Heritability estimates of innate immunity: an extended twin study

Genes Immun. 2005 Mar;6(2):167-70. doi: 10.1038/sj.gene.6364162.


Cytokines are key players in numerous inflammatory processes. Demonstration of a heritable component in the variation of cytokine production would indicate that simultaneous occurrence of conditions might be caused by a heritable inflammatory characteristic. We applied an extended twin study approach to assess heritability estimates of interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-1ra, IL-10, IL-6, and TNF-alpha production capacity after ex vivo stimulation with lipopolysaccharide. Cytokine production capacity was assessed in 42 monozygotic pairs, 52 dizygotic pairs, one trizygotic triplet, 33 single twins, and 83 additional siblings. Heritability estimates were derived from variance decomposition models using maximum likelihood estimation. For all cytokines, over 50% of the variance was genetically determined. IL-1ra and TNF-alpha had the lowest heritability estimate of 53%. Estimates for IL-6 and IL-10 were 57 and 62%, respectively. IL-1beta had the highest estimate of 86%. We conclude that the production of cytokines is under tight genetic control.

Publication types

  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cytokines / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics*
  • Male
  • Twins, Dizygotic / genetics
  • Twins, Dizygotic / immunology
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics
  • Twins, Monozygotic / immunology


  • Cytokines