Twin Research and Human Genetics

Articles

Genetic Regulation of Growth in Height and Weight from 3 to 12 Years of Age: A Longitudinal Study of Dutch Twin Children

Karri Silventoinena1 c1, Meike Bartelsa2, Daniëlle Posthumaa3, G. Frederiek Estourgie-van Burka4, Gonneke Willemsena5, Toos C. E. M. van Beijsterveldta6 and Dorret I. Boomsmaa7

a1 Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland. karri.silventoinen@helsinki.fi

a2 Department of Biological Psychology, Free University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

a3 Department of Biological Psychology, Free University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

a4 Department of Biological Psychology, Free University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Department of Pediatric Endocrinology, VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

a5 Department of Biological Psychology, Free University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

a6 Department of Biological Psychology, Free University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

a7 Department of Biological Psychology, Free University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Abstract

Human growth is a complex and poorly understood process. We studied the effect of genetic and environmental factors on height and body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) based on maternal reports at 3, 4, 5, 7, 10 and 12 years of age in a large longitudinal cohort of Dutch twins (7755 complete twin pairs at age 3). Several multivariate variance component models for twins were fitted to the data using the Mx statistical package. The first-born twin was taller until age 10 and heavier until age 12 than the second-born co-twin. Heritability estimates were high for height (a2 = .58–.91) and BMI (a2 = .31–.82), but common and unshared environmental factors were also important. The phenotypic correlations across the ages for height and BMI were mainly explained by correlated additive genetic factors (ra = .77–.96 for height and .43–.92 for BMI), but common (rc = .40–.84 and .09–.78, respectively) and specific environmental correlations (re = .50–.81 and .42–.80, respectively) were also significant. Additive genetic factors decreased with increasing age difference for both height and BMI. However, the full Cholesky model, which does not make any assumptions regarding the underlying genetic structure, had the best fit. High genetic correlations across the ages, especially for height, may help further molecular genetic studies of human growth. Environmental factors affecting height and BMI during growth period are also important, and further studies are needed to identify these factors and test whether they interact with genetic factors.

(Received October 12 2006)

(Accepted October 17 2006)

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Karri Silventoinen, Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, PO Box 41, Mannerheimintie 172, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.

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