Associations of measured and genetically predicted leukocyte telomere length with vascular phenotypes: a population-based study

Geroscience. 2024 Apr;46(2):1947-1970. doi: 10.1007/s11357-023-00914-2. Epub 2023 Oct 2.

Abstract

Shorter leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is associated with cardiovascular dysfunction. Whether this association differs between measured and genetically predicted LTL is still unclear. Moreover, the molecular processes underlying the association remain largely unknown. We used baseline data of the Rhineland Study, an ongoing population-based cohort study in Bonn, Germany [56.2% women, age: 55.5 ± 14.0 years (range 30 - 95 years)]. We calculated genetically predicted LTL in 4180 participants and measured LTL in a subset of 1828 participants with qPCR. Using multivariable regression, we examined the association of measured and genetically predicted LTL, and the difference between measured and genetically predicted LTL (ΔLTL), with four vascular functional domains and the overall vascular health. Moreover, we performed epigenome-wide association studies of three LTL measures. Longer measured LTL was associated with better microvascular and cardiac function. Longer predicted LTL was associated with better cardiac function. Larger ΔLTL was associated with better microvascular and cardiac function and overall vascular health, independent of genetically predicted LTL. Several CpGs were associated (p < 1e-05) with measured LTL (n = 5), genetically predicted LTL (n = 8), and ΔLTL (n = 27). Genes whose methylation status was associated with ΔLTL were enriched in vascular endothelial signaling pathways and have been linked to environmental exposures, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality. Our findings suggest that non-genetic causes of LTL contribute to microvascular and cardiac function and overall vascular health, through an effect on the vascular endothelial signaling pathway. Interventions that counteract LTL may thus improve vascular function.

Keywords: Cardiac function; Epigenome-wide association; Leukocyte telomere length; Microvascular function; Polygenic risk score.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes* / metabolism
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Telomere* / genetics