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Expanded genomic analyses for male voice-breaking highlights a shared phenotypic and genetic basis between puberty timing and hair colour

By Ben Hollis, Felix R. Day, Alexander S Busch, Deborah J. Thompson, Ana Goncalves Soares, Paul R.H.J. Timmers, Alex Kwong, Doug F Easton, Peter K Joshi, Nicholas J. Timpson, The PRACTICAL Consortium, 23andMe Research Team, Ken K. Ong, John R.B. Perry

Posted 30 Nov 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/483933

The timing of puberty is highly variable and has important consequences for long-term health. Most of our understanding of the genetic control of puberty timing is based on studies in women, as age at menarche is often recorded. Here, we report a multi-trait genome-wide association study for male puberty timing, based on recalled timing of voice breaking and facial hair, with an effective sample size of 205,354 men, nearly four-fold larger than previously reported. We identify 78 independent signals for male puberty timing, including 29 signals not previously associated with puberty in either sex. Novel mechanisms include an unexpected phenotypic and genetic link between puberty timing and natural hair colour, possibly reflecting common effects of pituitary hormones on puberty and pigmentation. Earlier male puberty timing is genetically correlated with several adverse health outcomes and, in Mendelian randomization analyses, shows causal relationships with higher risk of prostate cancer and shorter lifespan. These findings highlight the relationships between puberty timing and later health outcomes, and demonstrate the value of genetic studies of puberty timing in both sexes.

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