Identification of Common Genetic Variants Influencing Spontaneous Dizygotic Twinning and Female Fertility

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Abstract

Spontaneous dizygotic (DZ) twinning occurs in 1%-4% of women, with familial clustering and unknown physiological pathways and genetic origin. DZ twinning might index increased fertility and has distinct health implications for mother and child. We performed a GWAS in 1,980 mothers of spontaneous DZ twins and 12,953 control subjects. Findings were replicated in a large Icelandic cohort and tested for association across a broad range of fertility traits in women. Two SNPs were identified (rs11031006 near FSHB, p = 1.54 × 10-9, and rs17293443 in SMAD3, p = 1.57 × 10-8) and replicated (p = 3 × 10-3 and p = 1.44 × 10-4, respectively). Based on ∼90,000 births in Iceland, the risk of a mother delivering twins increased by 18% for each copy of allele rs11031006-G and 9% for rs17293443-C. A higher polygenic risk score (PRS) for DZ twinning, calculated based on the results of the DZ twinning GWAS, was significantly associated with DZ twinning in Iceland (p = 0.001). A higher PRS was also associated with having children (p = 0.01), greater lifetime parity (p = 0.03), and earlier age at first child (p = 0.02). Allele rs11031006-G was associated with higher serum FSH levels, earlier age at menarche, earlier age at first child, higher lifetime parity, lower PCOS risk, and earlier age at menopause. Conversely, rs17293443-C was associated with later age at last child. We identified robust genetic risk variants for DZ twinning: one near FSHB and a second within SMAD3, the product of which plays an important role in gonadal responsiveness to FSH. These loci contribute to crucial aspects of reproductive capacity and health.

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Mbarek, H., Steinberg, S., Nyholt, D. R., Gordon, S. D., Miller, M. B., McRae, A. F., … Boomsma, D. I. (2016). Identification of Common Genetic Variants Influencing Spontaneous Dizygotic Twinning and Female Fertility. American Journal of Human Genetics, 98(5), 898–908. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2016.03.008

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