Heritability of R2* iron in the basal ganglia and cortex

Edith Hofer, Lukas Pirpamer, Christian Langkammer, Christian Tinauer, Sudha Seshadri, Helena Schmidt, Reinhold Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: While iron is essential for normal brain functioning, elevated concentrations are commonly found in neurodegenerative diseases and are associated with impaired cognition and neurological deficits. Currently, only little is known about genetic and environmental factors that influence brain iron concentrations. Methods: Heritability and bivariate heritability of regional brain iron concentrations, assessed by R2* relaxometry at 3 Tesla MRI, were estimated with variance components models in 130 middle-aged to elderly participants of the Austrian Stroke Prevention Family Study. Results: Heritability of R2* iron ranged from 0.46 to 0.82 in basal ganglia and from 0.65 to 0.76 in cortical lobes. Age and BMI explained up to 12% and 9% of the variance of R2* iron, while APOE ε4 carrier status, hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, sex and smoking explained 5% or less. The genetic correlation of R2* iron among basal ganglionic nuclei and among cortical lobes ranged from 0.78 to 0.87 and from 0.65 to 0.97, respectively. R2* rates in basal ganglia and cortex were not genetically correlated. Conclusions: Regional brain iron concentrations are mainly driven by genetic factors while environmental factors contribute to a certain extent. Brain iron levels in the basal ganglia and cortex are controlled by distinct sets of genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6415-6426
Number of pages12
Issue number16
StatePublished - 2022


  • Brain iron
  • Genetic and environmental factors
  • Genetic correlation
  • Heritability
  • Magnetic resonance imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Cell Biology


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