Seemingly unrelated biological traits, such as the risk of schizophrenia and of inflammatory bowel disease, can be linked to the same gene variants.

One version of a gene can affect multiple traits, but identifying whether a specific gene variant affects two unrelated pathways has been difficult. Joseph Pickrell of the New York Genome Center and his team analysed data from 43 genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that correlated gene variants with traits such as height, nose size and neurological disorders. They found several clusters of traits that shared common genetic roots, such as one associated with lower body-mass index, increased height and reduced risk of male pattern baldness.

Considering data from many traits is important when studying the effect of a genetic variant, the authors say.

Nature Genet. (2016)