Heritability in the genomics era--concepts and misconceptions

Nat Rev Genet. 2008 Apr;9(4):255-66. doi: 10.1038/nrg2322. Epub 2008 Mar 4.


Heritability allows a comparison of the relative importance of genes and environment to the variation of traits within and across populations. The concept of heritability and its definition as an estimable, dimensionless population parameter was introduced by Sewall Wright and Ronald Fisher nearly a century ago. Despite continuous misunderstandings and controversies over its use and application, heritability remains key to the response to selection in evolutionary biology and agriculture, and to the prediction of disease risk in medicine. Recent reports of substantial heritability for gene expression and new estimation methods using marker data highlight the relevance of heritability in the genomics era.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Biological Evolution
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Genomics*
  • Humans
  • Inbreeding
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable
  • Regression Analysis
  • Selection, Genetic