Genetic determinants of telomere length from 109,122 ancestrally diverse whole-genome sequences in TOPMed

Cell Genom. 2022 Jan 12;2(1):100084. doi: 10.1016/j.xgen.2021.100084. Epub 2022 Jan 13.


Genetic studies on telomere length are important for understanding age-related diseases. Prior GWAS for leukocyte TL have been limited to European and Asian populations. Here, we report the first sequencing-based association study for TL across ancestrally-diverse individuals (European, African, Asian and Hispanic/Latino) from the NHLBI Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) program. We used whole genome sequencing (WGS) of whole blood for variant genotype calling and the bioinformatic estimation of telomere length in n=109,122 individuals. We identified 59 sentinel variants (p-value <5×10-9) in 36 loci associated with telomere length, including 20 newly associated loci (13 were replicated in external datasets). There was little evidence of effect size heterogeneity across populations. Fine-mapping at OBFC1 indicated the independent signals colocalized with cell-type specific eQTLs for OBFC1 (STN1). Using a multi-variant gene-based approach, we identified two genes newly implicated in telomere length, DCLRE1B (SNM1B) and PARN. In PheWAS, we demonstrated our TL polygenic trait scores (PTS) were associated with increased risk of cancer-related phenotypes.

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