Heritability of Type 2 Diabetes in the Washington State Twin Registry

Approximately 12% of U.S. adults have type 2 diabetes (T2D). Diagnosed T2D is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors including age and lifestyle. In adults 45 years and older, the Discordant Twin (DISCOTWIN) consortium of twin registries from Europe and Australia showed a moderate-to-high contribution of genetic factors of T2D with a pooled heritability of 72%. The purpose of this study was to investigate the contributions of genetic and environmental factors of T2D in twins 45 years and older in a U.S. twin cohort (Washington State Twin Registry, WSTR) and compare the estimates to the DISCOTWIN consortium. We also compared these estimates with twins under the age of 45. Data were obtained from 2692 monozygotic (MZ) and same-sex dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs over 45 and 4217 twin pairs under 45 who responded to the question ‘Has a doctor ever diagnosed you with (type 2) diabetes?’ Twin similarity was analyzed using both tetrachoric correlations and structural equation modeling. Overall, 9.4% of MZ and 14.7% of DZ twins over the age of 45 were discordant for T2D in the WSTR, compared to 5.1% of MZ and 8% of DZ twins in the DISCOTWIN consortium. Unlike the DISCOTWIN consortium in which heritability was 72%, heritability was only 52% in the WSTR. In twins under the age of 45, heritability did not contribute to the variance in T2D. In a U.S. sample of adult twins, environmental factors appear to be increasingly important in the development of T2D.

Avery AR, Duncan GE. Heritability of Type 2 Diabetes in the Washington State Twin Registry. Twin Res Hum Genet. 2019 Apr;22(2):95-98. PMC6557115.