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Genome-wide association study identifies 74 loci associated with educational attainment

Okbay, Aysu and Beauchamp, Jonathan P and Fontana, Mark Alan and Lee, James J and Pers, Tune H and Rietveld, Cornelius A and Turley, Patrick and Chen, Guo-Bo and Emilsson, Valur and Meddens, S Fleur W and Oskarsson, Sven and Pickrell, Joseph K and Thom, Kevin and Timshel, Pascal and de Vlaming, Ronald and Abdellaoui, Abdel and Ahluwalia, Tarunveer S and Bacelis, Jonas and Baumbach, Clemens and Bjornsdottir, Gyda and Brandsma, Johannes H and Pina Concas, Maria and Derringer, Jaime and Furlotte, Nicholas A and Galesloot, Tessel E and Girotto, Giorgia and Gupta, Richa and Hall, Leanne M and Harris, Sarah E and Hofer, Edith and Horikoshi, Momoko and Huffman, Jennifer E and Kaasik, Kadri and Kalafati, Ioanna P and Karlsson, Robert and Kong, Augustine and Lahti, Jari and Lee, Sven J van der and deLeeuw, Christiaan and Lind, Penelope A and Lindgren, Karl-Oskar and Liu, Tian and Mangino, Massimo and Marten, Jonathan and Mihailov, Evelin and Miller, Michael B and van der Most, Peter J and Oldmeadow, Christopher and Payton, Antony and Pervjakova, Natalia and Peyrot, Wouter J and Qian, Yong and Raitakari, Olli and Rueedi, Rico and Salvi, Erika and Schmidt, Börge and Schraut, Katharina E and Shi, Jianxin and Smith, Albert V and Poot, Raymond A and St Pourcain, Beate and Teumer, Alexander and Thorleifsson, Gudmar and Verweij, Niek and Vuckovic, Dragana and Wellmann, Juergen and Westra, Harm-Jan and Yang, Jingyun and Zhao, Wei and Zhu, Zhihong and Alizadeh, Behrooz Z and Amin, Najaf and Bakshi, Andrew and Baumeister, Sebastian E and Biino, Ginevra and Bønnelykke, Klaus and Boyle, Patricia A and Campbell, Harry and Cappuccio, Francesco P and Davies, Gail and De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel and Deloukas, Panos and Demuth, Ilja and Ding, Jun and Eibich, Peter and Eisele, Lewin and Eklund, Niina and Evans, David M and Faul, Jessica D and Feitosa, Mary F and Forstner, Andreas J and Gandin, Ilaria and Gunnarsson, Bjarni and Halldórsson, Bjarni V and Harris, Tamara B and Heath, Andrew C and Hocking, Lynne J and Holliday, Elizabeth G and Homuth, Georg and Horan, Michael A and Hottenga, Jouke-Jan and de Jager, Philip L and Joshi, Peter K and Jugessur, Astanand and Kaakinen, Marika A and Kähönen, Mika and Kanoni, Stavroula and Keltigangas-Järvinen, Liisa and Kiemeney, Lambertus ALM and Kolcic, Ivana and Koskinen, Seppo and Kraja, Aldi T and Kroh, Martin and Kutalik, Zoltan and Latvala, Antti and Launer, Lenore J and Lebreton, Maël P and Levinson, Douglas F and Lichtenstein, Paul and Lichtner, Peter and Liewald, David CM and Cohort Study, LifeLines and Loukola, Anu and Madden, Pamela A and Mägi, Reedik and Mäki-Opas, Tomi and Marioni, Riccardo E and Marques-Vidal, Pedro and Meddens, Gerardus A and McMahon, George and Meisinger, Christa and Meitinger, Thomas and Milaneschi, Yusplitri and Milani, Lili and Montgomery, Grant W and Myhre, Ronny and Nelson, Christopher P and Nyholt, Dale R and Ollier, William ER and Palotie, Aarno and Paternoster, Lavinia and Pedersen, Nancy L and Petrovic, Katja E and Porteous, David J and Räikkönen, Katri and Ring, Susan M and Robino, Antonietta and Rostapshova, Olga and Rudan, Igor and Rustichini, Aldo and Salomaa, Veikko and Sanders, Alan R and Sarin, Antti-Pekka and Schmidt, Helena and Scott, Rodney J and Smith, Blair H and Smith, Jennifer A and Staessen, Jan A and Steinhagen-Thiessen, Elisabeth and Strauch, Konstantin and Terracciano, Antonio and Tobin, Martin D and Ulivi, Sheila and Vaccargiu, Simona and Quaye, Lydia and van Rooij, Frank JA and Venturini, Cristina and Vinkhuyzen, Anna AE and Völker, Uwe and Völzke, Henry and Vonk, Judith M and Vozzi, Diego and Waage, Johannes and Ware, Erin B and Willemsen, Gonneke and Attia, John R and Bennett, David A and Berger, Klaus and Bertram, Lars and Bisgaard, Hans and Boomsma, Dorret I and Borecki, Ingrid B and Bültmann, Ute and Chabris, Christopher F and Cucca, Francesco and Cusi, Daniele and Deary, Ian J and Dedoussis, George V and van Duijn, Cornelia M and Eriksson, Johan G and Franke, Barbara and Franke, Lude and Gasparini, Paolo and Gejman, Pablo V and Gieger, Christian and Grabe, Hans-Jörgen and Gratten, Jacob and Groenen, Patrick JF and Gudnason, Vilmundur and van der Harst, Pim and Hayward, Caroline and Hinds, David A and Hoffmann, Wolfgang and Hyppönen, Elina and Iacono, William G and Jacobsson, Bo and Järvelin, Marjo-Riitta and Jöckel, Karl-Heinz and Kaprio, Jaakko and Kardia, Sharon LR and Lehtimäki, Terho and Lehrer, Steven F and Magnusson, Patrik KE and Martin, Nicholas G and McGue, Matt and Metspalu, Andres and Pendleton, Neil and Penninx, Brenda WJH and Perola, Markus and Pirastu, Nicola and Pirastu, Mario and Polasek, Ozren and Posthuma, Danielle and Power, Christine and Province, Michael A and Samani, Nilesh J and Schlessinger, David and Schmidt, Reinhold and Sørensen, Thorkild IA and Spector, Tim D and Stefansson, Kari and Thorsteinsdottir, Unnur and Thurik, A Roy and Timpson, Nicholas J and Tiemeier, Henning and Tung, Joyce Y and Uitterlinden, André G and Vitart, Veronique and Vollenweider, Peter and Weir, David R and Wilson, James F and Wright, Alan F and Conley, Dalton C and Krueger, Robert F and Davey Smith, George and Hofman, Albert and Laibson, David I and Medland, Sarah E and Meyer, Michelle N and Yang, Jian and Johannesson, Magnus and Visscher, Peter M and Esko, Tõnu and Koellinger, Philipp D and Cesarini, David and Benjamin, Daniel J (2016) Genome-wide association study identifies 74 loci associated with educational attainment. Nature, 533. pp. 539-542. ISSN 0028-0836


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Educational attainment is strongly influenced by social and other environmental factors, but genetic factors are estimated to account for at least 20% of the variation across individuals1. Here we report the results of a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for educational attainment that extends our earlier discovery sample1,2 of 101,069 individuals to 293,723 individuals, and a replication study in an independent sample of 111,349 individuals from the UK Biobank. We identify 74 genome-wide significant loci associated with the number of years of schooling completed. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with educational attainment are disproportionately found in genomic regions regulating gene expression in the fetal brain. Candidate genes are preferentially expressed in neural tissue, especially during the prenatal period, and enriched for biological pathways involved in neural development. Our findings demonstrate that, even for a behavioural phenotype that is mostly environmentally determined, a well-powered GWAS identifies replicable associated genetic variants that suggest biologically relevant pathways. Because educational attainment is measured in large numbers of individuals, it will continue to be useful as a proxy phenotype in efforts to characterize the genetic influences of related phenotypes, including cognition and neuropsychiatric diseases.

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