Genetic determinants of telomere length from 109,122 ancestrally diverse whole-genome sequences in TOPMed

Fernando D. Martinez on behalf of the NHLBI CARE Network, NHLBI Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) Consortium, TOPMed Hematology and Hemostasis Working Group, TOPMed Structural Variation Working Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Genetic studies on telomere length are important for understanding age-related diseases. Prior GWASs for leukocyte TL have been limited to European and Asian populations. Here, we report the first sequencing-based association study for TL across ancestrally diverse individuals (European, African, Asian, and Hispanic/Latino) from the NHLBI Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) program. We used whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of whole blood for variant genotype calling and the bioinformatic estimation of telomere length in n = 109,122 individuals. We identified 59 sentinel variants (p < 5 × 10−9) in 36 loci associated with telomere length, including 20 newly associated loci (13 were replicated in external datasets). There was little evidence of effect size heterogeneity across populations. Fine-mapping at OBFC1 indicated that the independent signals colocalized with cell-type-specific eQTLs for OBFC1 (STN1). Using a multi-variant gene-based approach, we identified two genes newly implicated in telomere length, DCLRE1B (SNM1B) and PARN. In PheWAS, we demonstrated that our TL polygenic trait scores (PTSs) were associated with an increased risk of cancer-related phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100084
JournalCell Genomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 12 2022


  • telomere length genetics
  • telomeres
  • trans-population genome-wide association study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Genetics


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