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Polygenic Score × Intervention Moderation: An application of discrete-time survival analysis to modeling the timing of first tobacco use among urban youth

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 February 2015

Rashelle J. Musci*
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Katherine E. Masyn
Harvard University Graduate School of Education
George Uhl
NIH-IRP NIDA Molecular Neurobiology Branch
Brion Maher
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Sheppard G. Kellam
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Nicholas S. Ialongo
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Rashelle J. Musci, Department of Mental Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, 624 North Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205; E-mail:


The present study examines the interaction between a polygenic score and an elementary school-based universal preventive intervention trial. The polygenic score reflects the contribution of multiple genes and has been shown in prior research to be predictive of smoking cessation and tobacco use (Uhl et al., 2014). Using data from a longitudinal preventive intervention study, we examined age of first tobacco use from sixth grade to age 18. Genetic data were collected during emerging adulthood and were genotyped using the Affymetrix 6.0 microarray. The polygenic score was computed using these data. Discrete-time survival analysis was employed to test for intervention main and interaction effects with the polygenic score. We found a main effect of the intervention, with the intervention participants reporting their first cigarette smoked at an age significantly later than controls. We also found an Intervention × Polygenic Score interaction, with participants at the higher end of the polygenic score benefitting the most from the intervention in terms of delayed age of first use. These results are consistent with Belsky and colleagues' (e.g., Belsky, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & van IJzendoorn, 2007; Belsky & Pleuss, 2009, 2013; Ellis, Boyce, Belsky, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & van IJzendoorn, 2011) differential susceptibility hypothesis and the concept of “for better or worse,” wherein the expression of genetic variants are optimally realized in the context of an enriched environment, such as provided by a preventive intervention.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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