Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Identification of genetic variants with effects on trait variability can provide insights into the biological mechanisms that control variation and can identify potential interactions. We propose a two-degree-of-freedom test for jointly testing mean and variance effects to identify such variants. We implement the test in a linear mixed model, for which we provide an efficient algorithm and software. To focus on biologically interesting settings, we develop a test for dispersion effects, that is, variance effects not driven solely by mean effects when the trait distribution is non-normal. We apply our approach to body mass index in the subsample of the UK Biobank population with British ancestry (n ~408,000) and show that our approach can increase the power to detect associated loci. We identify and replicate novel associations with significant variance effects that cannot be explained by the non-normality of body mass index, and we provide suggestive evidence for a connection between leptin levels and body mass index variability.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Genet

Publication Date





1608 - 1614


Biological Specimen Banks, Body Composition, Body Mass Index, Body Weights and Measures, Epistasis, Genetic, Female, Gene-Environment Interaction, Genetic Loci, Genetic Variation, Genome-Wide Association Study, Humans, Male, Models, Genetic, Observer Variation, Phenotype, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Quantitative Trait Loci, Software, United Kingdom