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Skewed X inactivation and survival: a 13-year follow-up study of elderly twins and singletons

Mengel-From, J., Thinggaard, M., Christiansen, L., Vaupel, J. W., Ørstavik, K. H., Christensen, K.

European Journal of Human Genetics, 20:3, 361-364 (2012)

DOI:10.1038/ejhg.2011.215

Abstract

In mammalian females, one of the two X chromosomes is inactivated in early embryonic life. Females are therefore mosaics for two cell populations, one with the maternal and one with the paternal X as the active X chromosome. A skewed X inactivation is a marked deviation from a 50:50 ratio. In populations of women past 55–60 years of age, an increased degree of skewing (DS) is found. Here the association between age-related skewing and mortality is analyzed in a 13-year follow-up study of 500 women from three cohorts (73–100 years of age at intake). Women with low DS had significantly higher mortality than the majority of women who had a more skewed DS (hazard ratio: 1.30; 95% CI: 1.04–1.64). The association between X inactivation and mortality was replicated in dizygotic twin pairs for which the co-twin with the lowest DS also had a statistically significant tendency to die first in the twin pairs with the highest intra-pair differences in DS (proportion: 0.71; 95% CI: 0.52–0.86). Both results suggest that lower DS is associated with higher mortality. We therefore propose that age-related skewing may be partly due to a population selection with lower mortality among those with higher DS.

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