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Male pattern baldness (MPB) is a sex-limited, age-related, complex trait. We study MPB genetics in 205,327 European males from the UK Biobank. Here we show that MPB is strongly heritable and polygenic, with pedigree-heritability of 0.62 (SE = 0.03) estimated from close relatives, and SNP-heritability of 0.39 (SE = 0.01) from conventionally-unrelated males. We detect 624 near-independent genome-wide loci, contributing SNP-heritability of 0.25 (SE = 0.01), of which 26 X-chromosome loci explain 11.6%. Autosomal genetic variance is enriched for common variants and regions of lower linkage disequilibrium. We identify plausible genetic correlations between MPB and multiple sex-limited markers of earlier puberty, increased bone mineral density (rg = 0.15) and pancreatic β-cell function (rg = 0.12). Correlations with reproductive traits imply an effect on fitness, consistent with an estimated linear selection gradient of -0.018 per MPB standard deviation. Overall, we provide genetic insights into MPB: a phenotype of interest in its own right, with value as a model sex-limited, complex trait.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Age Factors, Alopecia, Bone Density, Genetic Pleiotropy, Genetic Variation, Humans, Linkage Disequilibrium, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, United Kingdom