Genome-Wide Epistatic Network Analyses of Semantic Fluency in Older Adults

Qihua Tan, Weilong Li, Marianne Nygaard, Ping An, Mary Feitosa, Mary K. Wojczynski, Joseph Zmuda, Konstantin Arbeev, Svetlana Ukraintseva, Anatoliy Yashin, Kaare Christensen, Jonas Mengel-From

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Semantic fluency impairment has been attributed to a wide range of neurocognitive and psychiatric conditions, especially in the older population. Moderate heritability estimates on semantic fluency were obtained from both twin and family-based studies suggesting genetic contributions to the observed variation across individuals. Currently, effort in identifying the genetic variants underlying the heritability estimates for this complex trait remains scarce. Using the semantic fluency scale and genome-wide SNP genotype data from the Long Life Family Study (LLFS), we performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) and epistasis network analysis on semantic fluency in 2289 individuals aged over 60 years from the American LLFS cohorts and replicated the findings in 1129 individuals aged over 50 years from the Danish LLFS cohort. In the GWAS, two SNPs with genome-wide significance (rs3749683, p = 2.52 × 10−8; rs880179, p = 4.83 × 10−8) mapped to the CMYAS gene on chromosome 5 were detected. The epistasis network analysis identified five modules as significant (4.16 × 10−5 < p < 7.35 × 10−3), of which two were replicated (p < 3.10 × 10−3). These two modules revealed significant enrichment of tissue-specific gene expression in brain tissues and high enrichment of GWAS catalog traits, e.g., obesity-related traits, blood pressure, chronotype, sleep duration, and brain structure, that have been reported to associate with verbal performance in epidemiological studies. Our results suggest high tissue specificity of genetic regulation of gene expression in brain tissues with epistatic SNP networks functioning jointly in modifying individual verbal ability and cognitive performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5257
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2024


  • GWAS
  • LLFS
  • elderly
  • epistasis
  • semantic fluency


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