Phenotypic but not genetically predicted heart rate variability associated with all-cause mortality

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Low heart rate variability (HRV) has been widely reported as a predictor for increased mortality. However, the molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Therefore, this study aimed to identify novel genetic loci associated with HRV and assess the association of phenotypic HRV and genetically predicted HRV with mortality. In a GWAS of 46,075 European ancestry individuals from UK biobank, we identified 17 independent genome-wide significant genetic variants in 16 loci associated with HRV traits. Notably, eight of these loci (RNF220, GNB4, LINCR-002, KLHL3/HNRNPA0, CHRM2, KCNJ5, MED13L, and C160rf72) have not been reported previously. In a prospective phenotypic relationship between HRV and mortality during a median follow-up of seven years, individuals with lower HRV had higher risk of dying from any cause. Genetically predicted HRV, as determined by the genetic risk scores, was not associated with mortality. To the best of our knowledge, the findings provide novel biological insights into the mechanisms underlying HRV. These results also underline the role of the cardiac autonomic nervous system, as indexed by HRV, in predicting mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1013
Number of pages10
JournalCommunications biology
Publication statusPublished - 6-Oct-2023


  • Humans
  • Heart Rate/genetics
  • Prospective Studies
  • Heart
  • Risk Factors
  • G Protein-Coupled Inwardly-Rectifying Potassium Channels

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