Divergent selection on height and cognitive ability: evidence from Fst and polygenic scores

OpenPsych , April 3, 2021, ISSN: None


Tests of selection based on population differentiation were performed on two highly polygenic traits important for success and quality of life: body height and educational attainment (EA). Polygenic scores (PGS) of EA and height, computed across three public genomic databases revealed differences between populations (1000 Genomes, HGDP, gnomAD) that matched the average IQ and height of ethnic groups (r ∼0.9). A moderately strong correlation between latitude and EA PGS (r= 0.67) implies the effect of climate (seasonality or winter temperature) on selection for cognitive ability. The effect of latitude was reduced (β= 0.28) but remained significant after adding the sub-continental group variable to the regression model. The global Fst index revealed population differentiation at height and EA loci, significantly deviating from random SNPs. This is indicative of directional selection pressures with different strengths across groups. Substantial Linkage Equilibrium (LD) Decay between Africans and Europeans was found (r= 0.6) but there was no correlation between LD decay and population differences in polygenic scores for EA (r= 0.015, p= 0.45), and slight inflation of height PGS difference due to LD decay (r= -0.04, p= 0.0315). Selecting the SNPs most robust to LD decay (r>0.8) resulted in larger PGS gaps for EA, but smaller for height. Finally, it is shown that PGS differences are more sensitive to the significance of GWAS loci than Fst, reflecting the major limitations of Fst as an index of selection.
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IQ, education, polygenic selection, gwas, polygenic scores

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