Biologically Defined or Biologically Informed Traits Are More Heritable Than Clinically Defined Ones: The Case of Oral and Dental Phenotypes
The genetic basis of oral health has long been theorized, but little information exists on the heritable variance in common oral and dental disease traits explained by the human genome. We sought to add to the evidence base of heritability of oral and dental traits using high-density genotype data in a well-characterized community-based cohort of middle-age adults. We used genome-wide association (GWAS) data combined with clinical and biomarker information in the Dental Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities (ARIC) cohort. Genotypes comprised SNPs directly typed on the Affymetrix Genome-Wide Human SNP Array 6.0 chip with minor allele frequency of >5% (n = 656,292) or were imputed using HapMap II-CEU (n = 2,104,905). We investigated 30 traits including “global” [e.g., number of natural teeth (NT) and incident tooth loss], clinically defined (e.g., dental caries via the DMFS index, periodontitis via the CDC/AAP and WW17 classifications), and biologically informed (e.g., subgingival pathogen colonization and “complex” traits). Heritability (i.e., variance explained; h2) was calculated using Visscher’s Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis (GCTA), using a random-effects mixed linear model and restricted maximum likelihood (REML) regression adjusting for ancestry (10 principal components), age, and sex. Heritability estimates were modest for clinical traits—NT = 0.11 (se = 0.07), severe chronic periodontitis (CDC/AAP) = 0.22 (se = 0.19), WW17 Stage 4 vs. 1/2 = 0.15 (se = 0.11). “High gingival index” and “high red complex colonization” had h2 > 0.50, while a periodontal complex trait defined by high IL-1β GCF expression and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans subgingival colonization had the highest h2 = 0.72 (se = 0.32). Our results indicate that all GWAS SNPs explain modest levels of the observed variance in clinical oral and dental measures. Subgingival bacterial colonization and complex phenotypes encompassing both bacterial colonization and local inflammatory response had the highest heritability, suggesting that these biologically informed traits capture aspects of the disease process and are promising targets for genomics investigations, according to the notion of precision oral health.
Drs. Divaris and Agler are supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Health Research (NIH/NIDCR) U01-DE025046. Dr. Marchesan is supported by K01-DE027087.
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