Nature Reviews Genetics 10, 872-878 (December 2009) | doi:10.1038/nrg2670
Corrected online: 06 November 2009

There is a Corrigendum (1 December 2009) associated with this article.

Article series: Genome-wide association studies

OpinionCommon disorders are quantitative traits

Robert Plomin1, Claire M. A. Haworth1 & Oliver S. P. Davis1  About the authors


After drifting apart for 100 years, the two worlds of genetics — quantitative genetics and molecular genetics — are finally coming together in genome-wide association (GWA) research, which shows that the heritability of complex traits and common disorders is due to multiple genes of small effect size. We highlight a polygenic framework, supported by recent GWA research, in which qualitative disorders can be interpreted simply as being the extremes of quantitative dimensions. Research that focuses on quantitative traits — including the low and high ends of normal distributions — could have far-reaching implications for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the problematic extremes of these traits.

Author affiliations

  1. Robert Plomin, Claire M. A. Haworth and Oliver S. P. Davis are at the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London SE5 8AF, UK.

Correspondence to: Robert Plomin1 Email:

Published online 27 October 2009

* An incorrect version of this article was previously published online (publication date 27 October 2009). In the second paragraph of the 'Identifying quantitative mechanisms' section in this article, the history of genome-wide association (GWA) studies for type 2 diabetes was incorrectly described and a key reference was omitted. The corrected paragraph is shown below.
The authors apologize for this error.
For some traits, such as type 2 diabetes (T2D), a quantitative approach has already been embraced, with striking results9. Although the first T2D GWA studies were case–control studies (REF. 49, and subsequently other studies, for example, REF. 3), a wave of follow-up studies have focused on quantitative traits that are related to T2D, including levels of fasting glucose10 and C-reactive protein11, and glucose tolerance9. These studies are leading to refinements in the definition of T2D.
Reference 49 has now been added to the reference list.


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