Investigating the modulation of genetic effects on late AMD by age and sex: Lessons learned and two additional loci

<div><p>Late-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of visual impairment in the elderly with a complex etiology. The most important non-modifiable risk factors for onset and progression of late AMD are age and genetic risk factors, however, little is known about the interplay between genetics and age or sex. Here, we conducted a large-scale age- and sex-stratified genome-wide association study (GWAS) using 1000 Genomes imputed genome-wide and ExomeChip data (>12 million variants). The data were established by the International Age-related Macular Degeneration Genomics Consortium (IAMDGC) from 16,144 late AMD cases and 17,832 controls. Our systematic search for interaction effects yielded significantly stronger effects among younger individuals at two known AMD loci (near <i>CFH</i> and <i>ARMS2/HTRA1</i>). Accounting for age and gene-age interaction using a joint test identified two additional AMD loci compared to the previous main effect scan. One of these two is a novel AMD GWAS locus, near the retinal clusterin-like protein (<i>CLUL1</i>) gene, and the other, near the retinaldehyde binding protein 1 (<i>RLBP1</i>), was recently identified in a joint analysis of nuclear and mitochondrial variants. Despite considerable power in our data, neither sex-dependent effects nor effects with opposite directions between younger and older individuals were observed. This is the first genome-wide interaction study to incorporate age, sex and their interaction with genetic effects for late AMD. Results diminish the potential for a role of sex in the etiology of late AMD yet highlight the importance and existence of age-dependent genetic effects.</p></div>