Gene Environment Interaction Gxe Genotype

While many people have been taught to believe that either genes or the environment and environmental factors determine a person’s individual traits and predisposition to diseases and disorders, science is now showing that both of these factors influence an individual’s makeup. This is referred to as gene environment interaction.

Gene environment interaction is especially important for the development of diseases and conditions. Both genetics and factors of a person’s environment will contribute to whether or not a person develops a certain disease or condition.

Gene interaction with the environment means that certain people who are exposed to an environmental factor and who have a gene present in their systems will develop a disease, while others with the same gene in their systems will not develop the disease if they are not exposed to the particular environmental factor.

Environmental factors that can contribute to gene environment interaction include the following:

  • behavioral factors (habits, lifestyle choices, etc.)
  • chemical factors
  • infectious factors
  • nutritional factors (diet, exercise, etc.)
  • physical factors.

Even diseases that are caused by specific genes are influenced by the environment and environmental factors. In some cases, a gene cannot become present without a person being exposed to a particular environmental factor.

It is important to understand that genes themselves do not cause diseases, but they do make a person more susceptible to being influenced by exposure to an environmental factor.

Research and development are currently being done to fully understand the relationship between genetic makeup and the environment. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are among the many organizations that are studying gene environment interaction in depth. The findings of these organizations and their research studies may lead to more effective prevention methods for countless diseases and conditions in the future.

Types of Gene Interactions

The different types of gene interactions that can occur are limitless. Research is being done on a number of diseases and conditions to determine which gene interactions can lead to the various disorders.

Cancers, diabetes and asthma are just a few of the many common diseases that can be caused by certain gene interactions.

Gene interactions are currently classified into the following categories:

  • complementary genes
  • dominant genes
  • duplicate genes
  • lethal genes
  • pleiotrophy (genes that affect multiple traits)
  • supplementary genes.

Gene Environment Interaction Prevention

Those who know that they have a particular gene may be able to limit or prevent their exposure to environmental factors that will negatively interact with the gene. This is why genetic testing is so important.

For example, those with a genetic disposition to diabetes will need to regulate their diet and sugar intake.

Not all gene environment interactions have been observed and documented. In some cases, being aware that you are predisposed to a certain disease may simply enable you to look out for symptoms of the disease and to make sure that you are regularly screened for the disease. Early diagnosis is often helpful with treatment and with preventing the disease from worsening or progressing.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Gene-Environment Interaction Fact Sheet. Retrieved January 7, 2008, from the CDC Web site:

Molecular Plant Biotechnology (n.d.). Types of Gene Interaction. Retrieved January 7, 2008, from the MPB Web site:

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (2007). Gene-Environment Interaction. Retrieved January 7, 2008, from the NIEHS Web site: