Genetic Correlation, Pleiotropy, and Molar Morphology in a Longitudinal Sample of Australian Twins and Families

Kathleen S. Paul, Christopher M. Stojanowski, Toby Hughes, Alan H. Brook, Grant C. Townsend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study aims to expand our understanding of the genetic architecture of crown morphology in the human diphyodont dentition. Here, we present bivariate genetic correlation estimates for deciduous and permanent molar traits and evaluate the patterns of pleiotropy within (e.g., m1–m2) and between (e.g., m2–M1) dentitions. Morphology was observed and scored from dental models representing participants of an Australian twin and family study (deciduous n = 290, permanent n = 339). Data collection followed Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System standards. Genetic correlation estimates were generated using maximum likelihood variance components analysis in SOLAR v.8.1.1. Approximately 23% of deciduous variance components models and 30% of permanent variance components models yielded significant genetic correlation estimates. By comparison, over half (56%) of deciduous–permanent homologues (e.g., m2 hypocone–M1 hypocone) were significantly genetically correlated. It is generally assumed that the deciduous and permanent molars represent members of a meristic molar field emerging from the primary dental lamina. However, stronger genetic integration among m2–M1/M2 homologues than among paired deciduous traits suggests the m2 represents the anterior-most member of a “true” molar field. The results indicate genetic factors act at distinct points throughout development to generate homologous molar form, starting with the m2, which is later replaced by a permanent premolariform crown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number996
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • dental development
  • molar morphology
  • pleiotropy
  • quantitative genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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