Dominance genetic variation contributes little to the missing heritability for human complex traits

Am J Hum Genet. 2015 Mar 5;96(3):377-85. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2015.01.001. Epub 2015 Feb 12.


For human complex traits, non-additive genetic variation has been invoked to explain "missing heritability," but its discovery is often neglected in genome-wide association studies. Here we propose a method of using SNP data to partition and estimate the proportion of phenotypic variance attributed to additive and dominance genetic variation at all SNPs (hSNP(2) and δSNP(2)) in unrelated individuals based on an orthogonal model where the estimate of hSNP(2) is independent of that of δSNP(2). With this method, we analyzed 79 quantitative traits in 6,715 unrelated European Americans. The estimate of δSNP(2) averaged across all the 79 quantitative traits was 0.03, approximately a fifth of that for additive variation (average hSNP(2) = 0.15). There were a few traits that showed substantial estimates of δSNP(2), none of which were replicated in a larger sample of 11,965 individuals. We further performed genome-wide association analyses of the 79 quantitative traits and detected SNPs with genome-wide significant dominance effects only at the ABO locus for factor VIII and von Willebrand factor. All these results suggest that dominance variation at common SNPs explains only a small fraction of phenotypic variation for human complex traits and contributes little to the missing narrow-sense heritability problem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phenotype*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*
  • White People / genetics