Marrying into DNA

Have you ever wondered about the mechanics of choosing a partner. Most of the time, it is a natural, spontaneous process, where you end up meeting someone…you sense a ‘chemistry’ and things move forward from there. Other than physical attraction, the connection is made based on things like common interests- movies, books TV shows and so on.

Recently, however, researchers at the University of Colorado discovered that married couples have more DNA in common than random pairs of people! This is intriguing, as it is the first time that DNA has been implicated in choosing a mate. And while the research is preliminary, it opens the door for further research.

Paper title: Genetic and educational assortive mating among U.S adults

Simply put, what the authors do here is compare the DNA of 9,249 non-Hispanic, white individuals. Of these 9,249 individuals, there were 825 spousal pairs. What they found was that the spousal pairs had more DNA in common that randomly generated pairs of individuals from the same population! They tested this by looking at 1.7 million SNPs or single nucleotide polymorphisms, which are markers in our DNA that make us different from one another.

As a reference point, the authors use educational compatibility to compare their data to. Earlier studies had shown that individuals tend to chose their partners based on educational similarities. The findings in this paper, however, showed that from the population studied the genetic similarities were only one-third of the educational similarities.

Studies like these need to be assessed with a certain amount of caution. The data sets chosen here were very specific, and larger sampling is necessary to truly understand the role of our DNA in choosing a mate.

At the same time, this work as the authors say is ‘first step in understanding the ways in which humans may assortatively mate with respect to their genome.’

These are exciting times in the field of behavioral genetics.

To read more here are a few links:

http://www.pnas.org/content/111/22/7996.full#aff-1

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-spouse-genetics-20140519-story.html