Research Article

Large-scale GWAS reveals insights into the genetic architecture of same-sex sexual behavior

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Science  30 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6456, eaat7693
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat7693
  • A genome-wide association study (GWAS) of same-sex sexual behavior reveals five loci and high polygenicity.

    Follow-up analyses show potential biological pathways; show genetic correlations with various traits; and indicate that sexual preference is a complex, heterogeneous phenotype.

  • Fig. 1 Descriptive statistics regarding same-sex sexual behavior in the UK Biobank.

    (A) The percentage of participants in the UK Biobank who reported having had at least one same-sex sexual partner (y axis) increased with participants’ year of birth (x axis). (B) Among participants reporting at least one same-sex partner, those with a greater proportion of same-sex partners (x axis) have a larger reproductive disadvantage (lower birth-year adjusted number of children) (y axis). Vertical bars represent 95% CIs.

  • Fig. 2 Manhattan plot for a GWAS of same-sex sexual behavior.

    Diamonds (red) represent genome-wide significant signals from analysis of males and females combined, and triangles represent genome-wide significant signals that are female (pointing up, blue) or male (pointing down, green) specific.

  • Fig. 3 SNP-based versus family-based heritability estimates for same-sex sexual behavior compared with a variety of other traits.

    Heritability, h2; same-sex sexual behavior, red dot; other traits, gray dots. The estimates for all traits are provided in table S23. Horizontal bars represent 95% CIs for the SNP-based estimate, and vertical bars represent 95% CIs for the family-based estimate. Dashed and solid lines represent the observed (obtained by linear regression) and expected relationship between family-based and SNP-based heritability, respectively.

  • Fig. 4 Genetic correlations of same-sex sexual behavior with various preselected traits and disorders, separately for males and females.

    Males, green; females, blue. Yellow asterisks denote the genetic correlations that were experiment-wise significant (P < 8.9 × 10−4; references, definitions, and full results can be found in table S19). Wald test P values for the genetic correlations are reported above each dot. Horizontal bars represent 95% CIs.

  • Fig. 5 Complexity and heterogeneity of genetic influences.

    (A) Genetic correlations between the main phenotype (same-sex sexual behavior; heterosexuals versus nonheterosexuals) and proportion of same-sex to total sexual partners among nonheterosexuals, in the UK Biobank and 23andMe samples. (B) Scatterplot showing genetic correlations of the main phenotype (x axis) and the proportion of same-sex to total partners among nonheterosexuals (y axis) with various other traits (table S21). (C) Genetic correlations among different sexual preference items in the 23andMe sample.

Supplementary Materials

  • Large-scale GWAS reveals insights into the genetic architecture of same-sex sexual behavior

    Andrea Ganna, Karin J. H. Verweij, Michel G. Nivard, Robert Maier, Robbee Wedow, Alexander S. Busch, Abdel Abdellaoui, Shengru Guo, J. Fah Sathirapongsasuti, 23andMe Research Team, Paul Lichtenstein, Sebastian Lundström, Niklas Långström, Adam Auton, Kathleen Mullan Harris, Gary W. Beecham, Eden R. Martin, Alan R. Sanders, John R. B. Perry, Benjamin M. Neale, Brendan P. Zietsch

    Materials/Methods, Supplementary Text, Tables, Figures, and/or References

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    • Materials and Methods
    • Figs. S1 to S7
    • Tables S1 to S17 and S19 to S23
    • References
    Table S18
    Results of the gene-based test of association for same-sex sexual behavior (performed in MAGMA).

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