Sex differences in genetic associations with longevity in Han Chinese: sex-stratified genome-wide association study and polygenic risk score analysis

Scholarly Edition

Based on sex-stratified genome-wide association study (GWAS) of Han Chinese, 2,178 centenarians and 2,299 middle-aged controls, we identified 11 male- and 12 female-specific independent loci that are significantly associated with longevity (P<10-5), replicated in independent North and South regions in one sex, but are not significant (P>0.05) in the other sex. We found that the association of rs60210535 at LINC00871 with longevity replicated well between Chinese females (P=4.6x10-5) and U.S. females (P=9.0x10-5), but was not significant in both Chinese and U.S. males (P>0.05). We discovered that 11 male-specific and 34 female-specific pathways are significantly associated with longevity (P<0.005, false discovery rate (FDR) <0.05). Male-specific pathways are enriched for inflammation and immunity genes, but female-specific pathways include tryptophan metabolic and PGC-1α pathways that converge to mitochondrial biogenesis. Polygenic risk score (PRS) analyses demonstrated that 11/12 male/female top loci (P<10-5 in one sex, P>0.05 in other sex), 44/58 male/female strong loci (10-5P<10-4 in one sex, P>0.4 or P>0.35 in other sex), and 191/311 male/female moderate loci (10-4P<10-3 in one sex, P>0.75 or P>0.7 in other sex) are jointly and highly associated with longevity exceeding a significance level P<10-8 in one sex, but not jointly associated with longevity in the other sex (P>0.05). Our integrated PRS and novel sex-specific genetic  relative benefit/loss ratio analyses indicate that females’ genetic constitution favors longevity more than males’. Further interdisciplinary collaborative efforts are warranted, such as replications from other populations, international meta-analyses with much larger sample size, lab tests, and in silico functional validations.

Significance Statement: On average, women live significantly longer lives than men but they have lower physical performance and more adverse health outcomes at older ages compared to men: patterns that signify the male-female health-survival paradox (1). Research on sex differences in health and mortality has proliferated, but has yet to achieve a good understanding of the effects of genetic variants on the sex gap in longevity and health. Based on sex-stratified genome-wide association analysis (GWAS) of Han Chinese including centenarians with a sample size 2.7 times as large as other published largest single GWAS on longevity involving centenarians (2), the present study aims to contribute a better understanding of sex differences in genetic associations with longevity.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Zeng, Y; Chen, H; Liu, X; Ye, R; Xie, E; Chen, Z; Lu, J; Li, J; Tian, Y; Ni, T; Bolund, L; Land, KC; Yashin, A; O'Rand, AM; Sun, L; Yang, Z; Tao, W; Gurinovic, A; Franceschi, C; Xie, J; Gu, J; Hou, Y; Liu, X; Xu, X; Robine, J-M; Deelen, J; Sebastiani, P; Slagboom, PE; Perls, TT; Hauser, ER; Gottschalk, W; Tan, Q; Christensen, K; Lutz, M; Tian, X-L; Yang, H; Min, J; Nie, C; Vaupel, JW