Segregation analysis was performed on the pulmonary measures forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), and the ratio of FEV1/FVC in 455 randomly ascertained families from the NHLBI Family Heart Study (FHS). Gender specific standardized residuals were used as the phenotypic variable in both familial correlation and segregation analyses. These residuals represented adjustments for the effects of age, age2, age3, Body Mass Index (BMI, kg/m2), height, the ratio of waist to hip measurements (WHR), the presence of coronary heart disease, smoking history, and pack years for current smokers. Sibling correlations were not different from parent-offspring correlations for all three traits, and heritability estimates for FEV1, FVC, and the FEV1/FVC ratio were 0.515, 0.540, and 0.449, respectively. Segregation analysis of FEV1, a trait that measures airflow, indicated that a dominant major gene best fits the data, although a residual familial correlation supports the presence of an additional polygenic or common environmental component. For FVC, a trait that measures lung volume, alternative models could not be statistically differentiated, but the transmission probabilities do not support a Mendelian major gene. The best model for FEV1/FVC ratio is a non-Mendelian codominant model, perhaps due to the mixing of the individual underlying distributions influencing airflow and lung volume. These results support the hypothesis that complex relationships exist for lung function traits and that multiple genes and environmental factors influence lung function. (C) 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.