Birth Cohort, Age, and Sex Strongly Modulate Effects of Lipid Risk Alleles Identified in Genome-Wide Association Studies.


Insights into genetic origin of diseases and related traits could substantially impact strategies for improving human health. The results of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are often positioned as discoveries of unconditional risk alleles of complex health traits. We re-analyzed the associations of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with total cholesterol (TC) in a large-scale GWAS meta-analysis. We focused on three generations of genotyped participants of the Framingham Heart Study (FHS). We show that the effects of all ten directly-genotyped SNPs were clustered in different FHS generations and/or birth cohorts in a sex-specific or sex-unspecific manner. The sample size and procedure-therapeutic issues play, at most, a minor role in this clustering. An important result was clustering of significant associations with the strongest effects in the youngest, or 3rd Generation, cohort. These results imply that an assumption of unconditional connections of these SNPs with TC is generally implausible and that a demographic perspective can substantially improve GWAS efficiency. The analyses of genetic effects in age-matched samples suggest a role of environmental and age-related mechanisms in the associations of different SNPs with TC. Analysis of the literature supports systemic roles for genes for these SNPs beyond those related to lipid metabolism. Our analyses reveal strong antagonistic effects of rs2479409 (the PCSK9 gene) that cautions strategies aimed at targeting this gene in the next generation of lipid drugs. Our results suggest that standard GWAS strategies need to be advanced in order to appropriately address the problem of genetic susceptibility to complex traits that is imperative for translation to health care.





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Publication Info

Kulminski, Alexander M, Irina Culminskaya, Konstantin G Arbeev, Liubov Arbeeva, Svetlana V Ukraintseva, Eric Stallard, Deqing Wu, Anatoliy I Yashin, et al. (2015). Birth Cohort, Age, and Sex Strongly Modulate Effects of Lipid Risk Alleles Identified in Genome-Wide Association Studies. PLoS One, 10(8). p. e0136319. 10.1371/journal.pone.0136319 Retrieved from

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Alexander Kulminski

Research Professor in the Social Science Research Institute

Irina Kulminskaya

Research Scientist, Senior

Konstantin Arbeev

Associate Research Professor in the Social Science Research Institute

Konstantin G. Arbeev received the M.S. degree in Applied Mathematics from Moscow State University (branch in Ulyanovsk, Russia) in 1995 and the Ph.D. degree in Mathematics and Physics (specialization in Theoretical Foundations of Mathematical Modeling, Numerical Methods and Programming) from Ulyanovsk State University (Russia) in 1999. He was a post-doctoral fellow in Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock (Germany) before moving to Duke University in 2004 to work as a Research Scientist and a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Sociology and the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI).  He is currently an Associate Research Professor in SSRI. Dr. Arbeev's major research interests are related to three interconnected fields of biodemography, biostatistics and genetic epidemiology as pertains to research on aging. The focus of his research is on discovering genetic and non-genetic factors that can affect the process of aging and determine longevity and healthy lifespan. He is interested in both methodological advances in this research area as well as their practical applications to analyses of large-scale longitudinal studies with phenotypic, genetic and, recently, genomic information. Dr. Arbeev authored and co-authored more than 150 peer-reviewed publications in these areas.


Svetlana Ukraintseva

Research Professor in the Social Science Research Institute

Dr. Ukraintseva studies causes of human aging and related decline in resilience, to identify genetic and other factors responsible for the increase in mortality risk with age eventually limiting longevity. She explores complex relationships, including trade-offs, between physiological aging-changes and risks of major diseases (with emphasis on Alzheimer’s and cancer), as well as survival, to find new genetic and other targets for anti-aging interventions and disease prevention. She also investigates possibilities of repurposing of existing vaccines and treatments for AD prevention and interventions into the aging. For this, Dr. Ukraintseva and her team use data from several large human studies containing rich genetic and phenotypic information (including longitudinal measurements) on thousands of individuals. Dr. Ukraintseva is a PI and Key Investigator on several NIH funded grants, and has more than 130 peer-reviewed publications, including in major journals such as Nature Reviews, Stroke, European Journal of Human Genetics, and some other.


Dequing Wu

Research Scientist, Senior

Anatoli I. Yashin

Research Professor in the Social Science Research Institute

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