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Whether monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins differ from each other in a variety of phenotypes is important for genetic twin modeling and for inferences made from twin studies in general. We analyzed whether there were differences in individual, maternal and paternal education between MZ and DZ twins in a large pooled dataset. Information was gathered on individual education for 218,362 adult twins from 27 twin cohorts (53% females; 39% MZ twins), and on maternal and paternal education for 147,315 and 143,056 twins respectively, from 28 twin cohorts (52% females; 38% MZ twins). Together, we had information on individual or parental education from 42 twin cohorts representing 19 countries. The original education classifications were transformed to education years and analyzed using linear regression models. Overall, MZ males had 0.26 (95% CI [0.21, 0.31]) years and MZ females 0.17 (95% CI [0.12, 0.21]) years longer education than DZ twins. The zygosity difference became smaller in more recent birth cohorts for both males and females. Parental education was somewhat longer for fathers of DZ twins in cohorts born in 1990–1999 (0.16 years, 95% CI [0.08, 0.25]) and 2000 or later (0.11 years, 95% CI [0.00, 0.22]), compared with fathers of MZ twins. The results show that the years of both individual and parental education are largely similar in MZ and DZ twins. We suggest that the socio-economic differences between MZ and DZ twins are so small that inferences based upon genetic modeling of twin data are not affected.
A trend toward greater body size in dizygotic (DZ) than in monozygotic (MZ) twins has been suggested by some but not all studies, and this difference may also vary by age. We analyzed zygosity differences in mean values and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) among male and female twins from infancy to old age. Data were derived from an international database of 54 twin cohorts participating in the COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins), and included 842,951 height and BMI measurements from twins aged 1 to 102 years. The results showed that DZ twins were consistently taller than MZ twins, with differences of up to 2.0 cm in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.9 cm in adulthood. Similarly, a greater mean BMI of up to 0.3 kg/m2 in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.2 kg/m2 in adulthood was observed in DZ twins, although the pattern was less consistent. DZ twins presented up to 1.7% greater height and 1.9% greater BMI than MZ twins; these percentage differences were largest in middle and late childhood and decreased with age in both sexes. The variance of height was similar in MZ and DZ twins at most ages. In contrast, the variance of BMI was significantly higher in DZ than in MZ twins, particularly in childhood. In conclusion, DZ twins were generally taller and had greater BMI than MZ twins, but the differences decreased with age in both sexes.
For over 100 years, the genetics of human anthropometric traits has attracted scientific interest. In particular, height and body mass index (BMI, calculated as kg/m2) have been under intensive genetic research. However, it is still largely unknown whether and how heritability estimates vary between human populations. Opportunities to address this question have increased recently because of the establishment of many new twin cohorts and the increasing accumulation of data in established twin cohorts. We started a new research project to analyze systematically (1) the variation of heritability estimates of height, BMI and their trajectories over the life course between birth cohorts, ethnicities and countries, and (2) to study the effects of birth-related factors, education and smoking on these anthropometric traits and whether these effects vary between twin cohorts. We identified 67 twin projects, including both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins, using various sources. We asked for individual level data on height and weight including repeated measurements, birth related traits, background variables, education and smoking. By the end of 2014, 48 projects participated. Together, we have 893,458 height and weight measures (52% females) from 434,723 twin individuals, including 201,192 complete twin pairs (40% monozygotic, 40% same-sex dizygotic and 20% opposite-sex dizygotic) representing 22 countries. This project demonstrates that large-scale international twin studies are feasible and can promote the use of existing data for novel research purposes.
The Berlin Twin Registry has its focus on health research. It is operated as a private company, making twin studies available to academic institutions as well as commercial partners in the area of biotechnology and nutrition. Recruitment is based on invitation in the context of mass media coverage of scientific results. Phenotyping in the unselected twin subjects is directed toward intermediate phenotypes that can bear on common diseases. These phenotypes include proteomic approaches and gene expression. Some results are briefly described to give an impression of the range of research topics and related opportunities for retrospective and prospective collaborative research.
The Berlin Twin Registry began as a short-term local project and developed into a resource that now serves partners throughout Germany and Europe. A twin registry as a private company is a different approach with pros and cons. Compared to academic institutions, there are greater flexibilities in collaborations, as well as acquisition and use of research funds. Recruitment is based on invitation in the context of the mass media coverage of scientific results. Phenotyping in normal twin subjects is concentrated on intermediate phenotypes that can bear on common diseases. These phenotypes include proteomic approaches and gene expression. Some results are briefly described to give an impression of the range of research topics and related opportunities for retrospective and prospective collaborative research.
We tested the hypothesis that blood pressure (BP) responses
to physical and mental stress are associated with polymorphisms
in the β-2 adrenergic receptor (AR) gene. We studied
normotensive, young, monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ)
twins. The subjects underwent automated BP measurements
at the brachial and digital arteries and were subjected
to mental arithmetic and cold pressor stress. We used allele-specific
PCR to genotype four single nucleotide polymorphisms in
the β-2 AR gene. The most functionally relevant polymorphism
in the β-2 AR gene, Arg16/Gly, was associated with
systolic and diastolic BP under resting conditions, during
mental arithmetic, and during the cold pressor test, as
well as with the increase in diastolic BP during both forms
of stress. These findings support a role for the β-2
AR gene in BP regulation. They also indicate that the β-2
AR gene influences the level of not only resting but also
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