Recent genome-wide association (GWA) studies have identified dozens of common variants associated with adult height. However, it is unknown how these variants influence height growth during childhood. We derived peak height velocity in infancy (PHV1) and puberty (PHV2) and timing of pubertal height growth spurt from parametric growth curves fitted to longitudinal height growth data to test their association with known height variants. The study consisted of N = 3,538 singletons from the prospective Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 with genotype data and frequent height measurements (on average 20 measurements per person) from 0–20 years. Twenty-six of the 48 variants tested associated with adult height (p<0.05, adjusted for sex and principal components) in this sample, all in the same direction as in previous GWA scans. Seven SNPs in or near the genes HHIP, DLEU7, UQCC, SF3B4/SV2A, LCORL, and HIST1H1D associated with PHV1 and five SNPs in or near SOCS2, SF3B4/SV2A, C17orf67, CABLES1, and DOT1L with PHV2 (p<0.05). We formally tested variants for interaction with age (infancy versus puberty) and found biologically meaningful evidence for an age-dependent effect for the SNP in SOCS2 (p = 0.0030) and for the SNP in HHIP (p = 0.045). We did not have similar prior evidence for the association between height variants and timing of pubertal height growth spurt as we had for PHVs, and none of the associations were statistically significant after correction for multiple testing. The fact that in this sample, less than half of the variants associated with adult height had a measurable effect on PHV1 or PHV2 is likely to reflect limited power to detect these associations in this dataset. Our study is the first genetic association analysis on longitudinal height growth in a prospective cohort from birth to adulthood and gives grounding for future research on the genetic regulation of human height during different periods of growth.
Family studies have shown that adult height is largely genetically determined. Identification of common genetic factors has been expedited with recent advances in genotyping techniques. However, factors regulating childhood height growth remain unclear. We investigated genetic variants of adult height for associations with peak height velocity in infancy (PHV1) and puberty (PHV2) and timing of pubertal growth spurt in a population based sample of 3,538 Finns born in 1966. Most variants studied associated with adult height in this sample. Of the 48 genetic variants tested, seven of them associated with PHV1 and five with PHV2. However, only one of these associated with both, and we found suggestive evidence for differential effects at different stages of growth for some of the variants. In this sample, less than half of the variants associated with adult height had a measurable effect on PHV1 or PHV2. However, these differences may reflect lower statistical power to detect associations with height velocities compared to adult height. This study provides a foundation for further biological investigation into the genes acting at each stage of height growth.