Pleiotropic Meta-Analyses of Longitudinal Studies Discover Novel Genetic Variants Associated with Age-Related Diseases.


Age-related diseases may result from shared biological mechanisms in intrinsic processes of aging. Genetic effects on age-related diseases are often modulated by environmental factors due to their little contribution to fitness or are mediated through certain endophenotypes. Identification of genetic variants with pleiotropic effects on both common complex diseases and endophenotypes may reveal potential conflicting evolutionary pressures and deliver new insights into shared genetic contribution to healthspan and lifespan. Here, we performed pleiotropic meta-analyses of genetic variants using five NIH-funded datasets by integrating univariate summary statistics for age-related diseases and endophenotypes. We investigated three groups of traits: (1) endophenotypes such as blood glucose, blood pressure, lipids, hematocrit, and body mass index, (2) time-to-event outcomes such as the age-at-onset of diabetes mellitus (DM), cancer, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and neurodegenerative diseases (NDs), and (3) both combined. In addition to replicating previous findings, we identify seven novel genome-wide significant loci (< 5e-08), out of which five are low-frequency variants. Specifically, from Group 2, we find rs7632505 on 3q21.1 in SEMA5B, rs460976 on 21q22.3 (1 kb from TMPRSS2) and rs12420422 on 11q24.1 predominantly associated with a variety of CVDs, rs4905014 in ITPK1 associated with stroke and heart failure, rs7081476 on 10p12.1 in ANKRD26 associated with multiple diseases including DM, CVDs, and NDs. From Group 3, we find rs8082812 on 18p11.22 and rs1869717 on 4q31.3 associated with both endophenotypes and CVDs. Our follow-up analyses show that rs7632505, rs4905014, and rs8082812 have age-dependent effects on coronary heart disease or stroke. Functional annotation suggests that most of these SNPs are within regulatory regions or DNase clusters and in linkage disequilibrium with expression quantitative trait loci, implying their potential regulatory influence on the expression of nearby genes. Our mediation analyses suggest that the effects of some SNPs are mediated by specific endophenotypes. In conclusion, these findings indicate that loci with pleiotropic effects on age-related disorders tend to be enriched in genes involved in underlying mechanisms potentially related to nervous, cardiovascular and immune system functions, stress resistance, inflammation, ion channels and hematopoiesis, supporting the hypothesis of shared pathological role of infection, and inflammation in chronic age-related diseases.





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Publication Info

He, Liang, Yelena Kernogitski, Irina Kulminskaya, Yury Loika, Konstantin G Arbeev, Elena Loiko, Olivia Bagley, Matt Duan, et al. (2016). Pleiotropic Meta-Analyses of Longitudinal Studies Discover Novel Genetic Variants Associated with Age-Related Diseases. Front Genet, 7. p. 179. 10.3389/fgene.2016.00179 Retrieved from

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Irina Kulminskaya

Research Scientist, Senior

Yury Loika

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.

Olivia Bagley

Statistician II

Arseniy Yashkin

Research Scientist, Senior

I am primarily a health outcomes researcher who specializes in cancers and chronic age-related diseases, especially Alzheimer’s disease and type II diabetes mellitus.  However, I also write in epidemiology, demography, health economics and genetics.  I am a specialist in the analysis of administrative big health data.   My main contributions to scholarship can be summarized across three focus areas: health outcomes research, epidemiology and methodology, and health economics.  Some of my most important findings are described below.


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.


Mikhail Kovtun

Biostatistician III

Anatoli I. Yashin

Research Professor in the Social Science Research Institute

Alexander Kulminski

Research Professor in the Social Science Research Institute

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