Educational attainment is strongly influenced by social and other environmental factors, but genetic factors are estimated to account for at least 20% of the variation across individuals1. Here we report the results of a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for educational attainment that extends our earlier discovery sample1,2 of 101,069 individuals to 293,723 individuals, and a replication study in an independent sample of 111,349 individuals from the UK Biobank. We identify 74 genome-wide significant loci associated with the number of years of schooling completed. Singlenucleotide polymorphisms associated with educational attainment are disproportionately found in genomic regions regulating gene expression in the fetal brain. Candidate genes are referentially expressed in neural tissue, especially during the prenatal period, and enriched for biological pathways involved in neural development. Our findings demonstrate that, even for a behavioural phenotype that is mostly environmentally determined, a well-powered GWAS identifies replicable associated genetic variants that suggest biologically relevant pathways. Because educational attainment is measured in large numbers of individuals, it will continue to be useful as a proxy phenotype in efforts to characterize the genetic influences of related phenotypes, including cognition and neuropsychiatric diseases.
Aysu Okbay, Jonathan P. Beauchamp, Mark Alan Fontana, James J. Lee, Tune H. Pers, Cornelius A. Rietveld & Patrick Turley, et al. Genome-wide association study identifies 74 loci associated with educational attainment, doi:10.1038/nature17671.
The social science genetic association consortium
The Social Science Genetic Association Consortium (SSGAC), aim to bring together the expertise of medical geneticists and social scientists to study how a range of health-relevant outcomes are influenced by specific genetic variants, the environment (including lifestyle), and their interaction. In accessing the U.K. Biobank data, we are specifically interested in the following health-relevant outcomes: cognitive function, dementia, depression, smoking, and alcohol drinking.
Our research will contribute to quantifying how several risk factors (e.g. lifestyle, environment, genes), both separately and in combination, influence public health and well-being. Incorporating insights from the social sciences and investigating social scientific outcomes helps to achieve this objective. For example, a GWAS on subjective well-being in a very large sample could identify genetic factors associated with (absence of) depression that would not be possible to identify by studying depression directly in a much smaller sample.
1. Aysu Okbay, Jonathan P. Beauchamp, Mark Alan Fontana, James J. Lee, Tune H. Pers, Cornelius A. Rietveld & Patrick Turley, et al. Genome-wide association study identifies 74 loci associated with educational attainment, doi:10.1038/nature17671
2. Aysu Okbay, Bart M L Baselmans, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Patrick Turley, Michel G Nivard, Mark Alan Fontana, S Fleur W Meddens, Richard Karlsson Linn r & Cornelius A Rietveld, et al. Genetic variants associated with subjective well-being, depressive symptoms, and neuroticism identified through genome-wide analyses.
|Lead investigator:||Daniel Benjamin|
|Lead institution:||University of Southern California|