Variation in the klotho gene is linked to differences in health outcomes: klotho allele KL-VS heterozygosity is associated with longevity, better cognition and greater right frontal grey matter volume in late life. Contradicting reports, however, suggest that KL-VS’s effect on health might be age-dependent. Here we examine the relationship between KL-VS genotype, cognition and brain structure in childhood and adolescence. We hypothesized that KL-VS has early influences on cognitive and brain development. We investigated the associations of KL-VS carrier status with cognition and brain morphology in a cohort of 1387 children and adolescents aged 3–21 years, examining main effects and interactions between age, sex and socioeconomic circumstance. KL-VS had no main effect on either cognition or brain structure, though there was a significant KL-VS × age interaction for cognition (specifically executive function, attention, episodic memory, and general cognition), total grey matter and total brain volume. KL-VS heterozygotes had better cognition than non-carriers before age 11, but lower cognition after age 11. Heterozygotes had smaller brains than non-carriers did in early childhood. Sex moderated the association between KL-VS and white matter volume. Among girls, KL-VS heterozygotes had smaller white matter volumes than non-carriers. Among boys, heterozygotes had greater white matter volumes than non-carriers. However, a replication in a cohort of 2306 children aged 6–12 years showed no significant associations. In contrast to findings in late life, these results show that KL-VS does not have a main effect on cognition and brain structure. Furthermore, KL-VS’s influence may depend on age and sex.

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Brain Imaging and Behavior
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology

de Vries, C.F. (Clarisse F.), Staff, R.T. (Roger T.), Noble, K.G. (Kimberly G.), Muetzel, R., Vernooij, M.W. (Meike W.), White, T., … Murray, A.D. (Alison D.). (2018). Klotho gene polymorphism, brain structure and cognition in early-life development. Brain Imaging and Behavior. doi:10.1007/s11682-018-9990-1