Year of publication:
Journal title abbreviated:
P NATL ACAD SCI USA
Journal title long:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Human longevity is a multifactorial condition with a significant genetic contribution. A recent association study in two independent samples of long-lived U.S. Caucasians [long-lived individuals (LLI)] identified a SNP haplotype of the microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (MTP, 4q25) that was underrepresented among LLI when compared with younger controls. This suggested that variation in the MTP gene might modify human longevity. Because of its function in lipid metabolism, the MTP gene product could plausibly play a pivotal role in the physiology of aging. However, the association observed in the U.S. samples could not be replicated by the same authors in a larger French LLI sample. We have therefore investigated the MTP "risk" haplotype in our own collection of 1,589 German nonagenarians, centenarians, and appropriately matched controls. No statistically significant differences were observed between LLI and controls at the allele, genotype, or haplotype level. This indicates that a noteworthy influence of the respective MTP haplotype on human longevity in the German population is unlikely. Furthermore, in comparison with all other U.S. and European samples analyzed, the MTP "risk" haplotype was found to be overrepresented only in the U.S. controls. This implies that the putative association is more likely to reflect recent changes in the genetic structure of the U.S. Caucasian population as a whole, rather than genetic effects upon survival to old age. In our view, the original study therefore highlights potential problems that arise when the case-control design is used as a means to map longevity genes in humans.