Relational complexity (RC) is a metric reflecting capacity limitation in relational processing. It plays a crucial role in higher cognitive processes and is an endophenotype for several disorders. However, the genetic underpinnings of complex relational processing have not been investigated. Using the classical twin model, we estimated the heritability of RC and genetic overlap with intelligence (IQ), reasoning, and working memory in a twin and sibling sample aged 15-29 years (N = 787). Further, in an exploratory search for genetic loci contributing to RC, we examined associated genetic markers and genes in our Discovery sample and selected loci for replication in four independent samples (ALSPAC, LBC1936, NTR, NCNG), followed by meta-analysis (N>6500) at the single marker level. Twin modelling showed RC is highly heritable (67%), has considerable genetic overlap with IQ (59%), and is a major component of genetic covariation between reasoning and working memory (72%). At the molecular level, we found preliminary support for four single-marker loci (one in the gene DGKB), and at a gene-based level for the NPS gene, having influence on cognition. These results indicate that genetic sources influencing relational processing are a key component of the genetic architecture of broader cognitive abilities. Further, they suggest a genetic cascade, whereby genetic factors influencing capacity limitation in relational processing have a flow-on effect to more complex cognitive traits, including reasoning and working memory, and ultimately, IQ.
Anaemia is a chief determinant of globalill health, contributing to cognitive impairment, growth retardation and impaired physical capacity. To understand further the genetic factors influencing red blood cells, we carried out a genome-wide association study of haemoglobin concentration and related parameters in up to 135,367 individuals. Here we identify 75 independent genetic loci associated with one or more red blood cell phenotypes at P <10−8, which together explain 4–9% of the phenotypic variance per trait. Using expression quantitative trait loci and bioinformatic strategies, we identify 121 candidate genes enriched in functions relevant to red blood cell biology. The candidate genes are expressed preferentially in red blood cell precursors, and 43 have haematopoietic phenotypes in Mus musculus or Drosophila melanogaster. Through open-chromatin and coding-variant analyses we identify potential causal genetic variants at 41 loci. Our findings provide extensive new insights into genetic mechanisms and biological pathways controlling red blood cell formation and function.
Current models of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder implicate multiple genes,
however their biological relationships remain elusive. To test the genetic role
of glutamate receptors and their interacting scaffold proteins, the exons of ten
glutamatergic ‘hub’ genes in 1304 individuals were re-sequenced in
case and control samples. No significant difference in the overall number of
non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (nsSNPs) was observed between
cases and controls. However, cluster analysis of nsSNPs identified two exons
encoding the cysteine-rich domain and first transmembrane helix of GRM1 as a
risk locus with five mutations highly enriched within these domains. A new
splice variant lacking the transmembrane GPCR domain of GRM1 was discovered in
the human brain and the GRM1 mutation cluster could perturb the regulation of
this variant. The predicted effect on individuals harbouring multiple mutations
distributed in their ten hub genes was also examined. Diseased individuals
possessed an increased load of deleteriousness from multiple concurrent rare and
common coding variants. Together, these data suggest a disease model in which
the interplay of compound genetic coding variants, distributed among glutamate
receptors and their interacting proteins, contribute to the pathogenesis of
schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.
Background and Purpose
White matter hyperintensities of presumed vascular origin (WMH) increase the risk of stroke and dementia. Despite strong WMH heritability, few gene associations have been identified. Relevant experimental models may be informative.
We tested associations between genes that were differentially-expressed in brains of young spontaneously-hypertensive stroke-prone rat (SHRSP) and human WMH (using volume and visual score) in 621 subjects from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 (LBC1936). We then attempted replication in 9,361 subjects from the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE). We also tested the LBC1936 for previous genome-wide WMH associations found in CHARGE.
Of 126 SHRSP genes, 10 were nominally associated with WMH volume or score in LBC1936, of which five [AFP, ALB, GNAI1, RBM8a, MRPL18] associated with both WMH volume and score (p<0.05); two of the 10 [XPNPEP1, p=6.7×10−5; FARP1, p=0.024] plus another SHRSP gene [USMG5, p=0.00014], on chromosomes 10, 13 and 10 respectively, associated with WMH in CHARGE. Gene set enrichment showed significant associations for down-regulated SHRSP genes with WMH in humans. In LBC1936, we replicated CHARGE’s genome-wide WMH associations on chromosomes 17 [TRIM65, TRIM47] and, for the first time, 1 [PMF1].
Despite not passing multiple testing thresholds individually, these genes collectively are relevant to known WMH associations, proposed WMH mechanisms or dementia: associations with Alzheimer’s disease, late life depression, ATP production, osmotic regulation, neuro-developmental abnormalities and cognitive impairment. If replicated further, they suggest a multifactorial nature for WMH and argue for more consideration of vascular contributions to dementia.
We carried out a trans-ancestry genome-wide association and replication study of blood pressure phenotypes among up to 320,251 individuals of East Asian, European and South Asian ancestry. We find genetic variants at 12 new loci to be associated with blood pressure (P = 3.9 × 10−11 to 5.0 × 10−21). The sentinel blood pressure SNPs are enriched for association with DNA methylation at multiple nearby CpG sites, suggesting that, at some of the loci identified, DNA methylation may lie on the regulatory pathway linking sequence variation to blood pressure. The sentinel SNPs at the 12 new loci point to genes involved in vascular smooth muscle (IGFBP3, KCNK3, PDE3A and PRDM6) and renal (ARHGAP24, OSR1, SLC22A7 and TBX2) function. The new and known genetic variants predict increased left ventricular mass, circulating levels of NT-proBNP, and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality (P = 0.04 to 8.6 × 10−6). Our results provide new evidence for the role of DNA methylation in blood pressure regulation.
Lung function measures are used in the diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In 38,199 European ancestry individuals, we studied genome-wide association of forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC) and FEV1/FVC with 1000 Genomes Project (phase 1)-imputed genotypes and followed up top associations in 54,550 Europeans. We identify 14 novel loci (P<5 × 10−8) in or near ENSA, RNU5F-1, KCNS3, AK097794, ASTN2, LHX3, CCDC91, TBX3, TRIP11, RIN3, TEKT5, LTBP4, MN1 and AP1S2, and two novel signals at known loci NPNT and GPR126, providing a basis for new understanding of the genetic determinants of these traits and pulmonary diseases in which they are altered.
Genetic and environmental factors impact on lung function, important in the diagnosis of pulmonary diseases. Here the authors use imputation of genotypes to the 1000 Genomes Project reference panel to identify novel, low frequency variants associated with lung function.
Whilst common genetic variation in many non-coding genomic regulatory regions are known to impart risk of colorectal cancer (CRC), much of the heritability of CRC remains unexplained. To examine the role of recurrent coding sequence variation in CRC aetiology, we genotyped 12,638 CRCs cases and 29,045 controls from six European populations. Single-variant analysis identified a coding variant (rs3184504) in SH2B3 (12q24) associated with CRC risk (OR = 1.08, P = 3.9 × 10−7), and novel damaging coding variants in 3 genes previously tagged by GWAS efforts; rs16888728 (8q24) in UTP23 (OR = 1.15, P = 1.4 × 10−7); rs6580742 and rs12303082 (12q13) in FAM186A (OR = 1.11, P = 1.2 × 10−7 and OR = 1.09, P = 7.4 × 10−8); rs1129406 (12q13) in ATF1 (OR = 1.11, P = 8.3 × 10−9), all reaching exome-wide significance levels. Gene based tests identified associations between CRC and PCDHGA genes (P < 2.90 × 10−6). We found an excess of rare, damaging variants in base-excision (P = 2.4 × 10−4) and DNA mismatch repair genes (P = 6.1 × 10−4) consistent with a recessive mode of inheritance. This study comprehensively explores the contribution of coding sequence variation to CRC risk, identifying associations with coding variation in 4 genes and PCDHG gene cluster and several candidate recessive alleles. However, these findings suggest that recurrent, low-frequency coding variants account for a minority of the unexplained heritability of CRC.
Non-pathological, age-related cognitive decline varies markedly between individuals andplaces significant financial and emotional strain on people, their families and society as a whole.Understanding the differential age-related decline in brain function is critical not only for the development oftherapeutics to prolong cognitive health into old age, but also to gain insight into pathological ageing suchas Alzheimer’s disease. The Lothian Birth Cohort of 1936 (LBC1936) comprises a rare group of people forwhom there are childhood cognitive test scores and longitudinal cognitive data during older age, detailedstructural brain MRI, genome-wide genotyping, and a multitude of other biological, psycho-social, andepidemiological data. Synaptic integrity is a strong indicator of cognitive health in the human brain;however, until recently, it was prohibitively difficult to perform detailed analyses of synaptic and axonalstructure in human tissue sections. We have adapted a novel method of tissue preparation at autopsy toallow the study of human synapses from the LBC1936 cohort in unprecedented morphological andmolecular detail, using the high-resolution imaging techniques of array tomography and electronmicroscopy. This allows us to analyze the brain at sub-micron resolution to assess density, proteincomposition and health of synapses. Here we present data from the first donated LBC1936 brain andcompare our findings to Alzheimer’s diseased tissue to highlight the differences between healthy andpathological brain ageing.
Our data indicates that compared to an Alzheimer’s disease patient, the cognitively normalLBC1936 participant had a remarkable degree of preservation of synaptic structures. However,morphological and molecular markers of degeneration in areas of the brain associated with cognition(prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and superior temporal gyrus) were observed.
Our novel post-mortem protocol facilitates high-resolution neuropathological analysis of the well-characterized LBC1936 cohort, extending phenotyping beyond cognition and in vivo imaging to nowinclude neuropathological changes, at the level of single synapses. This approach offers an unprecedentedopportunity to study synaptic and axonal integrity during ageing and how it contributes to differences in agerelatedcognitive change.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40478-015-0232-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
We tested for interactions between body mass index (BMI) and common genetic variants affecting serum urate levels, genome-wide, in up to 42569 participants. Both stratified genome-wide association (GWAS) analyses, in lean, overweight and obese individuals, and regression-type analyses in a non BMI-stratified overall sample were performed. The former did not uncover any novel locus with a major main effect, but supported modulation of effects for some known and potentially new urate loci. The latter highlighted a SNP at RBFOX3 reaching genome-wide significant level (effect size 0.014, 95% CI 0.008-0.02, Pinter= 2.6 x 10-8). Two top loci in interaction term analyses, RBFOX3 and ERO1LB-EDARADD, also displayed suggestive differences in main effect size between the lean and obese strata. All top ranking loci for urate effect differences between BMI categories were novel and most had small magnitude but opposite direction effects between strata. They include the locus RBMS1-TANK (men, Pdifflean-overweight= 4.7 x 10-8), a region that has been associated with several obesity related traits, and TSPYL5 (men, Pdifflean-overweight= 9.1 x 10-8), regulating adipocytes-produced estradiol. The top-ranking known urate loci was ABCG2, the strongest known gout risk locus, with an effect halved in obese compared to lean men (Pdifflean-obese= 2 x 10-4). Finally, pathway analysis suggested a role for N-glycan biosynthesis as a prominent urate-associated pathway in the lean stratum. These results illustrate a potentially powerful way to monitor changes occurring in obesogenic environment.
DNA methylation levels change with age. Recent studies have identified biomarkers of chronological age based on DNA methylation levels. It is not yet known whether DNA methylation age captures aspects of biological age.
Here we test whether differences between people’s chronological ages and estimated ages, DNA methylation age, predict all-cause mortality in later life. The difference between DNA methylation age and chronological age (Δage) was calculated in four longitudinal cohorts of older people. Meta-analysis of proportional hazards models from the four cohorts was used to determine the association between Δage and mortality. A 5-year higher Δage is associated with a 21% higher mortality risk, adjusting for age and sex. After further adjustments for childhood IQ, education, social class, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and APOE e4 status, there is a 16% increased mortality risk for those with a 5-year higher Δage. A pedigree-based heritability analysis of Δage was conducted in a separate cohort. The heritability of Δage was 0.43.
DNA methylation-derived measures of accelerated aging are heritable traits that predict mortality independently of health status, lifestyle factors, and known genetic factors.
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Background: The DNA methylation-based ‘epigenetic clock’ correlates strongly with chronological age, but it is currently unclear what drives individual differences. We examine cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between the epigenetic clock and four mortality-linked markers of physical and mental fitness: lung function, walking speed, grip strength and cognitive ability.
Methods: DNA methylation-based age acceleration (residuals of the epigenetic clock estimate regressed on chronological age) were estimated in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 at ages 70 (n = 920), 73 (n = 299) and 76 (n = 273) years. General cognitive ability, walking speed, lung function and grip strength were measured concurrently. Cross-sectional correlations between age acceleration and the fitness variables were calculated. Longitudinal change in the epigenetic clock estimates and the fitness variables were assessed via linear mixed models and latent growth curves. Epigenetic age acceleration at age 70 was used as a predictor of longitudinal change in fitness. Epigenome-wide association studies (EWASs) were conducted on the four fitness measures.
Results: Cross-sectional correlations were significant between greater age acceleration and poorer performance on the lung function, cognition and grip strength measures (r range: −0.07 to −0.05, P range: 9.7 x 10−3 to 0.024). All of the fitness variables declined over time but age acceleration did not correlate with subsequent change over 6 years. There were no EWAS hits for the fitness traits.
Conclusions: Markers of physical and mental fitness are associated with the epigenetic clock (lower abilities associated with age acceleration). However, age acceleration does not associate with decline in these measures, at least over a relatively short follow-up.
epigenetic clock; fitness; longitudinal; DNA methylation; cognitive function
The genetic basis of variation in human cognitive abilities is poorly understood. RIMS1 encodes a synapse active‐zone protein with important roles in the maintenance of normal synaptic function: mice lacking this protein have greatly reduced learning ability and memory function.
An established paradigm examining the structural and functional effects of mutations in genes expressed in the eye and the brain was used to study a kindred with an inherited retinal dystrophy due to RIMS1 mutation.
Materials and methods
Neuropsychological tests and high‐resolution MRI brain scanning were undertaken in the kindred. In a population cohort, neuropsychological scores were associated with common variation in RIMS1. Additionally, RIMS1 was sequenced in top‐scoring individuals. Evolution of RIMS1 was assessed, and its expression in developing human brain was studied.
Affected individuals showed significantly enhanced cognitive abilities across a range of domains. Analysis suggests that factors other than RIMS1 mutation were unlikely to explain enhanced cognition. No association with common variation and verbal IQ was found in the population cohort, and no other mutations in RIMS1 were detected in the highest scoring individuals from this cohort. RIMS1 protein is expressed in developing human brain, but RIMS1 does not seem to have been subjected to accelerated evolution in man.
A possible role for RIMS1 in the enhancement of cognitive function at least in this kindred is suggested. Although further work is clearly required to explore these findings before a role for RIMS1 in human cognition can be formally accepted, the findings suggest that genetic mutation may enhance human cognition in some cases.
A balanced t(1;11) translocation which transects the Disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) gene shows genome-wide significant linkage for schizophrenia and recurrent major depressive disorder in a single large Scottish family, but genome-wide and exome sequencing-based association studies have not supported a role for DISC1 in psychiatric illness. To explore DISC1 in more detail, we sequenced 528 kb of the DISC1 locus in 653 cases and 889 controls. We report 2,718 validated single nucleotide polymorphisms of which 2,010 have a minor allele frequency of less than 1%. Only 38% of these variants are reported in the 1000 Genomes Project European subset. This suggests that many DISC1 SNPs remain undiscovered and are essentially private. Rare coding variants identified exclusively in patients were found in likely functional protein domains. Significant region-wide association was observed between rs16856199 and recurrent major depressive disorder (P=0.026, unadjusted P=6.3 × 10−5, OR=3.48). This was not replicated in additional recurrent major depression samples (replication P=0.11). Combined analysis of both the original and replication set supported the original association (P=0.0058, OR=1.46). Evidence for segregation of this variant with disease in families was limited to those of rMDD individuals referred from primary care. Burden analysis for coding and non-coding variants gave nominal associations with diagnosis and measures of mood and cognition. Together, these observations are likely to generalise to other candidate genes for major mental illness and may thus provide guidelines for the design of future studies.
Good bone and joint health is essential for the physical tasks of daily living and poorer indicators of physical capability in older adults have been associated with increased mortality rates. Genetic variants of indicators of bone and joint health may be associated with measures of physical capability.
As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) programme, men and women aged between 52 and 90 + years from six UK cohorts were genotyped for a polymorphism associated with serum calcium (rs1801725, CASR), two polymorphisms associated with bone mineral density (BMD) (rs2941740, ESR1 and rs9594759, RANKL) and one associated with osteoarthritis risk rs3815148 (COG5). Meta-analysis was used to pool within-study effects of the associations between each of the polymorphisms and measures of physical capability: grip strength, timed walk or get up and go, chair rises and standing balance.
Few important associations were observed among the several tests. We found that carriers of the serum calcium-raising allele had poorer grip strength compared with non-carriers (pooled p = 0.05, n = 11,239) after adjusting for age and sex. Inconsistent results were observed for the two variants associated with BMD and we found no evidence for an association between rs3815148 (COG5) and any of the physical capability measures.
Our findings suggest elevated serum calcium levels may lead to lower grip strength, though this requires further replication. Our results do not provide evidence for a substantial influence of these variants in ESR1, RANKL and COG5 on physical capability in older adults.
► We examined associations between bone-related genotypes and physical capability. ► We conducted a meta-analysis on 12,836 middle-age adults. ► We found CASR may be associated with grip strength. ► No substantial support for specific bone mineral density variants and physical capability.
BMD, bone mineral density; OA, osteoarthritis; BMI, body mass index; SNP, single nucleotide polymorphism; CaPS, Caerphilly Prospective Study; ELSA, English Longitudinal Study of Ageing; HAS, Hertfordshire Ageing Study; HCS, Hertfordshire Cohort Study; LBC1921, The Lothian Birth Cohort 1921; NSHD, National Survey of Health and Development; HWE, Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium; WHR, waist–hip ratio; GWAS, genome-wide association studies; Aging; Grip strength; Calcium; Bone mineral density; Osteoarthritis
Estimates of the heritability of plasma fibrinogen concentration, an established predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD), range from 34 to 50%. Genetic variants so far identified by genome-wide association (GWA) studies only explain a small proportion (< 2%) of its variation.
Methods and Results
We conducted a meta-analysis of 28 GWA studies, including more than 90,000 subjects of European ancestry, the first GWA meta-analysis of fibrinogen levels in 7 African Americans studies totaling 8,289 samples, and a GWA study in Hispanic-Americans totaling 1,366 samples. Evaluation for association of SNPs with clinical outcomes included a total of 40,695 cases and 85,582 controls for coronary artery disease (CAD), 4,752 cases and 24,030 controls for stroke, and 3,208 cases and 46,167 controls for venous thromboembolism (VTE). Overall, we identified 24 genome-wide significant (P<5×10−8) independent signals in 23 loci, including 15 novel associations, together accounting for 3.7% of plasma fibrinogen variation. Gene-set enrichment analysis highlighted key roles in fibrinogen regulation for the three structural fibrinogen genes and pathways related to inflammation, adipocytokines and thyrotrophin-releasing hormone signaling. Whereas lead SNPs in a few loci were significantly associated with CAD, the combined effect of all 24 fibrinogen-associated lead SNPs was not significant for CAD, stroke or VTE.
We identify 23 robustly associated fibrinogen loci, 15 of which are new. Clinical outcome analysis of these loci does not support a causal relationship between circulating levels of fibrinogen and CAD, stroke or VTE.
Fibrinogen; cardiovascular disease; genome-wide association study
Rare mutations in AβPP, PSEN1, and PSEN2 cause uncommon early onset forms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and common variants in MAPT are associated with risk of other neurodegenerative disorders. We sought to establish whether common genetic variation in these genes confer risk to the common form of AD which occurs later in life (>65 years). We therefore tested single-nucleotide polymorphisms at these loci for association with late-onset AD (LOAD) in a large case-control sample consisting of 3,940 cases and 13,373 controls. Single-marker analysis did not identify any variants that reached genome-wide significance, a result which is supported by other recent genome-wide association studies. However, we did observe a significant association at the MAPT locus using a gene-wide approach (p = 0.009). We also observed suggestive association between AD and the marker rs9468, which defines the H1 haplotype, an extended haplotype that spans the MAPT gene and has previously been implicated in other neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, and corticobasal degeneration. In summary common variants at AβPP, PSEN1, and PSEN2 and MAPT are unlikely to make strong contributions to susceptibility for LOAD. However, the gene-wide effect observed at MAPT indicates a possible contribution to disease risk which requires further study.
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid-β protein precursor; genetics; human; MAPT protein; PSEN1 protein; PSEN2 protein
The APOE ε2/3/4 genotype has been associated with low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and Alzheimer disease. However, evidence for associations with measures of cognitive performance in adults without dementia has been mixed, as it is for physical performance. Associations may also be evident in other genotypes implicated in LDL-C levels. As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) collaborative research programme, genotypic information was obtained for APOE ε2/3/4, rs515135 (APOB), rs2228671 (LDLR) and rs629301 (SORT1) from eight cohorts of adults aged between 44 and 90 + years. We investigated associations with four measures of cognitive (word recall, phonemic fluency, semantic fluency and search speed) and physical capability (grip strength, get up and go/walk speed, timed chair rises and ability to balance) using meta-analyses. Overall, little evidence for associations between any of the genotypes and measures of cognitive capability was observed (e.g. pooled beta for APOE ε4 effect on semantic fluency z score = −0.02; 95 % CI = −0.05 to 0.02; p value = 0.3; n = 18,796). However, there was borderline evidence within studies that negative effects of APOE ε4 on nonverbal ability measures become more apparent with age. Few genotypic associations were observed with physical capability measures. The findings from our large investigation of middle-aged to older adults in the general population suggest that effects of APOE on cognitive capability are at most modest and are domain- and age-specific, while APOE has little influence on physical capability. In addition, other LDL-C-related genotypes have little impact on these traits.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11357-014-9673-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Ageing; Apolipoprotein E; Cognition; Single nucleotide polymorphism
Apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε genotype has previously been significantly associated with cognitive, brain imaging, and Alzheimer's disease-related phenotypes (e.g., age of onset). In the TOMM40 gene, the rs10524523 (“523”) variable length poly-T repeat polymorphism has more recently been associated with similar ph/enotypes, although the allelic directions of these associations have varied between initial reports. Using diffusion magnetic resonance imaging tractography, the present study aimed to investigate whether there are independent effects of apolipoprotein E (APOE) and TOMM40 genotypes on human brain white matter integrity in a community-dwelling sample of older adults, the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 (mean age = 72.70 years, standard deviation = 0.74, N approximately = 640–650; for most analyses). Some nominally significant effects were observed (i.e., covariate-adjusted differences between genotype groups at p < 0.05). For APOE, deleterious effects of ε4 “risk” allele presence (vs. absence) were found in the right ventral cingulum and left inferior longitudinal fasciculus. To test for biologically independent effects of the TOMM40 523 repeat, participants were stratified into APOE genotype subgroups, so that any significant effects could not be attributed to APOE variation. In participants with the APOE ε3/ε4 genotype, effects of TOMM40 523 status were found in the left uncinate fasciculus, left rostral cingulum, left ventral cingulum, and a general factor of white matter integrity. In all 4 of these tractography measures, carriers of the TOMM40 523 “short” allele showed lower white matter integrity when compared with carriers of the “long” and “very-long” alleles. Most of these effects survived correction for childhood intelligence test scores and vascular disease history, though only the effect of TOMM40 523 on the left ventral cingulum integrity survived correction for false discovery rate. The effects of APOE in this older population are more specific and restricted compared with those reported in previous studies, and the effects of TOMM40 on white matter integrity appear to be novel, although replication is required in large independent samples.
White matter; Cognitive ageing; Diffusion MRI; Tractography; APOE; TOMM40; Alzheimer's disease
Combining information from multiple SNPs may capture a greater amount of genetic variation than from the sum of individual SNP effects and help identifying missing heritability. Regions may capture variation from multiple common variants of small effect, multiple rare variants or a combination of both. We describe regional heritability mapping of human cognition. Measures of crystallised (gc) and fluid intelligence (gf) in late adulthood (64–79 years) were available for 1806 individuals genotyped for 549,692 autosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The same individuals were tested at age 11, enabling us the rare opportunity to measure cognitive change across most of their lifespan. 547,750 SNPs ranked by position are divided into 10, 908 overlapping regions of 101 SNPs to estimate the genetic variance each region explains, an approach that resembles classical linkage methods. We also estimate the genetic variation explained by individual autosomes and by SNPs within genes. Empirical significance thresholds are estimated separately for each trait from whole genome scans of 500 permutated data sets. The 5% significance threshold for the likelihood ratio test of a single region ranged from 17–17.5 for the three traits. This is the equivalent to nominal significance under the expectation of a chi-squared distribution (between 1df and 0) of P<1.44×10−5. These thresholds indicate that the distribution of the likelihood ratio test from this type of variance component analysis should be estimated empirically. Furthermore, we show that estimates of variation explained by these regions can be grossly overestimated. After applying permutation thresholds, a region for gf on chromosome 5 spanning the PRRC1 gene is significant at a genome-wide 10% empirical threshold. Analysis of gene methylation on the temporal cortex provides support for the association of PRRC1 and fluid intelligence (P = 0.004), and provides a prime candidate gene for high throughput sequencing of these uniquely informative cohorts.
The APOE ε and TOMM40 rs10524523 (‘523’) variable length poly-T repeat gene loci have been significantly and independently associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) related phenotypes such as age of clinical onset. Hippocampal atrophy has been significantly associated with memory impairment, a characteristic of AD. The current study aimed to test for independent effects of APOE ε and TOMM40 ‘523’ genotypes on hippocampal volumes as assessed by brain structural MRI in a relatively large sample of community-dwelling older adults. As part of a longitudinal study of cognitive ageing, participants in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 underwent genotyping for APOE ε2/ε3/ε4 status and TOMM40 ‘523’ poly-T repeat length, and detailed structural brain MRI at a mean age of 72.7 years (standard deviation = 0.7, N range = 624 to 636). No significant effects of APOE ε or TOMM40 523 genotype were found on hippocampal volumes when analysed raw, or when adjusted for either intracranial or total brain tissue volumes. In summary, in a large community-dwelling sample of older adults, we found no effects of APOE ε or TOMM40 523 genotypes on hippocampal volumes. This is discrepant with some previous reports of significant association between APOE and left/right hippocampal volumes, and instead echoes other reports that found no association. Previous significant findings may partly reflect type 1 error. Future studies should carefully consider: 1) their specific techniques in adjusting for brain size; 2) assessing more detailed sub-divisions of the hippocampal formation; and 3) testing whether significant APOE-hippocampal associations are independent of generalised brain atrophy.
Telomeres are involved in cellular ageing and shorten with increasing age. If telomere length is a valuable biomarker of ageing, then telomere shortening should be associated with worse physical performance, an ageing trait, but evidence for such an association is lacking. The purpose of this study was to examine whether change in telomere length is associated with physical performance.
Using data from four UK adult cohorts (ages 53–80 years at baseline), we undertook cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. We analysed each study separately and then used meta-analytic methods to pool the results. Physical performance was measured using walking and chair rise speed, standing balance time and grip strength. Telomere length was measured by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in whole blood at baseline and follow-up (time 1, time 2).
Total sample sizes in meta-analyses ranged from 1,217 to 3,707. There was little evidence that telomere length was associated with walking speed, balance or grip strength, though weak associations were seen with chair rise speed and grip strength at baseline (p = 0.02 and 0.01 respectively). Faster chair rise speed at follow-up, was associated with a smaller decline in telomere length between time 1 and time 2 (standardised coefficient per SD increase 0.061, 95% CI 0.006, 0.115, p = 0.03) but this was consistent with chance (p = 0.08) after further adjustment.
Whereas shortening of leukocyte telomeres might be an important measure of cellular ageing, there is little evidence that it is a strong biomarker for physical performance.
The glucokinase regulatory protein encoded by GCKR plays an important role in glucose metabolism and a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs1260326 (P446L) in the gene has been associated with several age-related biomarkers, including triglycerides, glucose, insulin and apolipoproteins. However, associations between SNPs in the gene and other ageing phenotypes such as cognitive and physical capability have not been reported.
As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) collaborative research programme, men and women from five UK cohorts aged between 44 and 90+ years were genotyped for rs1260326. Meta-analysis was used to pool within-study genotypic associations between the SNP and several age-related phenotypes, including body mass index (BMI), blood lipid levels, lung function, and cognitive and physical capability.
We confirm the associations between the minor allele of the SNP and higher triglycerides and lower glucose levels. We also observed a triglyceride-independent association between the minor allele and lower BMI (pooled beta on z-score = −0.04, p-value = 0.0001, n = 16,251). Furthermore, there was some evidence for gene-environment interactions, including physical activity attenuating the effects on triglycerides. However, no associations were observed with measures of cognitive and physical capability.
Findings from middle-aged to older adults confirm associations between rs1260326 GCKR and triglycerides and glucose, suggest possible gene-environment interactions, but do not provide evidence that its relevance extends to cognitive and physical capability.
Several investigations have observed positive associations between good nutritional status, as indicated by micronutrients, and cognitive measures; however, these associations may not be causal. Genetic polymorphisms that affect nutritional biomarkers may be useful for providing evidence for associations between micronutrients and cognitive measures. As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) program, men and women aged between 44 and 90 y from 6 UK cohorts were genotyped for polymorphisms associated with circulating concentrations of iron [rs4820268 transmembrane protease, serine 6 (TMPRSS6) and rs1800562 hemochromatosis (HFE)], vitamin B-12 [(rs492602 fucosyltransferase 2 (FUT2)], vitamin D ([rs2282679 group-specific component (GC)] and β-carotene ([rs6564851 beta-carotene 15,15'-monooxygenase 1 (BCMO1)]. Meta-analysis was used to pool within-study effects of the associations between these polymorphisms and the following measures of cognitive capability: word recall, phonemic fluency, semantic fluency, and search speed. Among the several statistical tests conducted, we found little evidence for associations. We found the minor allele of rs1800562 was associated with poorer word recall scores [pooled β on Z-score for carriers vs. noncarriers: −0.05 (95% CI: −0.09, −0.004); P = 0.03, n = 14,105] and poorer word recall scores for the vitamin D–raising allele of rs2282679 [pooled β per T allele: −0.03 (95% CI: −0.05, −0.003); P = 0.03, n = 16,527]. However, there was no evidence for other associations. Our findings provide little evidence to support associations between these genotypes and cognitive capability in older adults. Further investigations are required to elucidate whether the previous positive associations from observational studies between circulating measures of these micronutrients and cognitive performance are due to confounding and reverse causality.
Mitochondria are responsible for the production of ATP, which drives cellular metabolic and biosynthetic processes. This is the first study to quantify the mtDNA copy number across all stages of oogenesis in a large monovulatory species, it includes assessment of the activity of mitochondria in germinal vesicle (GV) and metaphase II (MII) oocytes through JC1 staining. Primordial to early antral follicles (n = 249) were isolated from the sheep ovarian cortex following digestion at 37°C for 1 h and all oocytes were disaggregated from their somatic cells. Germinal vesicle oocytes (n = 133) were aspirated from 3- to 5-mm diameter antral follicles, and mature MII oocytes (n = 71) were generated following in vitro maturation (IVM). The mtDNA copy number in each oocyte was quantified using real-time PCR and showed a progressive, but variable increase in the amount of mtDNA in oocytes from primordial follicles (605 ± 205, n = 8) to mature MII oocytes (744 633 ± 115 799, n = 13; P < 0.05). Mitochondrial activity (P > 0.05) was not altered during meiotic progression from GV to MII during IVM. The observed increase in the mtDNA copy number across oogenesis reflects the changing ATP demands needed to orchestrate cytoskeletal and cytoplasmic reorganization during oocyte growth and maturation and the need to fuel the resumption of meiosis in mature oocytes following the pre-ovulatory gonadotrophin surge.
JC1; mitochondria activity; mitochondrial DNA; meiotic maturation; sheep oocyte