Individuals who carry a specific form of the gene are at an increased risk of developing fatty liver disease, according to researchers at UT South-western Medical Centre.
The study showed that people carrying variant of gene PNPLA3 have more fat in their livers and are at a greater risk of developing liver inflammation.
Moreover, Hispanics were more likely to carry the gene variant responsible for higher liver-fat content than African-Americans and Caucasians.
"A single variation in the PNPLA3 gene was strongly associated with hepatic fat content, even after adjusting for other factors, such as obesity, diabetes status and alcohol intake," Nature Genetics quoted senior study author Dr. Helen Hobbs, director of the Eugene McDermott Centre for Human Growth and Development and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at UT South-western, as saying.
"Sequence variations in this gene explain much of the increased propensity of Hispanics to accumulate excess liver fat," she added.
"The gene variations we have identified might provide a way to predict who is most at risk for developing fatty liver disease and liver injury in response to environmental stresses such as obesity or infection," said Dr. Jonathan Cohen, professor of internal medicine in the McDermott Centre and one of the authors of the study.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is an accumulation of triglycerides in the liver and contributes to insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol - many of the conditions that contribute to heart disease.
"Knowing who is at increased risk of developing liver disease could aid physicians in encouraging their patients to make lifestyle changes or take other preventive measures to help mitigate their underlying genetic risk for the disorder," said Dr. Cohen, holder of the C. Vincent Prothro Distinguished Chair in Human Nutrition Research.
The study appears in journal Nature Genetics.