Genetics of human body size and shape: Pleiotropic and independent genetic determinants of adiposity

G. Livshits, K. Yakovenko, E. Ginsburg, E. Kobyliansky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study utilized pedigree data from three ethnically different populations of Kirghizstan, Turkmenia and Chuvasha. Principal component analysis was performed on a matrix of genetic correlations between 22 measures of adiposity, including skinfolds, circumferences and indices. Findings are summarized as follows: (1) All three genetic matrices were not positive definite and the first four factors retained even after exclusion RG ≥ 1.0, explained from 88% to 97% of the total additive genetic variation in the 22 traits studied. This clearly emphasizes the massive involvement of pleiotropic gene effects in the variability of adiposity traits. (2) Despite the quite natural differences in pairwise correlations between the adiposity traits in the three ethnically different samples under study, factor analysis revealed a common basic pattern of covariability for the adiposity traits. In each of the three samples, four genetic factors were retained, namely, the amount of subcutaneous fat, the total body obesity, the pattern of distribution of subcutaneous fat and the central adiposity distribution. (3) Genetic correlations between the retained four factors were virtually non-existent, suggesting that several independent genetic sources may be governing the variation of adiposity traits. (4) Variance decomposition analysis on the obtained genetic factors leaves no doubt regarding the substantial familial and (most probably genetic) effects on variation of each factor in each studied population. The similarity of results in the three different samples indicates that the findings may be deemed valid and reliable descriptions of the genetic variation and covariation pattern of adiposity traits in the human species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-236
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of Human Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998


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