Polygenic basis and biomedical consequences of telomere length variation

Veryan Codd, Qingning Wang, Elias Allara, Crispin Musicha, Stephen Kaptoge, Svetlana Stoma, Tao Jiang, Stephen E Hamby, Peter S Braund, Vasiliki Bountziouka, Charley A Budgeon, Matthew Denniff, Chloe Swinfield, Manolo Papakonstantinou, Shilpi Sheth, Dominika E Nanus, Sophie C Warner, Minxian Wang, Amit V Khera, James EalesWillem H Ouwehand, Emanuele Di Angelantonio, Angela M Wood, Adam S Butterworth, John N Danesh, Nilesh J Samani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Telomeres, the end fragments of chromosomes, play key roles in cellular proliferation and senescence. Here we characterize the genetic architecture of naturally occurring variation in leukocyte telomere length (LTL) and identify causal links between LTL and biomedical phenotypes in 472,174 well-characterized UK Biobank participants. We identified 197 independent sentinel variants associated with LTL at 138 genomic loci (108 new). Genetically determined differences in LTL were associated with multiple biological traits, ranging from height to bone marrow function, as well as several diseases spanning neoplastic, vascular and inflammatory pathologies. Finally, we estimated that, at the age of 40 years, people with an LTL >1 s.d. shorter than the population mean had a 2.5-year-lower life expectancy compared with the group with ≥1 s.d. longer LDL. Overall, we furnish new insights into the genetic regulation of LTL, reveal wide-ranging influences of LTL on physiological traits, diseases and longevity, and provide a powerful resource available to the global research community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1425-1433
Number of pages9
JournalNature Genetics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2021


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