Genetics and Genomics of Human Longevity

Abstract

Longevity is a complex trait which gene–gene, gene–environment, and environment–environment interactions all play important roles in regulating. Candidate gene‐based case‐control studies, longitudinal studies with a long‐term follow‐up, genome/epigenome‐wide association studies, and genome/epigenome‐wide linkage studies all contribute to accumulate current understandings toward human longevity. Up to now, near 300 (3‐fold increase within 4 years) potential genes are involved in human longevity. Based on their functions, these genes are approximately categorised into lipid–lipoprotein metabolism, insulin/IGF1 signalling pathway, genome integrity, and inflammation. Epigenetic regulation in gene expression without changing the primary deoxyribonucleic acid sequence is becoming important in aging and longevity. Increasing evidence from genome‐wide methylation pattern (methylome) and small noncoding ribonucleic acids implies a higher level of regulating mechanism to control the longevity genes. Yet lacking replicated result besides APOE and FOXO3A among the overwhelming explosion of data still remains as a potential concern. Nevertheless, advancing knowledge to human longevity gives the potential to prevent age‐related diseases, and hopefully extend the lifespan.

Key Concepts:

  • Healthy aging or longevity people are often defined as a population with a very late age at death or survival to the extreme age with high physical and cognitive functioning in the absence of the major chronic diseases.

  • Several genes involved in the fundamental cellular processes as lipid–lipoprotein metabolism, insulin/IGF1 signalling pathway, genome integrity and inflammations are closely associated with longevity.

  • Hypothesis‐driven (candidate gene‐based association studies) and hypothesis‐free (genome‐wide association/linkage studies) approaches are used to study human longevity.

  • APOE and FOXO3A are the most extensively studied longevity‐related genes, however, only variants of APOE are consistently replicated throughout studies using different approaches recruiting various ethnic populations.

  • The rise of the epigenetic regulation toward longevity genes suggests a higher level of controlling mechanism besides the genetic impact.

  • The presence of the beneficial gene alleles contributes to the complex phenotype of longevity rather than the absence of the diseases‐associated alleles.

Keywords: aging; genetics; epigenetics; human; longevity; polymorphisms

Figure 1.

A schematic representation showing longevity is a complex trait resulted from many genetic variants. Genes of lipid–lipoprotein metabolism, cell growth‐differentiation, genome integrity maintenance and immunoregulation are involved in the regulation of human longevity. The sophisticated interplays ranging from intracellular (e.g. molecules in the nucleus, or molecules between nucleus and cytosol), intercellular (e.g. cells respond to extracellular stimuli), to large‐scale systematic interplay between circulation, digestive and endocrine systems all work coordinately and eventually affect the human lifespan. Environmental factors as infection and diet may act through immune homoeostasis and metabolic pathways to influence human longevity as well.

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Wu, Yi‐Chih, Chung, Wen‐Hung, and Hung, Shuen‐Iu(Sep 2014) Genetics and Genomics of Human Longevity. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0024643]