Genetic factors influencing hemoglobin levels in 15,567 blood donors: results from the Danish Blood Donor Study

Transfusion. 2019 Jan;59(1):226-231. doi: 10.1111/trf.15075. Epub 2018 Dec 7.


Background: Blood donors have an increased risk of low hemoglobin (Hb) levels due to iron deficiency. Therefore, knowledge of genetic variants associated with low Hb could facilitate individualized donation intervals. We have previously reported three specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms that were associated with ferritin levels in blood donors. In this study, we investigated the effect of these single-nucleotide polymorphisms on Hb levels in 15,567 Danish blood donors.

Study design and methods: We studied 15,567 participants in the Danish Blood Donor Study. The examined genes and single-nucleotide polymorphisms were 1) TMPRSS6, involved in regulation of hepcidin: rs855791; 2) HFE, associated with hemochromatosis: rs1800562 and rs1799945; 3) BTBD9, associated with restless leg syndrome: rs9357271; and 4) TF, encoding transferrin: rs2280673 and rs1830084. Associations with Hb levels and risk of Hb deferral were assessed in multivariable linear and logistic regression models.

Results: The HFE,rs1800562 G-allele and the HFE rs1799945 C-allele were associated with lower Hb levels in men and women, and with an increased risk of Hb below 7.8 mmol/L (12.5 g/dL) in women. Only the rs1799945 C-allele increased the risk of Hb below 8.4 mmol/L (13.5 g/dL) in men. In TMPRSS6, the rs855791 T-allele was associated with lower Hb levels in both men and women, and with an increased risk of low Hb among women.

Conclusion: With this study we demonstrate that HFE and TMPRSS6 are associated with Hb levels and risk of Hb below the limit of deferral. Thus, genetic testing may be useful in a future assay for personalized donation intervals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Blood Donors*
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Hemochromatosis Protein / genetics
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism*
  • Hepcidins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Serine Endopeptidases / genetics


  • HFE protein, human
  • Hemochromatosis Protein
  • Hemoglobins
  • Hepcidins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • TMPRSS6 protein, human