Mutagen sensitivity has high heritability: Evidence from a twin study

Xifeng Wu, Margaret R. Spitz, Christopher I. Amos, Jie Lin, Lina Shao, Jian Gu, Mariza De Andrade, Neal L. Benowitz, Peter G. Shields, Gary E. Swan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Despite numerous studies showing that mutagen sensitivity is a cancer predisposition factor, the heritability of mutagen sensitivity has not been clearly established. In this report, we used a classic twin study design to examine the role of genetic and environmental factors on the mutagen sensitivity phenotype. Mutagen sensitivity was measured in peripheral blood lymphocytes from 460 individuals [148 pairs of monozygotic (MZ) twins, 57 pairs of dizygotic (DZ) twins, and 50 siblings]. The intraclass correlation coefficients were all significantly higher in MZ twins than in dizygotes (DZ pairs and MZ-sibling pairs combined) for sensitivity to four different mutagen challenges. Applying biometric genetic modeling, we calculated a genetic heritability of 40.7%, 48.0%, 62.5%, and 58.8% for bleomycin, benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide, γ-radiation, and 4-nitroquinoline-1-oxide sensitivity, respectively. This study provides the strongest and most direct evidence that mutagen sensitivity is highly heritable, thereby validating the use of mutagen sensitivity as a cancer susceptibility factor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5993-5996
Number of pages4
JournalCancer research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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