Red blood cell distribution width: Genetic evidence for aging pathways in 116,666 volunteers
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© 2017 Pilling et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
INTRODUCTION: Variability in red blood cell volumes (distribution width, RDW) increases with age and is strongly predictive of mortality, incident coronary heart disease and cancer. We investigated inherited genetic variation associated with RDW in 116,666 UK Biobank human volunteers. RESULTS: A large proportion RDW is explained by genetic variants (29%), especially in the older group (60+ year olds, 33.8%, <50 year olds, 28.4%). RDW was associated with 194 independent genetic signals; 71 are known for conditions including autoimmune disease, certain cancers, BMI, Alzheimer's disease, longevity, age at menopause, bone density, myositis, Parkinson's disease, and age-related macular degeneration. Exclusion of anemic participants did not affect the overall findings. Pathways analysis showed enrichment for telomere maintenance, ribosomal RNA, and apoptosis. The majority of RDW-associated signals were intronic (119 of 194), including SNP rs6602909 located in an intron of oncogene GAS6, an eQTL in whole blood. CONCLUSIONS: Although increased RDW is predictive of cardiovascular outcomes, this was not explained by known CVD or related lipid genetic risks, and a RDW genetic score was not predictive of incident disease. The predictive value of RDW for a range of negative health outcomes may in part be due to variants influencing fundamental pathways of aging.
This work was supported by an award to DM, TF, AM and LH by the UK Medical Research Council (grant number MR/M023095/1). SEJ is funded by the Medical Research Council (grant: MR/M005070/1). JT is funded by a Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation Fellowship. RB is funded by the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society grant: 104150/Z/14/Z. MAT, MNW and AM are supported by the Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Award (WT097835MF). ARW, HY, and TF are supported by the European Research Council grant: 323195:GLUCOSEGENES-FP7-IDEAS-ERC. LF is supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Aging, U.S. National Institutes of Health. Input from MD, CLK and GK was supported by the University of Connecticut Health Center. This research has been conducted using the UK Biobank Resource under Application Number 14631. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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Vol. 12 (9), article e0185083
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