Common SNPs explain some of the variation in the personality dimensions of neuroticism and extraversion

A. A.E. Vinkhuyzen, N. L. Pedersen, J. Yang, S. H. Lee, P. K.E. Magnusson, W. G. Iacono, M. McGue, P. A.F. Madden, A. C. Heath, M. Luciano, A. Payton, M. Horan, W. Ollier, N. Pendleton, I. J. Deary, G. W. Montgomery, N. G. Martin, P. M. Visscher, N. R. Wray

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The personality traits of neuroticism and extraversion are predictive of a number of social and behavioural outcomes and psychiatric disorders. Twin and family studies have reported moderate heritability estimates for both traits. Few associations have been reported between genetic variants and neuroticism/extraversion, but hardly any have been replicated. Moreover, the ones that have been replicated explain only a small proportion of the heritability (< ∼2%). Using genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data from ∼12 000 unrelated individuals we estimated the proportion of phenotypic variance explained by variants in linkage disequilibrium with common SNPs as 0.06 (s.e. = 0.03) for neuroticism and 0.12 (s.e. = 0.03) for extraversion. In an additional series of analyses in a family-based sample, we show that while for both traits ∼45% of the phenotypic variance can be explained by pedigree data (that is, expected genetic similarity) one third of this can be explained by SNP data (that is, realized genetic similarity). A part of the so-called missing heritability has now been accounted for, but some of the reported heritability is still unexplained. Possible explanations for the remaining missing heritability are that: (i) rare variants that are not captured by common SNPs on current genotype platforms make a major contribution; and/ or (ii) the estimates of narrow sense heritability from twin and family studies are biased upwards, for example, by not properly accounting for nonadditive genetic factors and/or (common) environmental factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number201227
JournalTranslational psychiatry
StatePublished - 2012


  • GCTA
  • complex traits
  • genome-wide
  • polymorphisms
  • variance


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