Influence of genotype-dependent effects of covariates on the outcome of segregation analysis of the body mass index

I. B. Borecki, G. E. Bonney, T. Rice, C. Bouchard, D. C. Rao

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Several recent studies of the body mass index (BMI) have provided support for a recessive major gene influencing heaviness in humans. Segregation analysis of the BMI was carried out recently in a series of randomly sampled French-Canadian families to determine whether we could replicate the major gene finding by using a residual phenotype adjusted for the effects of age and sex. The best model included a recessive major effect for high BMI values with residual familial resemblance; however, Mendelian transmission could not be confirmed, and the no-transmission hypothesis (where all the τ's are constrained to be equal) was not rejected. Considering that the BMI is a complex phenotype affected by many factors and that there are known variations in body composition during growth and aging, we undertook a reanalysis of the data, using a model that allowed the estimation of genotype-specific age and gender effects. New tests on the transmission parameters satisfy the criteria for inferring Mendelian segregation. The results suggest that individuals with the "high" recessive genotype show the greatest degree of heaviness at birth, with a subsequent trend toward lower values throughout life, while individuals with the dominant "normal" genotypes show no appreciable trends with age. In addition, the "high" genotype appears to confer a greater degree of heaviness in females as compared with males. These results, along with other observations from the data, suggest that, while a recessive single gene influence may be discernible, the phenotypic expression of the BMI is likely to be complicated by genotype X environment interactions and, possibly, by the action of other loci. Further, the data also are consistent with the hypothesis that modifying factors may include the adoption of a more prudent life-style by individuals genetically predisposed to heaviness and a secular increase in the incidence, prevalence, and potency of environmentally based triggers leading to a higher penetrance of the "heavy" genotype in the young.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)676-687
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican journal of human genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1993


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