Biological Insights Into Muscular Strength: Genetic Findings in the UK Biobank

Sci Rep. 2018 Apr 24;8(1):6451. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-24735-y.


We performed a large genome-wide association study to discover genetic variation associated with muscular strength, and to evaluate shared genetic aetiology with and causal effects of muscular strength on several health indicators. In our discovery analysis of 223,315 individuals, we identified 101 loci associated with grip strength (P <5 × 10-8). Of these, 64 were associated (P < 0.01 and consistent direction) also in the replication dataset (N = 111,610). eQTL analyses highlighted several genes known to play a role in neuro-developmental disorders or brain function, and the results from meta-analysis showed a significant enrichment of gene expression of brain-related transcripts. Further, we observed inverse genetic correlations of grip strength with cardiometabolic traits, and positive correlation with parents' age of death and education. We also showed that grip strength had shared biological pathways with indicators of frailty, including cognitive performance scores. By use of Mendelian randomization, we provide evidence that higher grip strength is protective of both coronary heart disease (OR = 0.69, 95% CI 0.60-0.79, P < 0.0001) and atrial fibrillation (OR = 0.75, 95% CI 0.62-0.90, P = 0.003). In conclusion, our results show shared genetic aetiology between grip strength, and cardiometabolic and cognitive health; and suggest that maintaining muscular strength could prevent future cardiovascular events.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation / genetics
  • Biological Specimen Banks
  • Cognition
  • Coronary Disease / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / genetics
  • United Kingdom