A Mendelian randomization study of telomere length and blood-cell traits


Adams, C.D. & Boutwell, B.B. A Mendelian randomization study of telomere length and blood-cell traits. Scientific Reports 10, 1, 12223 (2020).


Whether telomere attrition reducing proliferative reserve in blood-cell progenitors is causal has important public-health implications. Mendelian randomization (MR) is an analytic technique using germline genetic variants as instrumental variables. If certain assumptions are met, estimates from MR should be free from most environmental sources of confounding and reverse causation. Here, two-sample MR is performed to test whether longer telomeres cause changes to hematological traits. Summary statistics for genetic variants strongly associated with telomere length were extracted from a genome-wide association (GWA) study for telomere length in individuals of European ancestry (n = 9190) and from GWA studies of blood-cell traits, also in those of European ancestry (n ~ 173,000 participants). A standard deviation increase in genetically influenced telomere length increased red blood cell and white blood cell counts, decreased mean corpuscular hemoglobinand mean cell volume, and had no observable impact on mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration, red cell distribution width, hematocrit, or hemoglobin. Sensitivity tests for pleiotropic distortion were mostly inconsistent with glaring violations to the MR assumptions. Similar to germline mutations in telomere biology genes leading to bone-marrow failure, these data provide evidence that genetically influenced common variation in telomere length impacts hematologic traits in the population.

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Last updated on 05/13/2022