Genetic and environmental influences on height from infancy to early adulthood: An individual-based pooled analysis of 45 twin cohorts

Aline Jelenkovic*, Reijo Sund, Yoon Mi Hur, Yoshie Yokoyama, Jacob V.B. Hjelmborg, Sören Möller, Chika Honda, Patrik K.E. Magnusson, Nancy L. Pedersen, Syuichi Ooki, Sari Aaltonen, Maria A. Stazi, Corrado Fagnani, Cristina D'Ippolito, Duarte L. Freitas, José Antonio Maia, Fuling Ji, Feng Ning, Zengchang Pang, Esther RebatoAndreas Busjahn, Christian Kandler, Kimberly J. Saudino, Kerry L. Jang, Wendy Cozen, Amie E. Hwang, Thomas M. Mack, Wenjing Gao, Canqing Yu, Liming Li, Robin P. Corley, Brooke M. Huibregtse, Catherine A. Derom, Robert F. Vlietinck, Ruth J.F. Loos, Kauko Heikkilä, Jane Wardle, Clare H. Llewellyn, Abigail Fisher, Tom A. McAdams, Thalia C. Eley, Alice M. Gregory, Mingguang He, Xiaohu Ding, Morten Bjerregaard-Andersen, Henning Beck-Nielsen, Morten Sodemann, Adam D. Tarnoki, David L. Tarnoki, Ariel Knafo-Noam, David Mankuta, Lior Abramson, S. Alexandra Burt, Kelly L. Klump, Judy L. Silberg, Lindon J. Eaves, Hermine H. Maes, Robert F. Krueger, Matt McGue, Shandell Pahlen, Margaret Gatz, David A. Butler, Meike Bartels, Toos C.E.M. Van Beijsterveldt, Jeffrey M. Craig, Richard Saffery, Lise Dubois, Michel Boivin, Mara Brendgen, Ginette Dionne, Frank Vitaro, Nicholas G. Martin, Sarah E. Medland, Grant W. Montgomery, Gary E. Swan, Ruth Krasnow, Per Tynelius, Paul Lichtenstein, Claire M.A. Haworth, Robert Plomin, Gombojav Bayasgalan, Danshiitsoodol Narandalai, K. Paige Harden, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, Timothy Spector, Massimo Mangino, Genevieve Lachance, Laura A. Baker, Catherine Tuvblad, Glen E. Duncan, Dedra Buchwald, Gonneke Willemsen, Axel Skytthe, Kirsten O. Kyvik, Kaare Christensen, Sevgi Y. Öncel, Fazil Aliev, Finn Rasmussen, Jack H. Goldberg, Thorkild I.A. Sørensen, Dorret I. Boomsma, Jaakko Kaprio, Karri Silventoinen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Height variation is known to be determined by both genetic and environmental factors, but a systematic description of how their influences differ by sex, age and global regions is lacking. We conducted an individual-based pooled analysis of 45 twin cohorts from 20 countries, including 180,520 paired measurements at ages 1-19 years. The proportion of height variation explained by shared environmental factors was greatest in early childhood, but these effects remained present until early adulthood. Accordingly, the relative genetic contribution increased with age and was greatest in adolescence (up to 0.83 in boys and 0.76 in girls). Comparing geographic-cultural regions (Europe, North-America and Australia, and East-Asia), genetic variance was greatest in North-America and Australia and lowest in East-Asia, but the relative proportion of genetic variation was roughly similar across these regions. Our findings provide further insights into height variation during childhood and adolescence in populations representing different ethnicities and exposed to different environments.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number28496
JournalScientific Reports
StatePublished - 23 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was conducted within the CODATwins project (Academy of Finland #266592). Support for participating twin projects: The Boston University Twin Project is funded by grants (#R01 HD068435 #R01 MH062375) from the National Institutes of Health to K. Saudino. California Twin Program was supported by The California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (7RT-0134H, 8RT-0107H, 6RT-0354H) and the National Institutes of Health (1R01ESO15150-01). Chinese National Twin Registry is funded by Special Fund for Health Scientific Research in the Public Welfare (Project No: 201502006), China. Colorado Twin Registry is funded by NIDA funded center grant DA011015, & Longitudinal Twin Study HD10333; Author Huibregtse is supported by to 5T32DA017637-11. Danish Twin Registry is supported by the National Program for Research Infrastructure 2007 from the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation, The Research Council for Health and Disease, the Velux Foundation and the US National Institute of Health (P01 AG08761). Since its origin the East Flanders Prospective Survey has been partly supported by grants from the Fund of Scientific Research, Flanders and Twins, a non-profit Association for Scientific Research in Multiple Births (Belgium). Data collection and analyses in Finnish twin cohorts have been supported by ENGAGE-European Network for Genetic and Genomic Epidemiology, FP7-HEALTH-F4-2007, grant agreement number 201413, National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (grants AA-12502, AA-00145, and AA-09203 to RJ Rose, the Academy of Finland Center of Excellence in Complex Disease Genetics (grant numbers: 213506, 129680), and the Academy of Finland (grants 100499, 205585, 118555, 141054, 265240, 263278 and 264146 to J. Kaprio). K. Silventoinen is supported by Osaka University's International Joint Research Promotion Program. Gemini was supported by a grant from Cancer Research UK (C1418/A7974). Waves 1-3 of Genesis 12-19 were funded by the WT Grant Foundation, the University of London Central Research fund and a Medical Research Council Training Fellowship (G81/343) and Career Development Award (G120/635) to Thalia C. Eley. Wave 4 was supported by grants from the Economic and Social Research Council (RES-000-22-2206) and the Institute of Social Psychiatry (06/07-11) to Alice M. Gregory who was also supported at that time by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (RF/2/ RFG/2008/0145). Wave 5 was supported by funding to Alice M. Gregory from Goldsmiths, University of London. Guangzhou Twin Eye Study is supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant #81125007). Anthropometric measurements of the Hungarian twins were supported by Medexpert Ltd., Budapest, Hungary. Longitudinal Israeli Study of Twins was funded by the Starting Grant no. 240994 from the European Research Council (ERC) to Ariel Knafo. The Michigan State University Twin Registry has been supported by Michigan State University, as well as grants R01-MH081813, R01-MH0820-54, R01-MH092377-02, R21-MH070542-01, R03-MH63851-01 from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), R01-HD066040 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and 11-SPG-2518 from the MSU Foundation. The content of this manuscript is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIMH, the NICHD, or the National Institutes of Health. The NAS-NRC Twin Registry acknowledges financial support from the National Institutes of Health grant number R21 AG039572. Netherlands Twin Register acknowledges the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and MagW/ZonMW grants 904-61-090, 985-10-002, 912-10-020, 904-61-193,480-04-004, 463-06-001, 451-04-034, 400-05-717, Addiction-31160008, Middelgroot-911-09-032, Spinozapremie 56-464-14192; VU University's Institute for Health and Care Research (EMGO+ ); the European Research Council (ERC-230374), the Avera Institute, Sioux Falls, South Dakota (USA). PETS was supported by grants from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (grant numbers 437015 and 607358 to J.C. and R.S.), the Bonnie Babes Foundation (grant number BBF20704 to J.M.C.), the Financial Markets Foundation for Children (grant no. 032-2007 to J.M.C.), and by the Victorian Government's Operational Infrastructure Support Program. Madeira data comes from the following project: Genetic and environmental influences on physical activity, fitness and health: the Madeira family study Project reference: POCI/DES/56834/2004 Founded by the Portuguese agency for research (The Foundation for Science and Technology [FCT]). The Quebec Newborn Twin Study acknowledges financial support from the Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Société et la Culture, the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the National Health Research Development Program, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Sainte- Justine Hospital's Research Center, and the Canada Research Chair Program (Michel Boivin). South Korea Twin Registry is supported by National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-371-2011-1 B00047). The Texas Twin Project is currently funded by grants AA023322 and HD081437 from the National Institutes of Health. The Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) is supported by a program grant (G0901245) from the UK Medical Research Council and the work on obesity in TEDS is supported in part by a grant from the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (31/D19086). S.Y. Öncel and F. Aliev are supported by Kirikkale University Research Grant: KKU, 2009/43 and TUBITAK grant 114C117. TwinsUK was funded by the Wellcome Trust; European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013). The study also receives support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) BioResource Clinical Research Facility and Biomedical Research Centre based at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and King's College London. The University of Southern California Twin Study is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH58354). Washington State Twin Registry (formerly the University of Washington Twin Registry) was supported in part by grant NIH RC2 HL103416 (D. Buchwald, PI). The West Japan Twins and Higher Order Multiple Births Registry was supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (B) (grant number 15H05105) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.


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