Ionizing radiation and genetic risks. V. Multifactorial diseases: A review of epidemiological and genetic aspects of congenital abnormalities in man and of models on maintenance of quantitative traits in populations

K. Sankaranarayanan, N. Yasuda, R. Chakraborty, G. Tusnady, A. E. Czeizel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

8 Citations (Scopus)


This paper discusses (a) data on the epidemiological and etiological aspects of human congenital abnormalities, (b) the multifactorial threshold model and other models which have been proposed to explain their inheritance patterns and recurrence risks in families and (c) current concepts on mechanisms on the prevalence of heritable variation for quantitative traits in populations. Congenital abnormalities, which afflict an estimated 6% of all live births, are etiologically heterogeneous. The majority of these do not follow Mendelian transmission patterns, but do 'run' in families. The multifactorial threshold model is an extension of genetic principles developed for quantitative traits to all-or-none traits; in its simplest formulation, it assumes the existence in the population of an underlying normally distributed 'liability' (which is due to numerous genetic and environmental factors acting additively, each contributing a small amount of liability) and of a 'threshold' beyond which the individual is affected. For most congenital abnormalities, the nature of these factors remains unknown. Other models assume fewer causal factors although, again, these remain to be identified. The question of how considerable heritable variation for most quantitative / polygenic traits has come to exist is a long-standing one in evolutionary population genetics. Models postulating that its existence is consistent with a balance between recurrent mutation and stabilizing selection or suggesting the possible operation of other mechanisms have been published in the literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalMutation Research/Reviews in Genetic Toxicology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1994



  • Genetic risk
  • Ionizing radiation
  • Multifactorial diseases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Genetics

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