Genome-wide analysis of body proportion classifies height-associated variants by mechanism of action and implicates genes important for skeletal development

Yingleong Chan*, Rany M. Salem, Yu Han H Hsu, George McMahon, Tune H. Pers, Sailaja Vedantam, Tonu Esko, Michael H. Guo, Elaine T. Lim, Lude Franke, George Davey Smith, David P. Strachan, Joel N. Hirschhorn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Human height is a composite measurement, reflecting the sum of leg, spine, and head lengths. Many common variants influence total height, but the effects of these or other variants on the components of height (body proportion) remain largely unknown. We studied sitting height ratio (SHR), the ratio of sitting height to total height, to identify such effects in 3,545 African Americans and 21,590 individuals of European ancestry. We found that SHR is heritable: 26% and 39% of the total variance of SHR can be explained by common variants in European and African Americans, respectively, and global European admixture is negatively correlated with SHR in African Americans (r2 ≈ 0.03). Six regions reached genome-wide significance (p < 5 × 10-8) for association with SHR and overlapped biological candidate genes, including TBX2 and IGFBP3. We found that 130 of 670 height-associated variants are nominally associated (p < 0.05) with SHR, more than expected by chance (p = 5 × 10-40). At these 130 loci, the height-increasing alleles are associated with either a decrease (71 loci) or increase (59 loci) in SHR, suggesting that different height loci disproportionally affect either leg length or spine/head length. Pathway analyses via DEPICT revealed that height loci affecting SHR, and especially those affecting leg length, show enrichment of different biological pathways (e.g., bone/cartilage/growth plate pathways) than do loci with no effect on SHR (e.g., embryonic development). These results highlight the value of using a pair of related but orthogonal phenotypes, in this case SHR with height, as a prism to dissect the biology underlying genetic associations in polygenic traits and diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-708
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Genetics
Volume96
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2015

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