Trends in genetics : TIG

Sex differences in disease genetics: evidence, evolution, and detection.

PMID 25239223


Understanding the genetic architecture of disease is an enormous challenge, and should be guided by evolutionary principles. Recent studies in evolutionary genetics show that sexual selection can have a profound influence on the genetic architecture of complex traits. Here, we summarise data from heritability studies and genome-wide association studies (GWASs) showing that common genetic variation influences many diseases and medically relevant traits in a sex-dependent manner. In addition, we discuss how the discovery of sex-dependent effects in population samples is improved by joint interaction analysis (rather than separate-sex), as well as by recently developed software. Finally, we argue that although genetic variation that has sex-dependent effects on disease risk could be maintained by mutation-selection balance and genetic drift, recent evidence indicates that intra-locus sexual conflict could be a powerful influence on complex trait architecture, and maintain sex-dependent disease risk alleles in a population because they are beneficial to the opposite sex.