Estimating Uterine Fibroid SNP-Based Heritability in European American Women with Imaging-Confirmed Fibroids

Hum Hered. 2019;84(2):73-81. doi: 10.1159/000501335. Epub 2019 Sep 3.


Background: Heritability estimates (including twin and single nucleotide polymorphism [SNP]-based heritability studies) for fibroids have been inconsistent across prior studies ranging between 9 and 69%. These inconsistencies are due to variations in study design and included populations. A major design issue has been lack of imaging confirmation to identify controls, where asymptomatic women without imaging confirmation may be misclassified as controls leading to an attenuation of heritability estimates. To reconcile the differences in prior heritability estimates and the impact of misclassification of controls on heritability, we determined SNP-based heritability and characterized the genetic architecture of pelvic image-confirmed fibroid cases and controls.

Methods: Analyses were performed among women of European American descent using genome-wide SNP data from BioVU, a clinical database composed of DNA linked to de-identified electronic health records. We estimated the genetic variance explained by all SNPs using Genome-Wide Complex Trait Analysis on imputed data. Fibroid cases and controls were identified using a previously reported phenotyping algorithm that required pelvic imaging confirmation.

Results: In total, we used 1,067 image-confirmed fibroid cases and 1,042 image-confirmed fibroid controls. The SNP-based heritability estimate for fibroid risk was h2 = 0.33 ± 0.18 (p = 0.040). We investigated the relationship between heritability per chromosome and chromosome length (r2 < 1%), with chromosome 8 explaining the highest proportion of variance for fibroid risk. There was no enrichment for intergenic or genic SNPs for the fibroid SNP-based heritability. Excluding loci previously associated with fibroid risk from genome-wide association study did not attenuate fibroid heritability suggesting that loci associating with fibroid risk are yet to be discovered.

Conclusions: We observed that fibroid SNP-based heritability was higher than the previous estimate using genome-wide SNP data that relied on self-reported outcomes, but within the range of prior twin pair studies. Furthermore, these data support that imprecise phenotyping can significantly affect the ability to estimate heritability using genotype data.

Keywords: Genome-wide SNP data; Heritability; Leiomyomata; Ultrasound; Uterus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Chromosomes, Human / genetics
  • DNA, Intergenic / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Inheritance Patterns / genetics*
  • Leiomyoma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Leiomyoma / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics*
  • Whites*


  • DNA, Intergenic