Send to

Choose Destination
Medicine (Baltimore). 2015 Nov;94(47):e1892. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000001892.

Genome-wide Meta-analysis on the Sense of Smell Among US Older Adults.

Author information

From the Epidemiology Branch (JD, ZX, SL, HC) and Biostatistics Branch (LN), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC; Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL (JY, RSW, LY, DAB); California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, San Francisco, CA (GT, NP, SC); Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, Chapel Hill, NC (NF); Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL (GA-A); Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN (AA); Institute of Molecular Medicine and Human Genetics Center, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX (MF); Pennsylvania State University-Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, PA (XH); Sticht Center on Aging (SK) and Division of Public Health Sciences (YL), Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC; Program in Translational Neuro Psychiatric Genomics, Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry, Institute for the Neurosciences, Brigham and Women's Hospital; Harvard Medical School; Program in Medical and Population Genetics, Broad Institute, Boston, MA (PLD); Laboratory of Neurogenetics (ABS) and Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography, and Biometry (TH), National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, MD; Division of Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS (THM); Section of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Surgery, The University of Chicago Medicine and Biological Sciences, Chicago, IL (JMP); Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL, USA (JY, LY, DAB); and Departments of Neurological Sciences and Behavioral Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL, USA (RSW).


Olfactory dysfunction is common among older adults and affects their safety, nutrition, quality of life, and mortality. More importantly, the decreased sense of smell is an early symptom of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson disease (PD) and Alzheimer disease. However, the genetic determinants for the sense of smell have been poorly investigated. We here performed the first genome-wide meta-analysis on the sense of smell among 6252 US older adults of European descent from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) study, and the Religious Orders Study and the Rush Memory and Aging Project (ROS/MAP). Genome-wide association study analysis was performed first by individual cohorts and then meta-analyzed using fixed-effect models with inverse variance weights. Although no SNPs reached genome-wide statistical significance, we identified 13 loci with suggestive evidence for an association with the sense of smell (Pmeta < 1 × 10). Of these, 2 SNPs at chromosome 17q21.31 (rs199443 in NSF, P = 3.02 × 10; and rs2732614 in KIAA1267-LRRC37A, P = 6.65 × 10) exhibited cis effects on the expression of microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT, 17q21.31) in 447 frontal-cortex samples obtained postmortem and profiled by RNA-seq (P < 1 × 10). Gene-based and pathway-enrichment analyses further implicated MAPT in regulating the sense of smell in older adults. Similar results were obtained after excluding participants who reported a physician-diagnosed PD or use of PD medications. In conclusion, we provide preliminary evidence that the MAPT locus may play a role in regulating the sense of smell in older adults and therefore offer a potential genetic link between poor sense of smell and major neurodegenerative diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

XH received research grants and consultation fees from NIEHS, NIH, and GE. Other authors declare no competing financial interests.

Publication types, MeSH terms, Grant support

Publication types

MeSH terms

Grant support

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wolters Kluwer Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center