Several age-related traits are associated with shorter telomeres, the structures that cap the end of linear chromosomes. A common polymorphism near the telomere maintenance gene TERT has been associated with several cancers, but relationships with other ageing traits such as physical capability have not been reported.
As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) collaborative research programme, men and women aged between 44 and 90 years from 9 UK cohorts were genotyped for the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs401681. We then investigated relationships between the SNP and 30 age-related phenotypes, including cognitive and physical capability, blood lipid levels and lung function, pooling within-study genotypic effects in meta-analyses.
No significant associations were found between the SNP and any of the cognitive performance tests (e.g. pooled beta per T allele for word recall z-score=0.02, 95% CI: -0.01- 0.04, p-value=0.12, n=18,737), physical performance tests (e.g. pooled beta for grip strength=-0.02, 95% CI:-0.045- 0.006, p-value=0.14, n=11,711), blood pressure, lung function or blood test measures. Similarly, no differences in observations were found when considering follow-up measures of cognitive or physical performance after adjusting for its measure at an earlier assessment.
The lack of associations between SNP rs401681 and a wide range of age-related phenotypes investigated in this large multi-cohort study suggests that whilst this SNP may be associated with cancer, it is not an important contributor to other markers of ageing.