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Increasing evidence supports an extensive and complex genetic contribution to Parkinson's disease (PD). Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have shed light on the genetic basis of risk for this disease. However, the genetic determinants of PD age of onset are largely unknown. Here we performed an age of onset GWAS based on 28,568 PD cases. We estimated that the heritability of PD age of onset due to common genetic variation was ~0.11, lower than the overall heritability of risk for PD (~0.27) likely in part because of the subjective nature of this measure. We found two genome-wide significant association signals, one at SNCA and the other a protein-coding variant in TMEM175, both of which are known PD risk loci and a Bonferroni corrected significant effect at other known PD risk loci, INPP5F/BAG3, FAM47E/SCARB2, and MCCC1. In addition, we identified that GBA coding variant carriers had an earlier age of onset compared to non-carriers. Notably, SNCA, TMEM175, SCARB2, BAG3 and GBA have all been shown to either directly influence alpha-synuclein aggregation or are implicated in alpha-synuclein aggregation pathways. Remarkably, other well-established PD risk loci such as GCH1, MAPT and RAB7L1/NUCKS1 (PARK16) did not show a significant effect on age of onset of PD. While for some loci, this may be a measure of power, this is clearly not the case for the MAPT locus; thus genetic variability at this locus influences whether but not when an individual develops disease. We believe this is an important mechanistic and therapeutic distinction. Furthermore, these data support a model in which alpha-synuclein and lysosomal mechanisms impact not only PD risk but also age of disease onset and highlights that therapies that target alpha-synuclein aggregation are more likely to be disease-modifying than therapies targeting other pathways.

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