Heritability and Genome-Wide Association Analyses of Human Gait Suggest Contribution of Common Variants

Hieab H H Adams, Vincentius J A Verlinden, Michele L. Callisaya, Cornelia M van Duijn, Albert Hofman, Russell Thomson, André G. Uitterlinden, Meike W Vernooij, Jos N. van der Geest, Velandai Srikanth, M. Arfan Ikram

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Human gait is a complex neurological and musculoskeletal function, of which the genetic basis remains largely unknown. To determine the influence of common genetic variants on gait parameters, we studied 2,946 participants of the Rotterdam Study, a population-based cohort of unrelated elderly individuals. We assessed 30 gait parameters using an electronic walkway, which yielded seven independent gait domains after principal component analysis. Genotypes of participants were imputed to the 1,000 Genomes reference panel for generating genetic relationship matrices to estimate heritability of gait parameters, and for subsequent genome-wide association scans (GWASs) to identify specific variants. Gait domains with the highest age- and sex-adjusted heritability were Variability (h 2 = 61%), Rhythm (37%), and Tandem (32%). For other gait domains, heritability estimates attenuated after adjustment for height and weight. Genome-wide association scans identified a variant on 1p22.3 that was significantly associated with single support time, a variable from the Rhythm domain (rs72953990; N = 2,946; β [SE] = 0.0069 (0.0012), p = 2.30×10-8). This variant did not replicate in an independent sample (N = 362; p =. 78). In conclusion, human gait has highly heritable components that are explained by common genetic variation, which are partly attributed to height and weight. Collaborative efforts are needed to identify robust single variant associations for the heritable parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)740-746
Number of pages7
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2016


  • Gait
  • Genome-wide association study
  • Heritability

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