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Estimating heritability without environmental bias

By Alexander I Young, Michael L. Frigge, Daniel F. Gudbjartsson, Gudmar Thorleifsson, Gyda Bjornsdottir, Patrick Sulem, Gisli Masson, Unnur Thorsteinsdottir, Kari Stefansson, Augustine Kong

Posted 14 Nov 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/218883 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41588-018-0178-9)

Heritability measures the proportion of trait variation that is due to genetic inheritance. Measurement of heritability is of importance to the nature-versus-nurture debate. However, existing estimates of heritability could be biased by environmental effects. Here we introduce relatedness disequilibrium regression (RDR), a novel method for estimating heritability. RDR removes environmental bias by exploiting variation in relatedness due to random segregation. We use a sample of 54,888 Icelanders with both parents genotyped to estimate the heritability of 14 traits, including height (55.4%, S.E. 4.4%) and educational attainment (17.0%, S.E. 9.4%). Our results suggest that some other estimates of heritability could be inflated by environmental effects.

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