Complex Phenotypes: Mechanisms Underlying Variation in Human Stature


Muthuirulan P, Capellini TD. Complex Phenotypes: Mechanisms Underlying Variation in Human Stature. Curr Osteoporos Rep. 2019;17 (5) :301-323.

Date Published:

2019 10


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The goal of the review is to provide a comprehensive overview of the current understanding of the mechanisms underlying variation in human stature. RECENT FINDINGS: Human height is an anthropometric trait that varies considerably within human populations as well as across the globe. Historically, much research focus was placed on understanding the biology of growth plate chondrocytes and how modifications to core chondrocyte proliferation and differentiation pathways potentially shaped height attainment in normal as well as pathological contexts. Recently, much progress has been made to improve our understanding regarding the mechanisms underlying the normal and pathological range of height variation within as well as between human populations, and today, it is understood to reflect complex interactions among a myriad of genetic, environmental, and evolutionary factors. Indeed, recent improvements in genetics (e.g., GWAS) and breakthroughs in functional genomics (e.g., whole exome sequencing, DNA methylation analysis, ATAC-sequencing, and CRISPR) have shed light on previously unknown pathways/mechanisms governing pathological and common height variation. Additionally, the use of an evolutionary perspective has also revealed important mechanisms that have shaped height variation across the planet. This review provides an overview of the current knowledge of the biological mechanisms underlying height variation by highlighting new research findings on skeletal growth control with an emphasis on previously unknown pathways/mechanisms influencing pathological and common height variation. In this context, this review also discusses how evolutionary forces likely shaped the genomic architecture of height across the globe.