An exploration of gene-environment interaction and asthma in a large sample of 5-year-old Dutch twins.

C.E.M. van Beijsterveldt, D.I. Boomsma

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A consistent finding from twin studies is that the environment shared by family members does not contribute to the variation in susceptibility to asthma. At the same time, it is known that environmental risk factors that are shared by family members are associated with the liability for asthma. We hypothesize that the absence of a main effect of shared environmental factors in twin studies can be explained by gene-environment interaction, that is, that the effect of an environmental factor shared by family members depends on the genotype of the individual. We explore this hypothesis by modeling the resemblance in asthma liability in twin pairs as a function of various environmental risk factors and test for gene-environment interaction. Asthma data were obtained by parental report for nearly 12,000 5-year-old twin pairs. A series of environmental risk factors was examined: birth cohort, gestational age, time spent in incubator, breastfeeding, maternal educational level, maternal smoking during pregnancy, current smoking of parents, having older siblings, and amount of child care outside home. Results revealed that being a boy, born in the 1990s, premature birth, longer incubator time, and child care outside home increased the risk for asthma. With the exception of premature birth, however, none of these factors modified the genetic effects on asthma. In very premature children shared environmental influences were important. In children born after a gestation of 32 weeks or more only genetic factors were important to explain familial resemblance for asthma.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-149
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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