GWAS Identifies 13 Polymorphisms Associated with Motion Sickness. B. S. Hromatka, E. R. Chang, J. Y. Tung, J. L. Mountain, U. Francke, C. B. Do, N. Eriksson 23andMe, Inc., Mountain View, CA.
Motion sickness and its underlying causes are not well understood and yet this condition affects many; between 7% and 28% of people experience acute motion sickness while traveling. This condition is also medically relevant, as individuals who experience motion sickness while traveling are more likely to experience nausea and vomiting after surgery. A better understanding of this common condition could perhaps lead to improved travel and surgery experiences. Twin studies on motion sickness suggest high heritability (57-70%), but to date there are no known genetic factors associated with motion sickness. To discover which genes may be involved, we conducted a genome-wide association study on over 33,400 individuals who were genotyped on the 23andMe platform and surveyed on motion sickness. We found thirteen SNPs associated with motion sickness at a genome-wide-significant level. Of these 13 SNPs, several are found near genes associated with eye, ear, and neurological development. Of note is rs6926953 (p = 1.95 x 10-9), which is 300 kb upstream from the gene MUTED; mutations in the mouse homolog of MUTED are implicated in balance problems. In addition, rs4891066 (p = 3.24 x 10-9) is 99 kb downstream from TSHZ1, a gene involved in inner ear development. Furthermore, rs17720662 (p = 2.69 x 10-27), which was the most significant association found, is 1.1 Mb upstream from the gene PVRL3, which plays a role in eye development. One prevailing theory of motion sickness is that nausea results from contradictory information the brain receives while traveling. The inner ear, which can perceive acceleration and influences balance, signals moving to the brain, while the eye signals stationary because the car or boat is stationary relative to the viewer. The proximity of several of these motion sickness-associated SNPs to genes associated with eye, ear, and neurological development suggests that these genes may be involved in motion sickness. These findings are an important first step towards understanding the biological basis of not only motion sickness, but of conditions such as post-operative nausea and vomiting as well.
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