Deconstructing the sources of genotype-phenotype associations in humans

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Science  27 Sep 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6460, pp. 1396-1400
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax3710

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  • Deconstructing the history of genotype-phenotype associations in humans
    • Eivind Ystrom, Professor, PROMENTA Research Center, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway
    • Other Contributors:
      • Espen Moen Eilertsen, postdoc, Department of Mental Disorders, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway

    In the recent review by Young et al.(1) the dawn of studies on genotype-phenotype associations in humans could have been this morning, or at least at the authors recent publications(2, 3). Throughout their review the standard method for assessing total genotype-phenotype associations, quantitative genetic studies with twin-family designs(4, 5), are granted no citations. The authors claim that “traditionally defined heritability” (i.e. total genotype-phenotype association) is about direct effects only, and not indirect effect through the environment. This claim aligns with how the authors solve this problem by applying their recent model for estimating genetic effects deriving from the parents through the environment, within the offspring, or by the covariance between these two sources(2). The authors acknowledge that “the study of indirect genetic effects has a long history in animal breeding”, but claims that most human studies have used methods not distinguishing direct and indirect effects. However, the authors first fail to cite any quantitative human genetic studies both theorizing about and estimating this; it is as if the field of behavior genetics never existed. The second failure is that they do not credit the study of Lindon Eaves et al. from 2014 that lay out the theoretical aspects of direct and indirect genetic effects, and present a genetic relatedness model that closely resembles Young et al.´s approach from 2018 (6). That is, including indirect paternal gen...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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