Genome-wide Association Analysis in Humans Links Nucleotide Metabolism to Leukocyte Telomere Length

Chen Li, Svetlana Stoma, Luca A. Lotta, Sophie Warner, Eva Albrecht, Alessandra Allione, Pascal P. Arp, Linda Broer, Jessica L. Buxton, Alexessander Da Silva Couto Alves, Joris Deelen, Iryna O. Fedko, Scott D. Gordon, Tao Jiang, Robert Karlsson, Nicola Kerrison, Taylor K. Loe, Massimo Mangino, Yuri Milaneschi, Benjamin MiraglioNatalia Pervjakova, Alessia Russo, Ida Surakka, Ashley van der Spek, Josine E. Verhoeven, Najaf Amin, Marian Beekman, Alexandra I. Blakemore, Federico Canzian, Stephen E. Hamby, Jouke Jan Hottenga, Peter D. Jones, Pekka Jousilahti, Reedik Mägi, Sarah E. Medland, Grant W. Montgomery, Dale R. Nyholt, Markus Perola, Kirsi H. Pietiläinen, Veikko Salomaa, Elina Sillanpää, H. Eka Suchiman, Diana van Heemst, Gonneke Willemsen, Antonio Agudo, Heiner Boeing, Dorret I. Boomsma, Maria Dolores Chirlaque, Guy Fagherazzi, Pietro Ferrari, Paul Franks, Christian Gieger, Johan Gunnar Eriksson, Marc Gunter, Sara Hägg, Iiris Hovatta, Liher Imaz, Jaakko Kaprio, Rudolf Kaaks, Timothy Key, Vittorio Krogh, Nicholas G. Martin, Olle Melander, Andres Metspalu, Concha Moreno, N. Charlotte Onland-Moret, Peter Nilsson, Ken K. Ong, Kim Overvad, Domenico Palli, Salvatore Panico, Nancy L. Pedersen, Brenda W.J.H. Penninx, J. Ramón Quirós, Marjo Riitta Jarvelin, Miguel Rodríguez-Barranco, Robert A. Scott, Gianluca Severi, P. Eline Slagboom, Tim D. Spector, Anne Tjonneland, Antonia Trichopoulou, Rosario Tumino, André G. Uitterlinden, Yvonne T. van der Schouw, Cornelia M. van Duijn, Elisabete Weiderpass, Eros Lazzerini Denchi, Giuseppe Matullo, Adam S. Butterworth, John Danesh, Nilesh J. Samani, Nicholas J. Wareham, Christopher P. Nelson, Claudia Langenberg, Veryan Codd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Citations (Scopus)


Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is a heritable biomarker of genomic aging. In this study, we perform a genome-wide meta-analysis of LTL by pooling densely genotyped and imputed association results across large-scale European-descent studies including up to 78,592 individuals. We identify 49 genomic regions at a false dicovery rate (FDR) < 0.05 threshold and prioritize genes at 31, with five highlighting nucleotide metabolism as an important regulator of LTL. We report six genome-wide significant loci in or near SENP7, MOB1B, CARMIL1, PRRC2A, TERF2, and RFWD3, and our results support recently identified PARP1, POT1, ATM, and MPHOSPH6 loci. Phenome-wide analyses in >350,000 UK Biobank participants suggest that genetically shorter telomere length increases the risk of hypothyroidism and decreases the risk of thyroid cancer, lymphoma, and a range of proliferative conditions. Our results replicate previously reported associations with increased risk of coronary artery disease and lower risk for multiple cancer types. Our findings substantially expand current knowledge on genes that regulate LTL and their impact on human health and disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-404
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • age-related disease
  • biological aging
  • Mendelian randomisation
  • telomere length


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