 consecutive patients were studied. Their mean age was 47.9 ± 1.8 years; 31 (62%) were female. Hepatic venous pressure gradient was normal in 36 (72%) and elevated in 14 (28%) patients. The degree of steatosis was the only histological parameter that differed significantly between the two groups (P=0.016), and was a predictor of the presence of portal hypertension (PHT) in regression analysis (P=0.010). Comparing normal versus portal hypertensive patients, waist circumference (117 ± 2 versus 128 ± 4 cm, P=0.005), waist-hip ratio (0.96 ± 0.06 versus 1.04 ± 0.03, P=0.003), visceral fat (229 ± 15 versus 292 ± 35 cm(2), P=0.022), fasting insulin (15.4 ± 1.7 versus 21.8 ± 2.4 μU ml(-1), P=0.032), fasting c-peptide (1.22 ± 0.06 versus 1.49 ± 0.09 nmol l(-1), P=0.035) and homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance (HOMA IR) (3.28 ± 0.29 versus 4.81 ± 0.57, P=0.019) were significantly higher. Age, gender, liver enzymes, ferritin and high-sensitive C-reactive protein were not significantly different. In regression analysis, waist circumference (P=0.008) and HOMA IR (P=0.043) were independent predictors of PHT. Estimates of both visceral adiposity and IR are predictors for the presence of PHT, related to the degree of steatosis, and may help in identifying patients who are at risk of developing steatosis-related complications.
    International journal of obesity (2005) 02/2011; 35(2):270-8. DOI:10.1038/ijo.2010.134 · 5.00 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
375.62 Total Impact Points


  • 1998–2015
    • University of Antwerp
      • • Department of medical genetics
      • • Faculty of Medicine
      Antwerpen, Flemish, Belgium
  • 2013
    • University of California, San Diego
      San Diego, California, United States
    • Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service
      Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • 2010
    • Università di Pisa
      Pisa, Tuscany, Italy