Imprint of assortative mating on the human genome

Loic Yengo, Matthew R. Robinson, Matthew C. Keller, Kathryn E. Kemper, Yuanhao Yang, Maciej Trzaskowski, Jacob Gratten, Patrick Turley, David Cesarini, Daniel J. Benjamin, Naomi R. Wray, Michael E. Goddard, Jian Yang, Peter M. Visscher

    Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


    Preference for mates with similar phenotypes; that is, assortative mating, is widely observed in humans 1–5 and has evolutionary consequences 6–8 . Under Fisher's classical theory 6 , assortative mating is predicted to induce a signature in the genome at trait-associated loci that can be detected and quantified. Here, we develop and apply a method to quantify assortative mating on a specific trait by estimating the correlation (θ) between genetic predictors of the trait from single nucleotide polymorphisms on odd- versus even-numbered chromosomes. We show by theory and simulation that the effect of assortative mating can be quantified in the presence of population stratification. We applied this approach to 32 complex traits and diseases using single nucleotide polymorphism data from ~400,000 unrelated individuals of European ancestry. We found significant evidence of assortative mating for height (θ = 3.2%) and educational attainment (θ = 2.7%), both of which were consistent with theoretical predictions. Overall, our results imply that assortative mating involves multiple traits and affects the genomic architecture of loci that are associated with these traits, and that the consequence of mate choice can be detected from a random sample of genomes.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)948-954
    Number of pages7
    JournalNature human behaviour
    Issue number12
    StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Psychology
    • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
    • Behavioral Neuroscience


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