Research Article

The nature of nurture: Effects of parental genotypes

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Science  26 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6374, pp. 424-428
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan6877

Genetic variants provide a nurturing environment

Genetic variants in parents may affect the fitness of their offspring, even if the child does not carry the allele. This indirect effect is referred to as “genetic nurture.” Kong et al. used data from genome-wide association studies of educational attainment to construct polygenic scores for parents that only considered the nontransmitted alleles (see the Perspective by Koellinger and Harden). The findings suggest that genetic nurture is ultimately due to genetic variation in the population and is mediated by the environment that parents create for their children.

Science, this issue p. 424; see also p. 386


Sequence variants in the parental genomes that are not transmitted to a child (the proband) are often ignored in genetic studies. Here we show that nontransmitted alleles can affect a child through their impacts on the parents and other relatives, a phenomenon we call “genetic nurture.” Using results from a meta-analysis of educational attainment, we find that the polygenic score computed for the nontransmitted alleles of 21,637 probands with at least one parent genotyped has an estimated effect on the educational attainment of the proband that is 29.9% (P = 1.6 × 10−14) of that of the transmitted polygenic score. Genetic nurturing effects of this polygenic score extend to other traits. Paternal and maternal polygenic scores have similar effects on educational attainment, but mothers contribute more than fathers to nutrition- and heath-related traits.

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