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Hum Mol Genet. 2008 Aug 15;17(16):2518-23. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddn152. Epub 2008 May 16.

A regulatory SNP of the BICD1 gene contributes to telomere length variation in humans.

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Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.


Telomeres are repetitive sequences of variable length at the ends of chromosomes involved in maintaining their integrity. Telomere dysfunction is associated with increased risk of cancer and other age-related diseases. Telomere length is an important determinant of telomere function and has a strong genetic basis. We previously carried out a genome-wide linkage analysis of mean leukocyte telomere length, and identified a 12 cm quantitative-trait locus affecting telomere length on human chromosome 12. In the present study we confirmed linkage to this locus in an extended sample (380 families, 520 sib-pairs, maximum LOD score 4.3). Fine-mapping identified a 51 kb region of association within intron 1 of the Bicaudal-D homolog 1 (BICD1, MIM 602204) gene. The strongest association (P = 1.9 x 10(-5)) was with SNP rs2630578 where the minor allele C (frequency 0.21) was associated with telomeres that were shorter by 604 (+/-204) base pairs, equivalent to approximately 15-20 years of age-related attrition in telomere length. Subjects carrying the C allele for rs2630778 had 44% lower BICD1 mRNA levels in their leukocytes compared with GG homozygotes (P = 0.004). BICD1 is involved in Golgi-to-endoplasmic reticulum vacuolar transport. Previous studies have implicated vacuolar genes in telomere length homeostasis in yeast. Our study indicates that BICD1 plays a similar role in humans.

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