Cigarette smoking behavior may have a genetic basis. We assessed evidence for quantitative trait loci (QTLs) affecting the maximum number of cigarettes smoked per day, a trait meant to quantify this behavior, using data collected over 40 years as part of the Framingham Heart Study's original and offspring cohorts. Heritability was estimated to be approximately 21% using variance components (VC) methods (SOLAR), while oligogenic linkage and segregation analysis based on Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods (LOKI) estimated a mean of two large QTLs contributing approximately 28% and 20%, respectively, to the trait's variance. Genome-wide parametric (FASTLINK) and VC linkage analyses (SOLAR) revealed several LOD scores greater than 1.0, with peak LOD scores using both methods on chromosomes 2, 17, and 20; multi-point MCMC methods followed up on these chromosomes. The most robust linkage results were for a QTL between 65 and 84 cM on chromosome 20 with signals from multiple sex- and age-adjusted analyses including two-point LOD scores of 1.30 (parametric) and 1.07 (heritability = 0.17, VC) at 70.51 cM, a multi-point LOD score of 1.50 (heritability = 0.20, VC) at 84 cM, and an intensity ratio of 12.0 (MCMC) at 65 cM. Familial aggregation of the maximum number of cigarettes smoked per day was consistent with a genetic component to this behavior, and oligogenic segregation analyses using MCMC suggested two important QTLs. Linkage signals on chromosome 20 between 65 and 84 cM were seen using multiple analytical methods. No linkage result, however, met genome-wide statistical significance criteria, and the true relationship between these regions and smoking behavior remains unclear.
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