White Matter Lesion Progression: Genome-Wide Search for Genetic Influences

Edith Hofer, Margherita Cavalieri, Joshua C. Bis, Charles DeCarli, Myriam Fornage, Sigurdur Sigurdsson, Velandai Srikanth, Stella Trompet, Benjamin F.J. Verhaaren, Christiane Wolf, Qiong Yang, Hieab H.H. Adams, Philippe Amouyel, Alexa Beiser, Brendan M. Buckley, Michele Callisaya, Ganesh Chauhan, Anton J.M. De Craen, Carole Dufouil, Cornelia M. Van DuijnIan Ford, Paul Freudenberger, Rebecca F. Gottesman, Vilmundur Gudnason, Gerardo Heiss, Albert Hofman, Thomas Lumley, Oliver Martinez, Bernard Mazoyer, Chris Moran, Wiro J. Niessen, Thanh Phan, Bruce M. Psaty, Claudia L. Satizabal, Naveed Sattar, Sabrina Schilling, Dean K. Shibata, P. Eline Slagboom, Albert Smith, David J. Stott, Kent D. Taylor, Russell Thomson, Anna M. Töglhofer, Christophe Tzourio, Mark Van Buchem, Jing Wang, Rudi G.J. Westendorp, B. Gwen Windham, Meike W. Vernooij, Alex Zijdenbos, Richard Beare, Stéphanie Debette, M. Arfan Ikram, J. Wouter Jukema, Lenore J. Launer, W. T. Longstreth, Thomas H. Mosley, Sudha Seshadri, Helena Schmidt, Reinhold Schmidt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Purpose-White matter lesion (WML) progression on magnetic resonance imaging is related to cognitive decline and stroke, but its determinants besides baseline WML burden are largely unknown. Here, we estimated heritability of WML progression, and sought common genetic variants associated with WML progression in elderly participants from the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium. Methods-Heritability of WML progression was calculated in the Framingham Heart Study. The genome-wide association study included 7773 elderly participants from 10 cohorts. To assess the relative contribution of genetic factors to progression of WML, we compared in 7 cohorts risk models including demographics, vascular risk factors plus single-nucleotide polymorphisms that have been shown to be associated cross-sectionally with WML in the current and previous association studies. Results-A total of 1085 subjects showed WML progression. The heritability estimate for WML progression was low at 6.5%, and no single-nucleotide polymorphisms achieved genome-wide significance (P<5×10-8). Four loci were suggestive (P<1×10-5) of an association with WML progression: 10q24.32 (rs10883817, P=1.46×10-6); 12q13.13 (rs4761974, P=8.71×10-7); 20p12.1 (rs6135309, P=3.69×10-6); and 4p15.31 (rs7664442, P=2.26×10-6). Variants that have been previously related to WML explained only 0.8% to 11.7% more of the variance in WML progression than age, vascular risk factors, and baseline WML burden. Conclusions-Common genetic factors contribute little to the progression of age-related WML in middle-aged and older adults. Future research on determinants of WML progression should focus more on environmental, lifestyle, or host-related biological factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3048-3057
Number of pages10
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Heart Association, Inc.

Other keywords

  • aging
  • biological factors
  • cerebral small vessel diseases
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • white matter lesions


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