Insights and Implications of Genome-Wide Association Studies of Height

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2018 Sep 1;103(9):3155-3168. doi: 10.1210/jc.2018-01126.


Context: In the last decade, genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have catalyzed our understanding of the genetics of height and have identified hundreds of regions of the genome associated with adult height and other height-related body measurements.

Evidence acquisition: GWASs related to height were identified via PubMed search and a review of the GWAS catalog.

Evidence synthesis: The GWAS results demonstrate that height is highly polygenic: that is, many thousands of genetic variants distributed across the genome each contribute to an individual's height. These height-associated regions of the genome are enriched for genes in known biological pathways involved in growth, such as fibroblast growth factor signaling, as well as for genes expressed in relevant tissues, such as the growth plate. GWASs can also uncover previously unappreciated biological pathways, such as the STC2/PAPPA/IGFBP4 pathway. The genes implicated by GWASs are often the same genes that are the genetic causes of Mendelian growth disorders or skeletal dysplasias, and GWAS results can provide complementary information about these disorders.

Conclusions: Here, we review the rationale behind GWASs and what we have learned from GWASs for height, including how it has enhanced our understanding of the underlying biology of human growth. We also highlight the implications of GWASs in terms of prediction of adult height and our understanding of Mendelian growth disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Height / genetics*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Growth / genetics
  • Growth Disorders / genetics
  • Humans
  • Multifactorial Inheritance / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / genetics