Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Scott Vrieze

Second Advisor

Dr. Brain DeDecker

Third Advisor

Dr. Soo Rhee


Background and Aims

Although the genetic etiology of traditional cigarette smoking is well studied, the genetic etiology of e-cigarette smoking is not fully elucidated. This study utilizes polygenic risk scores to examine the potential genetic overlap of traditional and e-cigarette behaviors. Each score reflects the combined effect of selected risk alleles for smoking.


A polygenic risk score analysis was calculated using the Genes for Good (n=258) sample and regression weight from UK Biobank (n=19,357). Scores were generated at six p-value thresholds, with 5e-8 being the most stringent. Scores were then correlated to cigarettes per day (CPD) and frequency of e-cigarette use.


One correlation between CPD and risk scores at a p-value threshold of 5e-7 approached significance (p~0.05). No other correlations were significant.


This is the first study, to the knowledge of the investigators, that examines the genetic etiology of e-cigarettes. However, due to the limited sample size in this study, significant associations were not detected. As the Genes for Good study continues to grow, further investigation conducted with sufficient power would be necessary to better elucidate the genetic etiology of e-cigarette behaviors.