Heterogeneous frailty and the expression of linear enamel hypoplasia in a genealogical population

Julie Lawrence, Christopher M. Stojanowski, Kathleen S. Paul, Andrew C. Seidel, Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: Linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) is a common skeletal marker of physiological stress (e.g., malnutrition or illness) that is studied within and across populations, without reference to familial risk. We examine LEH prevalence in a population with known genealogical relationships to determine the potential influence of genetic heritability and shared environment. Methods: LEH data of 239 individuals from a single population were recorded from the Ohio State University Menegaz-Bock collection dental casts. All individuals were of known age, sex, and genealogy. Narrow-sense heritability estimates were obtained for LEH presence and count data from all unworn, fully erupted teeth (excluding third molars) using SOLAR (v.8.1.1). Age, sex, and age–sex interaction were included as covariates. Models were re-run with a household effect variable. Results: LEH persists across generations in this study population with moderate, significant heritability estimates for presence in four teeth, and count in four teeth (three teeth were significant for both). When a household effect variable was added, no residual heritability remained for LEH count on any tooth. There was no significant household effect for three of the four teeth that had significant heritability estimates for LEH presence. Age was a significant covariate. Further analyses with birth year data revealed a secular trend toward less LEH. Conclusions: This study provides evidence for familial risk of LEH (genetic and environmental) that has consequences for the broad use of this skeletal marker of stress. These results have repercussions for archaeological assemblages, or population health studies, where genetic relatives and household groups might be heavily represented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)638-651
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • heritability
  • heterogeneous frailty
  • linear enamel hypoplasia
  • quantitative genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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