Estimates of genetic and environmental contribution to 43 quantitative traits support sharing of a homogeneous environment in an isolated population from South Tyrol, Italy
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As part of the genomic health care program 'GenNova', we measured 43 quantitative traits in 1,136 subjects living in three isolated villages in South Tyrol (Italy), for which extended genealogical information was available. Thirty-seven of the studied traits had been previously investigated in other populations, while six of them are, to the best of our knowledge, studied here for the first time. For all 43 traits we estimated narrow-sense heritability, individual-specific environmental effects, and shared environmental effects. Estimates of narrow-sense heritability were in good agreement with previous findings. We found significant heritability for all traits; after correcting for multiple testing, all traits except serum concentration of glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase (GOT) and potassium still showed significant heritability. In contrast, the effect of living in the same sibship or village (the so-called sibship and household effects, respectively) was significant for a few traits only, and after correcting for multiple testing no trait showed significant shared environment effect. We suggest that the sharing of a highly similar environment by the subjects included in this study explains the low contribution of the household effects to the overall trait variation. This peculiarity should provide an advantage in gene-mapping projects by reducing environmental bias.