Twin and family studies reveal strong environmental and weaker genetic cues explaining heritability of eosinophilic esophagitis

Eileen S. Alexander, Lisa J. Martin, Margaret H. Collins, Leah C. Kottyan, Heidi Sucharew, Hua He, Vincent A. Mukkada, Paul A. Succop, J. Pablo Abonia, Heather Foote, Michael D. Eby, Tommie M. Grotjan, Alexandria J. Greenler, Evan S. Dellon, Jeffrey G. Demain, Glenn T. Furuta, Larry E. Gurian, John B. Harley, Russell J. Hopp, Amir KagalwallaAjay Kaul, Kari C. Nadeau, Richard J. Noel, Philip E. Putnam, Karl F. Von Tiehl, Marc E. Rothenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Background Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is a chronic antigen-driven allergic inflammatory disease, likely involving the interplay of genetic and environmental factors, yet their respective contributions to heritability are unknown. Objective To quantify the risk associated with genes and environment on familial clustering of EoE. Methods Family history was obtained from a hospital-based cohort of 914 EoE probands (n = 2192 first-degree "Nuclear-Family" relatives) and an international registry of monozygotic and dizygotic twins/triplets (n = 63 EoE "Twins" probands). Frequencies, recurrence risk ratios (RRRs), heritability, and twin concordance were estimated. Environmental exposures were preliminarily examined. Results Analysis of the Nuclear-Family-based cohort revealed that the rate of EoE, in first-degree relatives of a proband, was 1.8% (unadjusted) and 2.3% (sex-adjusted). RRRs ranged from 10 to 64, depending on the family relationship, and were higher in brothers (64.0; P =.04), fathers (42.9; P =.004), and males (50.7; P <.001) than in sisters, mothers, and females, respectively. The risk of EoE for other siblings was 2.4%. In the Nuclear-Family cohort, combined gene and common environment heritability was 72.0% ± 2.7% (P <.001). In the Twins cohort, genetic heritability was 14.5% ± 4.0% (P <.001), and common family environment contributed 81.0% ± 4% (P <.001) to phenotypic variance. Probandwise concordance in monozygotic co-twins was 57.9% ± 9.5% compared with 36.4% ± 9.3% in dizygotic co-twins (P =.11). Greater birth weight difference between twins (P =.01), breast-feeding (P =.15), and fall birth season (P =.02) were associated with twin discordance in disease status. Conclusions EoE RRRs are increased 10- to 64-fold compared with the general population. EoE in relatives is 1.8% to 2.4%, depending on relationship and sex. Nuclear-Family heritability appeared to be high (72.0%). However, the Twins cohort analysis revealed a powerful role for common environment (81.0%) compared with additive genetic heritability (14.5%).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1084-1092.e1
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Eosinophilia
  • drug hypersensitivity
  • food allergy
  • gastrointestinal diseases
  • gene-environment interaction
  • heritability
  • immune system diseases
  • medical genetics
  • skin diseases
  • twins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Twin and family studies reveal strong environmental and weaker genetic cues explaining heritability of eosinophilic esophagitis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this