Meta-analysis of telomere length in 19 713 subjects reveals high heritability, stronger maternal inheritance and a paternal age effect

Linda Broer, V Codd, DR Nyholt, J Deelen, M Mangino, G Willemsen, E Albrecht, Najaf Amin, M Beekman, EJC de Geus, A Henders, CP Nelson, CJ Steves, MJ Wright, AJM de Craen, Aaron Isaacs, M Matthews, A Moayyeri, GW Montgomery, Ben OostraJM Vink, TD Spector, PE (Eline) Slagboom, NG Martin, NJ Samani, Cornelia Duijn, DI Boomsma

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Telomere length (TL) has been associated with aging and mortality, but individual differences are also influenced by genetic factors, with previous studies reporting heritability estimates ranging from 34 to 82%. Here we investigate the heritability, mode of inheritance and the influence of parental age at birth on TL in six large, independent cohort studies with a total of 19 713 participants. The meta-analysis estimate of TL heritability was 0.70 (95% CI 0.64-0.76) and is based on a pattern of results that is highly similar for twins and other family members. We observed a stronger mother-offspring (r = 0.42; P-value = 3.60 x 10(-61)) than father-offspring correlation (r = 0.33; P-value = 7.01 x 10(-5)), and a significant positive association with paternal age at offspring birth (beta = 0.005; P-value = 7.01 x 10(-5)). Interestingly, a significant and quite substantial correlation in TL between spouses (r = 0.25; P-value = 2.82 x 10(-30)) was seen, which appeared stronger in older spouse pairs (mean age >= 55 years; r = 0.31; P-value = 4.27 x 10(-23)) than in younger pairs (mean age <55 years; r = 0.20; P-value = 3.24 x 10(-10)). In summary, we find a high and very consistent heritability estimate for TL, evidence for a maternal inheritance component and a positive association with paternal age.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)1163-1168
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Research programs

  • EMC MGC-02-96-01
  • EMC NIHES-01-64-02

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