Molecular genetic studies of gene identification for sarcopenia

Hum Genet. 2012 Jan;131(1):1-31. doi: 10.1007/s00439-011-1040-7. Epub 2011 Jun 26.


Sarcopenia, which is characterized by a progressive decrease of skeletal muscle mass and function with aging, is closely related to several common diseases (such as cardiovascular and airway diseases) and functional impairment/disability. Strong genetic determination has been reported for muscle mass and muscle strength, two most commonly recognized and studied risk phenotypes for sarcopenia, with heritability ranging from 30 to 85% for muscle strength and 45-90% for muscle mass. Sarcopenia has been the subject of increasing genetic research over the past decade. This review is designed to comprehensively summarize the most important and representative molecular genetic studies designed to identify genetic factors associated with sarcopenia. We have methodically reviewed whole-genome linkage studies in humans, quantitative trait loci mapping in animal models, candidate gene association studies, newly reported genome-wide association studies, DNA microarrays and microRNA studies of sarcopenia or related skeletal muscle phenotypes. The major results of each study are tabulated for easy comparison and reference. The findings of representative studies are discussed with respect to their influence on our present understanding of the genetics of sarcopenia. This is a comprehensive review of molecular genetic studies of gene identification for sarcopenia, and an overarching theme for this review is that the currently accumulating results are tentative and occasionally inconsistent and should be interpreted with caution pending further investigation. Consequently, this overview should enhance recognition of the need to validate/replicate the genetic variants underlying sarcopenia in large human cohorts and animal. We believe that further progress in understanding the genetic etiology of sarcopenia will provide valuable insights into important fundamental biological mechanisms underlying muscle physiology that will ultimately lead to improved ability to recognize individuals at risk for developing sarcopenia and our ability to treat this debilitating condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Genes / physiology*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Sarcopenia / genetics*