Low muscle strength is an important heritable indicator of poor health linked to morbidity and mortality in older people. In a genome-wide association study meta-analysis of 256,523 Europeans aged 60 years and over from 22 cohorts we identify 15 loci associated with muscle weakness (European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People definition: n = 48,596 cases, 18.9% of total), including 12 loci not implicated in previous analyses of continuous measures of grip strength. Loci include genes reportedly involved in autoimmune disease (HLA-DQA1p = 4 × 10−17), arthritis (GDF5p = 4 × 10−13), cell cycle control and cancer protection, regulation of transcription, and others involved in the development and maintenance of the musculoskeletal system. Using Mendelian randomization we report possible overlapping causal pathways, including diabetes susceptibility, haematological parameters, and the immune system. We conclude that muscle weakness in older adults has distinct mechanisms from continuous strength, including several pathways considered to be hallmarks of ageing.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was part funded by an award to DM by the UK Medical Research Council (MR/M023095/1). A full list of acknowledgements and grant support can be found in Supplementary Note 1 (in the Supplementary Information). We would like to acknowledge the use of the University of Exeter High-Performance Computing (HPC) facility in carrying out this work.
© 2021, The Author(s).