The evidence for a major gene for body mass index (BMI) was investigated using complex segregation analysis (POINTER) in 1691 individuals belonging to 432 nuclear families residing in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, India. Since the BMI is significantly correlated with energy intake (EI) and energy expenditure of activity (EEA), the effects of each were removed from the BMI using regression analysis, and the segregation analysis was repeated on the energy-adjusted BMI. For BMI, a putative major locus could not be ruled out, and the effect (q = 0.25, accounting for 37% of the phenotypic variance) was remarkably similar to that reported in Western populations. After adjusting the BMI for EI and EEA, however, no evidence in support of a major gene could be observed, suggesting either that EI and EEA mediate the expression of the major gene effect on BMI, or that the same major gene may influence both traits. The pleiotropy hypothesis was further explored using a simple bivariate familial correlation model, in which the significance of familial cross-trait correlations (e.g., BMI in parents with BMI as predicted from the energy variables in the offspring) was examined. The cross-trait resemblance between the two measures was significant for all biological relatives, verifying the presence of shared heritable determinants (i.e., the same gene[s] and/or familial environments) accounting for 58% of the covariation. The significant cross-trait spouse correlations further suggested that at least part of the cross-trait resemblance may be due to shared environmental factors. Therefore, we conclude that there is strong evidence for shared genetic effects between BMI and the energy variables.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-799
Number of pages19
JournalHuman Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000


  • Genetic pleiotropy
  • Obesity


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