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PLoS Genet. 2015 Dec 17;11(12):e1005728. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005728. eCollection 2015.

Genome-Wide Scan Informed by Age-Related Disease Identifies Loci for Exceptional Human Longevity.

Author information

  • 1Department of Developmental Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America.
  • 2Department of Genetics, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America.
  • 3Department of Statistics, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America.
  • 4Department of Experimental, Diagnostic and Specialty Medicine Experimental Pathology, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
  • 5Center for Applied Biomedical Research, St. Orsola-Malpighi University Hospital, Bologna, Italy.
  • 6Interdepartmental Centre "L. Galvani" CIG, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
  • 7Department of Clinical, Experimental and Biomedical Sciences, University of Florence, Florence, Italy.
  • 8Department of Medical Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.
  • 9Geriatric Unit, IRCCS Ca' Grande Foundation, Maggiore Policlinico Hospital, Milan, Italy.
  • 10Department of Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, United States of America.
  • 11IRCCS, Institute of Neurological Sciences of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.


We developed a new statistical framework to find genetic variants associated with extreme longevity. The method, informed GWAS (iGWAS), takes advantage of knowledge from large studies of age-related disease in order to narrow the search for SNPs associated with longevity. To gain support for our approach, we first show there is an overlap between loci involved in disease and loci associated with extreme longevity. These results indicate that several disease variants may be depleted in centenarians versus the general population. Next, we used iGWAS to harness information from 14 meta-analyses of disease and trait GWAS to identify longevity loci in two studies of long-lived humans. In a standard GWAS analysis, only one locus in these studies is significant (APOE/TOMM40) when controlling the false discovery rate (FDR) at 10%. With iGWAS, we identify eight genetic loci to associate significantly with exceptional human longevity at FDR < 10%. We followed up the eight lead SNPs in independent cohorts, and found replication evidence of four loci and suggestive evidence for one more with exceptional longevity. The loci that replicated (FDR < 5%) included APOE/TOMM40 (associated with Alzheimer's disease), CDKN2B/ANRIL (implicated in the regulation of cellular senescence), ABO (tags the O blood group), and SH2B3/ATXN2 (a signaling gene that extends lifespan in Drosophila and a gene involved in neurological disease). Our results implicate new loci in longevity and reveal a genetic overlap between longevity and age-related diseases and traits, including coronary artery disease and Alzheimer's disease. iGWAS provides a new analytical strategy for uncovering SNPs that influence extreme longevity, and can be applied more broadly to boost power in other studies of complex phenotypes.

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