Behavior Genetics

, Volume 44, Issue 5, pp 445–455 | Cite as

Resolving the Effects of Maternal and Offspring Genotype on Dyadic Outcomes in Genome Wide Complex Trait Analysis (“M-GCTA”)

  • Lindon J. EavesEmail author
  • Beate St. Pourcain
  • George Davey Smith
  • Timothy P. York
  • David M. Evans
Original Research


Genome wide complex trait analysis (GCTA) is extended to include environmental effects of the maternal genotype on offspring phenotype (“maternal effects”, M-GCTA). The model includes parameters for the direct effects of the offspring genotype, maternal effects and the covariance between direct and maternal effects. Analysis of simulated data, conducted in OpenMx, confirmed that model parameters could be recovered by full information maximum likelihood (FIML) and evaluated the biases that arise in conventional GCTA when indirect genetic effects are ignored. Estimates derived from FIML in OpenMx showed very close agreement to those obtained by restricted maximum likelihood using the published algorithm for GCTA. The method was also applied to illustrative perinatal phenotypes from ~4,000 mother-offspring pairs from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. The relative merits of extended GCTA in contrast to quantitative genetic approaches based on analyzing the phenotypic covariance structure of kinships are considered.


Maternal effects Genome wide complex trait analysis GCTA Twins Heritability Bias Genetic relatedness Covariance Environment SNPs 



This work was partly conducted in the Medical Research Council Integrative Epidemiology Unit, a research unit supported by the Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12013 to GDS). The study was supported by a Benjamin Meaker visiting professorship at the University of Bristol Institute for Advanced Studies, UK (LJE), an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT130101709, DME), a Medical Research Council Programme Grant (MC_UU_12013/4, DME), National Institute of Health grants P60MD002256 (York, Eaves) and R01AA018333 (Eaves, York) and an Autism Speaks grant (7132,BStP). We thank Peter Visscher and Matthew Robinson for insightful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. We are extremely grateful to all the families who took part in the study, the midwives for their help in recruiting them, and the whole ALSPAC team, which includes interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists and nurses. The UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (Grant ref: 092731) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. This publication is the work of the authors and D.M.E will serve as guarantor for the contents of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindon J. Eaves
    • 1
    Email author
  • Beate St. Pourcain
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • George Davey Smith
    • 2
    • 5
  • Timothy P. York
    • 1
  • David M. Evans
    • 2
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Human and Molecular Genetics, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral GeneticsVirginia Commonwealth University School of MedicineRichmondUSA
  2. 2.MRC Integrative Epidemiology UnitUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  3. 3.School of Oral and Dental SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  4. 4.School of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  5. 5.School of Social and Community MedicineUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  6. 6.Translational Research InstituteUniversity of Queensland Diamantina InstituteBrisbaneAustralia

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