Search tips
Search criteria

Results 1-25 (1185054)

Clipboard (0)

Related Articles

1.  A variable selection method for genome-wide association studies 
Biometrics  2011;27(1):1-8.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) involving half a million or more single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) allow genetic dissection of complex diseases in a holistic manner. The common practice of analyzing one SNP at a time does not fully realize the potential of GWAS to identify multiple causal variants and to predict risk of disease. Existing methods for joint analysis of GWAS data tend to miss causal SNPs that are marginally uncorrelated with disease and have high false discovery rates (FDRs).
We introduce GWASelect, a statistically powerful and computationally efficient variable selection method designed to tackle the unique challenges of GWAS data. This method searches iteratively over the potential SNPs conditional on previously selected SNPs and is thus capable of capturing causal SNPs that are marginally correlated with disease as well as those that are marginally uncorrelated with disease. A special resampling mechanism is built into the method to reduce false-positive findings. Simulation studies demonstrate that the GWASelect performs well under a wide spectrum of linkage disequilibrium (LD) patterns and can be substantially more powerful than existing methods in capturing causal variants while having a lower FDR. In addition, the regression models based on the GWASelect tend to yield more accurate prediction of disease risk than existing methods. The advantages of the GWASelect are illustrated with the Wellcome Trust Case-Control Consortium (WTCCC) data.
PMCID: PMC3025714  PMID: 21036813
2.  Analyzing Genome-Wide Association Studies with an FDR Controlling Modification of the Bayesian Information Criterion 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e103322.
The prevailing method of analyzing GWAS data is still to test each marker individually, although from a statistical point of view it is quite obvious that in case of complex traits such single marker tests are not ideal. Recently several model selection approaches for GWAS have been suggested, most of them based on LASSO-type procedures. Here we will discuss an alternative model selection approach which is based on a modification of the Bayesian Information Criterion (mBIC2) which was previously shown to have certain asymptotic optimality properties in terms of minimizing the misclassification error. Heuristic search strategies are introduced which attempt to find the model which minimizes mBIC2, and which are efficient enough to allow the analysis of GWAS data. Our approach is implemented in a software package called MOSGWA. Its performance in case control GWAS is compared with the two algorithms HLASSO and d-GWASelect, as well as with single marker tests, where we performed a simulation study based on real SNP data from the POPRES sample. Our results show that MOSGWA performs slightly better than HLASSO, where specifically for more complex models MOSGWA is more powerful with only a slight increase in Type I error. On the other hand according to our simulations GWASelect does not at all control the type I error when used to automatically determine the number of important SNPs. We also reanalyze the GWAS data from the Wellcome Trust Case-Control Consortium and compare the findings of the different procedures, where MOSGWA detects for complex diseases a number of interesting SNPs which are not found by other methods.
PMCID: PMC4111553  PMID: 25061809
3.  A Pleiotropy-Informed Bayesian False Discovery Rate Adapted to a Shared Control Design Finds New Disease Associations From GWAS Summary Statistics 
PLoS Genetics  2015;11(2):e1004926.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been successful in identifying single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with many traits and diseases. However, at existing sample sizes, these variants explain only part of the estimated heritability. Leverage of GWAS results from related phenotypes may improve detection without the need for larger datasets. The Bayesian conditional false discovery rate (cFDR) constitutes an upper bound on the expected false discovery rate (FDR) across a set of SNPs whose p values for two diseases are both less than two disease-specific thresholds. Calculation of the cFDR requires only summary statistics and have several advantages over traditional GWAS analysis. However, existing methods require distinct control samples between studies. Here, we extend the technique to allow for some or all controls to be shared, increasing applicability. Several different SNP sets can be defined with the same cFDR value, and we show that the expected FDR across the union of these sets may exceed expected FDR in any single set. We describe a procedure to establish an upper bound for the expected FDR among the union of such sets of SNPs. We apply our technique to pairwise analysis of p values from ten autoimmune diseases with variable sharing of controls, enabling discovery of 59 SNP-disease associations which do not reach GWAS significance after genomic control in individual datasets. Most of the SNPs we highlight have previously been confirmed using replication studies or larger GWAS, a useful validation of our technique; we report eight SNP-disease associations across five diseases not previously declared. Our technique extends and strengthens the previous algorithm, and establishes robust limits on the expected FDR. This approach can improve SNP detection in GWAS, and give insight into shared aetiology between phenotypically related conditions.
Author Summary
Many diseases have a significant hereditary component, only part of which has been explained by analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Shared aetiology, treatment protocols, and overlapping results from existing GWAS suggest similarities in genetic susceptibility between related diseases, which may be exploited to detect more disease-associated SNPs without the need for further data. We extend an existing method for detecting SNPs associated with a given disease by conditioning on association with another disease. Our extension allows GWAS for the two conditions to share control samples, enabling larger overall control groups and application to the common case when GWAS for related diseases pool control samples. We demonstrate that our technique limits the expected overall false discovery rate at a threshold dependent on the two diseases. We apply our technique to genotype data from ten immune mediated diseases. Overall pleiotropy between phenotypes is demonstrated graphically. We are able to declare several SNPs significant at a genome-wide level whilst controlling at a lower false-discovery rate than would be possible using a conventional approach, identifying eight previously unknown disease associations. This technique can improve SNP detection in GWAS by re-analysing existing data, and gives insight into the shared genetic bases of autoimmune diseases.
PMCID: PMC4450050  PMID: 25658688
4.  Quantifying Missing Heritability at Known GWAS Loci 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(12):e1003993.
Recent work has shown that much of the missing heritability of complex traits can be resolved by estimates of heritability explained by all genotyped SNPs. However, it is currently unknown how much heritability is missing due to poor tagging or additional causal variants at known GWAS loci. Here, we use variance components to quantify the heritability explained by all SNPs at known GWAS loci in nine diseases from WTCCC1 and WTCCC2. After accounting for expectation, we observed all SNPs at known GWAS loci to explain more heritability than GWAS-associated SNPs on average (). For some diseases, this increase was individually significant: for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) () and for Crohn's Disease (CD) (); all analyses of autoimmune diseases excluded the well-studied MHC region. Additionally, we found that GWAS loci from other related traits also explained significant heritability. The union of all autoimmune disease loci explained more MS heritability than known MS SNPs () and more CD heritability than known CD SNPs (), with an analogous increase for all autoimmune diseases analyzed. We also observed significant increases in an analysis of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) samples typed on ImmunoChip, with more heritability from all SNPs at GWAS loci () and more heritability from all autoimmune disease loci () compared to known RA SNPs (including those identified in this cohort). Our methods adjust for LD between SNPs, which can bias standard estimates of heritability from SNPs even if all causal variants are typed. By comparing adjusted estimates, we hypothesize that the genome-wide distribution of causal variants is enriched for low-frequency alleles, but that causal variants at known GWAS loci are skewed towards common alleles. These findings have important ramifications for fine-mapping study design and our understanding of complex disease architecture.
Author Summary
Heritable diseases have an unknown underlying “genetic architecture” that defines the distribution of effect-sizes for disease-causing mutations. Understanding this genetic architecture is an important first step in designing disease-mapping studies, and many theories have been developed on the nature of this distribution. Here, we evaluate the hypothesis that additional heritable variation lies at previously known associated loci but is not fully explained by the single most associated marker. We develop methods based on variance-components analysis to quantify this type of “local” heritability, demonstrating that standard strategies can be falsely inflated or deflated due to correlation between neighboring markers and propose a robust adjustment. In analysis of nine common diseases we find a significant average increase of local heritability, consistent with multiple common causal variants at an average locus. Intriguingly, for autoimmune diseases we also observe significant local heritability in loci not associated with the specific disease but with other autoimmune diseases, implying a highly correlated underlying disease architecture. These findings have important implications to the design of future studies and our general understanding of common disease.
PMCID: PMC3873246  PMID: 24385918
5.  DiNAMIC: a method to identify recurrent DNA copy number aberrations in tumors 
Bioinformatics  2010;27(5):678-685.
Motivation: DNA copy number gains and losses are commonly found in tumor tissue, and some of these aberrations play a role in tumor genesis and development. Although high resolution DNA copy number data can be obtained using array-based techniques, no single method is widely used to distinguish between recurrent and sporadic copy number aberrations.
Results: Here we introduce Discovering Copy Number Aberrations Manifested In Cancer (DiNAMIC), a novel method for assessing the statistical significance of recurrent copy number aberrations. In contrast to competing procedures, the testing procedure underlying DiNAMIC is carefully motivated, and employs a novel cyclic permutation scheme. Extensive simulation studies show that DiNAMIC controls false positive discoveries in a variety of realistic scenarios. We use DiNAMIC to analyze two publicly available tumor datasets, and our results show that DiNAMIC detects multiple loci that have biological relevance.
Availability: Source code implemented in R, as well as text files containing examples and sample datasets are available at
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3042182  PMID: 21183584
6.  SNP-based pathway enrichment analysis for genome-wide association studies 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12:99.
Recently we have witnessed a surge of interest in using genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to discover the genetic basis of complex diseases. Many genetic variations, mostly in the form of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), have been identified in a wide spectrum of diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and psychiatric diseases. A common theme arising from these studies is that the genetic variations discovered by GWAS can only explain a small fraction of the genetic risks associated with the complex diseases. New strategies and statistical approaches are needed to address this lack of explanation. One such approach is the pathway analysis, which considers the genetic variations underlying a biological pathway, rather than separately as in the traditional GWAS studies. A critical challenge in the pathway analysis is how to combine evidences of association over multiple SNPs within a gene and multiple genes within a pathway. Most current methods choose the most significant SNP from each gene as a representative, ignoring the joint action of multiple SNPs within a gene. This approach leads to preferential identification of genes with a greater number of SNPs.
We describe a SNP-based pathway enrichment method for GWAS studies. The method consists of the following two main steps: 1) for a given pathway, using an adaptive truncated product statistic to identify all representative (potentially more than one) SNPs of each gene, calculating the average number of representative SNPs for the genes, then re-selecting the representative SNPs of genes in the pathway based on this number; and 2) ranking all selected SNPs by the significance of their statistical association with a trait of interest, and testing if the set of SNPs from a particular pathway is significantly enriched with high ranks using a weighted Kolmogorov-Smirnov test. We applied our method to two large genetically distinct GWAS data sets of schizophrenia, one from European-American (EA) and the other from African-American (AA). In the EA data set, we found 22 pathways with nominal P-value less than or equal to 0.001 and corresponding false discovery rate (FDR) less than 5%. In the AA data set, we found 11 pathways by controlling the same nominal P-value and FDR threshold. Interestingly, 8 of these pathways overlap with those found in the EA sample. We have implemented our method in a JAVA software package, called SNP Set Enrichment Analysis (SSEA), which contains a user-friendly interface and is freely available at
The SNP-based pathway enrichment method described here offers a new alternative approach for analysing GWAS data. By applying it to schizophrenia GWAS studies, we show that our method is able to identify statistically significant pathways, and importantly, pathways that can be replicated in large genetically distinct samples.
PMCID: PMC3102637  PMID: 21496265
7.  A hidden two-locus disease association pattern in genome-wide association studies 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12:156.
Recent association analyses in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) mainly focus on single-locus association tests (marginal tests) and two-locus interaction detections. These analysis methods have provided strong evidence of associations between genetics variances and complex diseases. However, there exists a type of association pattern, which often occurs within local regions in the genome and is unlikely to be detected by either marginal tests or interaction tests. This association pattern involves a group of correlated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The correlation among SNPs can lead to weak marginal effects and the interaction does not play a role in this association pattern. This phenomenon is due to the existence of unfaithfulness: the marginal effects of correlated SNPs do not express their significant joint effects faithfully due to the correlation cancelation.
In this paper, we develop a computational method to detect this association pattern masked by unfaithfulness. We have applied our method to analyze seven data sets from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC). The analysis for each data set takes about one week to finish the examination of all pairs of SNPs. Based on the empirical result of these real data, we show that this type of association masked by unfaithfulness widely exists in GWAS.
These newly identified associations enrich the discoveries of GWAS, which may provide new insights both in the analysis of tagSNPs and in the experiment design of GWAS. Since these associations may be easily missed by existing analysis tools, we can only connect some of them to publicly available findings from other association studies. As independent data set is limited at this moment, we also have difficulties to replicate these findings. More biological implications need further investigation.
The software is freely available at
PMCID: PMC3116488  PMID: 21569557
8.  AprioriGWAS, a New Pattern Mining Strategy for Detecting Genetic Variants Associated with Disease through Interaction Effects 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(6):e1003627.
Identifying gene-gene interaction is a hot topic in genome wide association studies. Two fundamental challenges are: (1) how to smartly identify combinations of variants that may be associated with the trait from astronomical number of all possible combinations; and (2) how to test epistatic interaction when all potential combinations are available. We developed AprioriGWAS, which brings two innovations. (1) Based on Apriori, a successful method in field of Frequent Itemset Mining (FIM) in which a pattern growth strategy is leveraged to effectively and accurately reduce search space, AprioriGWAS can efficiently identify genetically associated genotype patterns. (2) To test the hypotheses of epistasis, we adopt a new conditional permutation procedure to obtain reliable statistical inference of Pearson's chi-square test for the contingency table generated by associated variants. By applying AprioriGWAS to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) data, we found that: (1) angiopoietin 1 (ANGPT1) and four retinal genes interact with Complement Factor H (CFH). (2) GO term “glycosaminoglycan biosynthetic process” was enriched in AMD interacting genes. The epistatic interactions newly found by AprioriGWAS on AMD data are likely true interactions, since genes interacting with CFH are retinal genes, and GO term enrichment also verified that interaction between glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and CFH plays an important role in disease pathology of AMD. By applying AprioriGWAS on Bipolar disorder in WTCCC data, we found variants without marginal effect show significant interactions. For example, multiple-SNP genotype patterns inside gene GABRB2 and GRIA1 (AMPA subunit 1 receptor gene). AMPARs are found in many parts of the brain and are the most commonly found receptor in the nervous system. The GABRB2 mediates the fastest inhibitory synaptic transmission in the central nervous system. GRIA1 and GABRB2 are relevant to mental disorders supported by multiple evidences.
Author Summary
Genes do not operate in vacuum. They interact with each other in many ways. Therefore, to figure out genetic causes of disease by case-control association studies, it is important to take interactions into account. There are two fundamental challenges in interaction-focused analysis. The first is the number of possible combinations of genetic variants easily goes to astronomic which is beyond current computational facility, which is referred as “the curse of dimensionality” in field of computer science. The other is, even if all potential combinations could be exhaustively checked, genuine signals are likely to be buried by false positives that are composed of single variant with large main effect and some other irrelevant variant. In this work, we propose AprioriGWAS that employees Apriori, an algorithm that pioneers the branch of “Frequent Itemset Mining” in computer science to cope with daunting numbers of combinations, and conditional permutation, to enable real signals standing out. By applying AprioriGWAS to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) data and bipolar disorder (BD) in WTCCC data, we found interesting interactions between sensible genes in terms of disease. Consequently, AprioriGWAS could be a good tool to find epistasis interaction from GWA data.
PMCID: PMC4046917  PMID: 24901472
9.  iLOCi: a SNP interaction prioritization technique for detecting epistasis in genome-wide association studies 
BMC Genomics  2012;13(Suppl 7):S2.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) do not provide a full account of the heritability of genetic diseases since gene-gene interactions, also known as epistasis are not considered in single locus GWAS. To address this problem, a considerable number of methods have been developed for identifying disease-associated gene-gene interactions. However, these methods typically fail to identify interacting markers explaining more of the disease heritability over single locus GWAS, since many of the interactions significant for disease are obscured by uninformative marker interactions e.g., linkage disequilibrium (LD).
In this study, we present a novel SNP interaction prioritization algorithm, named iLOCi (Interacting Loci). This algorithm accounts for marker dependencies separately in case and control groups. Disease-associated interactions are then prioritized according to a novel ranking score calculated from the difference in marker dependencies for every possible pair between case and control groups. The analysis of a typical GWAS dataset can be completed in less than a day on a standard workstation with parallel processing capability. The proposed framework was validated using simulated data and applied to real GWAS datasets using the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) data. The results from simulated data showed the ability of iLOCi to identify various types of gene-gene interactions, especially for high-order interaction. From the WTCCC data, we found that among the top ranked interacting SNP pairs, several mapped to genes previously known to be associated with disease, and interestingly, other previously unreported genes with biologically related roles.
iLOCi is a powerful tool for uncovering true disease interacting markers and thus can provide a more complete understanding of the genetic basis underlying complex disease. The program is available for download at
PMCID: PMC3521387  PMID: 23281813
10.  A powerful and flexible approach to the analysis of RNA sequence count data 
Bioinformatics  2011;27(19):2672-2678.
Motivation: A number of penalization and shrinkage approaches have been proposed for the analysis of microarray gene expression data. Similar techniques are now routinely applied to RNA sequence transcriptional count data, although the value of such shrinkage has not been conclusively established. If penalization is desired, the explicit modeling of mean–variance relationships provides a flexible testing regimen that ‘borrows’ information across genes, while easily incorporating design effects and additional covariates.
Results: We describe BBSeq, which incorporates two approaches: (i) a simple beta-binomial generalized linear model, which has not been extensively tested for RNA-Seq data and (ii) an extension of an expression mean–variance modeling approach to RNA-Seq data, involving modeling of the overdispersion as a function of the mean. Our approaches are flexible, allowing for general handling of discrete experimental factors and continuous covariates. We report comparisons with other alternate methods to handle RNA-Seq data. Although penalized methods have advantages for very small sample sizes, the beta-binomial generalized linear model, combined with simple outlier detection and testing approaches, appears to have favorable characteristics in power and flexibility.
Availability: An R package containing examples and sample datasets is available at
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3179656  PMID: 21810900
11.  Finding type 2 diabetes causal single nucleotide polymorphism combinations and functional modules from genome-wide association data 
Due to the low statistical power of individual markers from a genome-wide association study (GWAS), detecting causal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for complex diseases is a challenge. SNP combinations are suggested to compensate for the low statistical power of individual markers, but SNP combinations from GWAS generate high computational complexity.
We aim to detect type 2 diabetes (T2D) causal SNP combinations from a GWAS dataset with optimal filtration and to discover the biological meaning of the detected SNP combinations. Optimal filtration can enhance the statistical power of SNP combinations by comparing the error rates of SNP combinations from various Bonferroni thresholds and p-value range-based thresholds combined with linkage disequilibrium (LD) pruning. T2D causal SNP combinations are selected using random forests with variable selection from an optimal SNP dataset. T2D causal SNP combinations and genome-wide SNPs are mapped into functional modules using expanded gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) considering pathway, transcription factor (TF)-target, miRNA-target, gene ontology, and protein complex functional modules. The prediction error rates are measured for SNP sets from functional module-based filtration that selects SNPs within functional modules from genome-wide SNPs based expanded GSEA.
A T2D causal SNP combination containing 101 SNPs from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) GWAS dataset are selected using optimal filtration criteria, with an error rate of 10.25%. Matching 101 SNPs with known T2D genes and functional modules reveals the relationships between T2D and SNP combinations. The prediction error rates of SNP sets from functional module-based filtration record no significance compared to the prediction error rates of randomly selected SNP sets and T2D causal SNP combinations from optimal filtration.
We propose a detection method for complex disease causal SNP combinations from an optimal SNP dataset by using random forests with variable selection. Mapping the biological meanings of detected SNP combinations can help uncover complex disease mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3618247  PMID: 23566118
12.  Re-Ranking Sequencing Variants in the Post-GWAS Era for Accurate Causal Variant Identification 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003609.
Next generation sequencing has dramatically increased our ability to localize disease-causing variants by providing base-pair level information at costs increasingly feasible for the large sample sizes required to detect complex-trait associations. Yet, identification of causal variants within an established region of association remains a challenge. Counter-intuitively, certain factors that increase power to detect an associated region can decrease power to localize the causal variant. First, combining GWAS with imputation or low coverage sequencing to achieve the large sample sizes required for high power can have the unintended effect of producing differential genotyping error among SNPs. This tends to bias the relative evidence for association toward better genotyped SNPs. Second, re-use of GWAS data for fine-mapping exploits previous findings to ensure genome-wide significance in GWAS-associated regions. However, using GWAS findings to inform fine-mapping analysis can bias evidence away from the causal SNP toward the tag SNP and SNPs in high LD with the tag. Together these factors can reduce power to localize the causal SNP by more than half. Other strategies commonly employed to increase power to detect association, namely increasing sample size and using higher density genotyping arrays, can, in certain common scenarios, actually exacerbate these effects and further decrease power to localize causal variants. We develop a re-ranking procedure that accounts for these adverse effects and substantially improves the accuracy of causal SNP identification, often doubling the probability that the causal SNP is top-ranked. Application to the NCI BPC3 aggressive prostate cancer GWAS with imputation meta-analysis identified a new top SNP at 2 of 3 associated loci and several additional possible causal SNPs at these loci that may have otherwise been overlooked. This method is simple to implement using R scripts provided on the author's website.
Author Summary
As next-generation sequencing (NGS) costs continue to fall and genome-wide association study (GWAS) platform coverage improves, the human genetics community is positioned to identify potentially causal variants. However, current NGS or imputation-based studies of either the whole genome or regions previously identified by GWAS have not yet been very successful in identifying causal variants. A major hurdle is the development of methods to distinguish disease-causing variants from their highly-correlated proxies within an associated region. We show that various common factors, such as differential sequencing or imputation accuracy rates and linkage disequilibrium patterns, with or without GWAS-informed region selection, can substantially decrease the probability of identifying the correct causal SNP, often by more than half. We then describe a novel and easy-to-implement re-ranking procedure that can double the probability that the causal SNP is top-ranked in many settings. Application to the NCI Breast and Prostate Cancer (BPC3) Cohort Consortium aggressive prostate cancer data identified new top SNPs within two associated loci previously established via GWAS, as well as several additional possible causal SNPs that had been previously overlooked.
PMCID: PMC3738448  PMID: 23950724
13.  SNP-SNP Interactions Discovered by Logic Regression Explain Crohn's Disease Genetics 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e43035.
In genome-wide association studies (GWAS), the association between each single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and a phenotype is assessed statistically. To further explore genetic associations in GWAS, we considered two specific forms of biologically plausible SNP-SNP interactions, ‘SNP intersection’ and ‘SNP union,’ and analyzed the Crohn's Disease (CD) GWAS data of the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium for these interactions using a limited form of logic regression. We found strong evidence of CD-association for 195 genes, identifying novel susceptibility genes (e.g., ISX, SLCO6A1, TMEM183A) as well as confirming many previously identified susceptibility genes in CD GWAS (e.g., IL23R, NOD2, CYLD, NKX2-3, IL12RB2, ATG16L1). Notably, 37 of the 59 chromosomal locations indicated for CD-association by a meta-analysis of CD GWAS, involving over 22,000 cases and 29,000 controls, were represented in the 195 genes, as well as some chromosomal locations previously indicated only in linkage studies, but not in GWAS. We repeated the analysis with two smaller GWASs from the Database of Genotype and Phenotype (dbGaP): in spite of differences of populations and study power across the three datasets, we observed some consistencies across the three datasets. Notable examples included TMEM183A and SLCO6A1 which exhibited strong evidence consistently in our WTCCC and both of the dbGaP SNP-SNP interaction analyses. Examining these specific forms of SNP interactions could identify additional genetic associations from GWAS. R codes, data examples, and a ReadMe file are available for download from our website:
PMCID: PMC3470545  PMID: 23071489
14.  seeQTL: a searchable database for human eQTLs 
Bioinformatics  2011;28(3):451-452.
Summary: seeQTL is a comprehensive and versatile eQTL database, including various eQTL studies and a meta-analysis of HapMap eQTL information. The database presents eQTL association results in a convenient browser, using both segmented local-association plots and genome-wide Manhattan plots.
Availability and implementation: seeQTL is freely available for non-commercial use at
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3268245  PMID: 22171328
15.  Improved Prediction of Cardiovascular Disease Based on a Panel of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms Identified Through Genome-Wide Association Studies 
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at multiple loci that are significantly associated with coronary artery disease (CAD) risk. In this study, we sought to determine and compare the predictive capabilities of 9p21.3 alone and a panel of SNPs identified and replicated through GWAS for CAD.
Methods and Results
We used the Ottawa Heart Genomics Study (OHGS) (3323 cases, 2319 control subjects) and the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) (1926 cases, 2938 control subjects) data sets. We compared the ability of allele counting, logistic regression, and support vector machines. Two sets of SNPs, 9p21.3 alone and a set of 12 SNPs identified by GWAS and through a model-fitting procedure, were considered. Performance was assessed by measuring area under the curve (AUC) for OHGS using 10-fold cross-validation and WTCCC as a replication set. AUC for logistic regression using OHGS increased significantly from 0.555 to 0.608 (P=3.59×10–14) for 9p21.3 versus the 12 SNPs, respectively. This difference remained when traditional risk factors were considered in a subgroup of OHGS (1388 cases, 2038 control subjects), with AUC increasing from 0.804 to 0.809 (P=0.037). The added predictive value over and above the traditional risk factors was not significant for 9p21.3 (AUC 0.801 versus 0.804, P=0.097) but was for the 12 SNPs (AUC 0.801 versus 0.809, P=0.0073). Performance was similar between OHGS and WTCCC. Logistic regression outperformed both support vector machines and allele counting.
Using the collective of 12 SNPs confers significantly greater predictive capabilities for CAD than 9p21.3, whether traditional risks are or are not considered. More accurate models probably will evolve as additional CAD-associated SNPs are identified.
PMCID: PMC3035486  PMID: 20729558
coronary disease; genetics; risk factors
16.  Covariate-modulated local false discovery rate for genome-wide association studies 
Bioinformatics  2014;30(15):2098-2104.
Motivation: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have largely failed to identify most of the genetic basis of highly heritable diseases and complex traits. Recent work has suggested this could be because many genetic variants, each with individually small effects, compose their genetic architecture, limiting the power of GWAS, given currently obtainable sample sizes. In this scenario, Bonferroni-derived thresholds are severely underpowered to detect the vast majority of associations. Local false discovery rate (fdr) methods provide more power to detect non-null associations, but implicit assumptions about the exchangeability of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) limit their ability to discover non-null loci.
Methods: We propose a novel covariate-modulated local false discovery rate (cmfdr) that incorporates prior information about gene element–based functional annotations of SNPs, so that SNPs from categories enriched for non-null associations have a lower fdr for a given value of a test statistic than SNPs in unenriched categories. This readjustment of fdr based on functional annotations is achieved empirically by fitting a covariate-modulated parametric two-group mixture model. The proposed cmfdr methodology is applied to a large Crohn’s disease GWAS.
Results: Use of cmfdr dramatically improves power, e.g. increasing the number of loci declared significant at the 0.05 fdr level by a factor of 5.4. We also demonstrate that SNPs were declared significant using cmfdr compared with usual fdr replicate in much higher numbers, while maintaining similar replication rates for a given fdr cutoff in de novo samples, using the eight Crohn’s disease substudies as independent training and test datasets.
Availability an implementation:
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC4103587  PMID: 24711653
17.  Matrix eQTL: ultra fast eQTL analysis via large matrix operations 
Bioinformatics  2012;28(10):1353-1358.
Motivation: Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analysis links variations in gene expression levels to genotypes. For modern datasets, eQTL analysis is a computationally intensive task as it involves testing for association of billions of transcript-SNP (single-nucleotide polymorphism) pair. The heavy computational burden makes eQTL analysis less popular and sometimes forces analysts to restrict their attention to just a small subset of transcript-SNP pairs. As more transcripts and SNPs get interrogated over a growing number of samples, the demand for faster tools for eQTL analysis grows stronger.
Results: We have developed a new software for computationally efficient eQTL analysis called Matrix eQTL. In tests on large datasets, it was 2–3 orders of magnitude faster than existing popular tools for QTL/eQTL analysis, while finding the same eQTLs. The fast performance is achieved by special preprocessing and expressing the most computationally intensive part of the algorithm in terms of large matrix operations. Matrix eQTL supports additive linear and ANOVA models with covariates, including models with correlated and heteroskedastic errors. The issue of multiple testing is addressed by calculating false discovery rate; this can be done separately for cis- and trans-eQTLs.
Availability: Matlab and R implementations are available for free at
PMCID: PMC3348564  PMID: 22492648
18.  RS-SNP: a random-set method for genome-wide association studies 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:166.
The typical objective of Genome-wide association (GWA) studies is to identify single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and corresponding genes with the strongest evidence of association (the 'most-significant SNPs/genes' approach). Borrowing ideas from micro-array data analysis, we propose a new method, named RS-SNP, for detecting sets of genes enriched in SNPs moderately associated to the phenotype. RS-SNP assesses whether the number of significant SNPs, with p-value P ≤ α, belonging to a given SNP set is statistically significant. The rationale of proposed method is that two kinds of null hypotheses are taken into account simultaneously. In the first null model the genotype and the phenotype are assumed to be independent random variables and the null distribution is the probability of the number of significant SNPs in greater than observed by chance. The second null model assumes the number of significant SNPs in depends on the size of and not on the identity of the SNPs in . Statistical significance is assessed using non-parametric permutation tests.
We applied RS-SNP to the Crohn's disease (CD) data set collected by the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) and compared the results with GENGEN, an approach recently proposed in literature. The enrichment analysis using RS-SNP and the set of pathways contained in the MSigDB C2 CP pathway collection highlighted 86 pathways rich in SNPs weakly associated to CD. Of these, 47 were also indicated to be significant by GENGEN. Similar results were obtained using the MSigDB C5 pathway collection. Many of the pathways found to be enriched by RS-SNP have a well-known connection to CD and often with inflammatory diseases.
The proposed method is a valuable alternative to other techniques for enrichment analysis of SNP sets. It is well founded from a theoretical and statistical perspective. Moreover, the experimental comparison with GENGEN highlights that it is more robust with respect to false positive findings.
PMCID: PMC3079664  PMID: 21450072
19.  Genome-wide association study combined with biological context can reveal more disease-related SNPs altering microRNA target seed sites 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):669.
Emerging studies demonstrate that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) resided in the microRNA recognition element seed sites (MRESSs) in 3′UTR of mRNAs are putative biomarkers for human diseases and cancers. However, exhaustively experimental validation for the causality of MRESS SNPs is impractical. Therefore bioinformatics have been introduced to predict causal MRESS SNPs. Genome-wide association study (GWAS) provides a way to detect susceptibility of millions of SNPs simultaneously by taking linkage disequilibrium (LD) into account, but the multiple-testing corrections implemented to suppress false positive rate always sacrificed the sensitivity. In our study, we proposed a method to identify candidate causal MRESS SNPs from 12 GWAS datasets without performing multiple-testing corrections. Alternatively, we used biological context to ensure credibility of the selected SNPs.
In 11 out of the 12 GWAS datasets, MRESS SNPs were over-represented in SNPs with p-value ≤ 0.05 (odds ratio (OR) ranged from 1.1 to 2.4). Moreover, host genes of susceptible MRESS SNPs in each of the 11 GWAS dataset shared biological context with reported causal genes. There were 286 MRESS SNPs identified by our method, while only 13 SNPs were identified by multiple-testing corrections with a given threshold of 1 × 10−5, which is a common cutoff used in GWAS. 27 out of the 286 candidate SNPs have been reported to be deleterious while only 2 out of 13 multiple-testing corrected SNPs were documented in PubMed. MicroRNA-mRNA interactions affected by the 286 candidate SNPs were likely to present negatively correlated expression. These SNPs introduced greater alternation of binding free energy than other MRESS SNPs, especially when grouping by haplotypes (4210 vs. 4105 cal/mol by mean, 9781 vs. 8521 cal/mol by mean, respectively).
MRESS SNPs are promising disease biomarkers in multiple GWAS datasets. The method of integrating GWAS p-value and biological context is stable and effective for selecting candidate causal MRESS SNPs, it reduces the loss of sensitivity compared to multiple-testing corrections. The 286 candidate causal MRESS SNPs provide researchers a credible source to initialize their design of experimental validations in the future.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-669) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4246476  PMID: 25106527
microRNA; Genome-wide association study; Single nucleotide polymorphisms; Human diseases and cancers
20.  is-rSNP: a novel technique for in silico regulatory SNP detection 
Bioinformatics  2010;26(18):i524-i530.
Motivation: Determining the functional impact of non-coding disease-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified by genome-wide association studies (GWAS) is challenging. Many of these SNPs are likely to be regulatory SNPs (rSNPs): variations which affect the ability of a transcription factor (TF) to bind to DNA. However, experimental procedures for identifying rSNPs are expensive and labour intensive. Therefore, in silico methods are required for rSNP prediction. By scoring two alleles with a TF position weight matrix (PWM), it can be determined which SNPs are likely rSNPs. However, predictions in this manner are noisy and no method exists that determines the statistical significance of a nucleotide variation on a PWM score.
Results: We have designed an algorithm for in silico rSNP detection called is-rSNP. We employ novel convolution methods to determine the complete distributions of PWM scores and ratios between allele scores, facilitating assignment of statistical significance to rSNP effects. We have tested our method on 41 experimentally verified rSNPs, correctly predicting the disrupted TF in 28 cases. We also analysed 146 disease-associated SNPs with no known functional impact in an attempt to identify candidate rSNPs. Of the 11 significantly predicted disrupted TFs, 9 had previous evidence of being associated with the disease in the literature. These results demonstrate that is-rSNP is suitable for high-throughput screening of SNPs for potential regulatory function. This is a useful and important tool in the interpretation of GWAS.
Availability: is-rSNP software is available for use at:
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC2935445  PMID: 20823317
21.  Ultrahigh-dimensional variable selection method for whole-genome gene-gene interaction analysis 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13:72.
Genome-wide gene-gene interaction analysis using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) is an attractive way for identification of genetic components that confers susceptibility of human complex diseases. Individual hypothesis testing for SNP-SNP pairs as in common genome-wide association study (GWAS) however involves difficulty in setting overall p-value due to complicated correlation structure, namely, the multiple testing problem that causes unacceptable false negative results. A large number of SNP-SNP pairs than sample size, so-called the large p small n problem, precludes simultaneous analysis using multiple regression. The method that overcomes above issues is thus needed.
We adopt an up-to-date method for ultrahigh-dimensional variable selection termed the sure independence screening (SIS) for appropriate handling of numerous number of SNP-SNP interactions by including them as predictor variables in logistic regression. We propose ranking strategy using promising dummy coding methods and following variable selection procedure in the SIS method suitably modified for gene-gene interaction analysis. We also implemented the procedures in a software program, EPISIS, using the cost-effective GPGPU (General-purpose computing on graphics processing units) technology. EPISIS can complete exhaustive search for SNP-SNP interactions in standard GWAS dataset within several hours. The proposed method works successfully in simulation experiments and in application to real WTCCC (Wellcome Trust Case–control Consortium) data.
Based on the machine-learning principle, the proposed method gives powerful and flexible genome-wide search for various patterns of gene-gene interaction.
PMCID: PMC3531267  PMID: 22554139
22.  Predicting Disease Risk Using Bootstrap Ranking and Classification Algorithms 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(8):e1003200.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are widely used to search for genetic loci that underlie human disease. Another goal is to predict disease risk for different individuals given their genetic sequence. Such predictions could either be used as a “black box” in order to promote changes in life-style and screening for early diagnosis, or as a model that can be studied to better understand the mechanism of the disease. Current methods for risk prediction typically rank single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) by the p-value of their association with the disease, and use the top-associated SNPs as input to a classification algorithm. However, the predictive power of such methods is relatively poor. To improve the predictive power, we devised BootRank, which uses bootstrapping in order to obtain a robust prioritization of SNPs for use in predictive models. We show that BootRank improves the ability to predict disease risk of unseen individuals in the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) data and results in a more robust set of SNPs and a larger number of enriched pathways being associated with the different diseases. Finally, we show that combining BootRank with seven different classification algorithms improves performance compared to previous studies that used the WTCCC data. Notably, diseases for which BootRank results in the largest improvements were recently shown to have more heritability than previously thought, likely due to contributions from variants with low minimum allele frequency (MAF), suggesting that BootRank can be beneficial in cases where SNPs affecting the disease are poorly tagged or have low MAF. Overall, our results show that improving disease risk prediction from genotypic information may be a tangible goal, with potential implications for personalized disease screening and treatment.
Author Summary
Genome-wide association studies are widely used to search for genetic loci that underlie human disease. Another goal is to predict disease risk for different individuals given their genetic sequence. Such predictions could either be used as a “black box” in order to promote changes in life-style and screening for early diagnosis, or as a model that can be studied to better understand the mechanism of the disease. Current methods for risk prediction have relatively poor performance, with one possible explanation being the fact they rely on a noisy ranking of genetic variants given to them as input. To improve the predictive power, we devised BootRank, a ranking method less sensitive to noise. We show that BootRank improves the ability to predict disease risk of unseen individuals in the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) data, and that combining BootRank with different classification algorithms improves performance compared to previous studies that used these data. Overall, our results show that improving disease risk prediction from genotypic information may be a tangible goal, with potential implications for personalized disease screening and treatment.
PMCID: PMC3749941  PMID: 23990773
23.  Two-marker association tests yield new disease associations for coronary artery disease and hypertension 
Human genetics  2011;130(6):725-733.
It has been postulated that multiple-marker methods may have added ability, over single-marker methods, to detect genetic variants associated with disease. The Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) provided the first successful large genome-wide association studies (GWAS) which included single-marker association analyses for seven common complex diseases. Of those signals detected, only one was associated with coronary artery disease (CAD), and none were identified for hypertension (HTN). Our objective was to find additional genetic associations and pathways for cardiovascular disease by examining the WTCCC data for variants associated with CAD and HTN using two-marker testing methods. We applied two-marker association testing to the WTCCC dataset, which includes ~2,000 affected individuals with each disorder, and a shared pool of ~3,000 controls, all genotyped using Affymetrix GeneChip 500 K arrays. For CAD, we detected single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) pairs in three genes showing genome-wide significance: HFE2, STK32B, and DIPC2. The most notable SNP pairs in a non-protein-coding region were at 9p21, a known major CAD-associated region. For HTN, we detected SNP pairs in five genes: GPR39, XRCC4, MYO6, ZFAT, and MACROD2. Four further associated SNP pair regions were at least 70 kb from any known gene. We have shown that novel, multiple-marker, statistical methods can be of use in finding variants in GWAS. We describe many new, associated variants for both CAD and HTN and describe their known genetic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3576836  PMID: 21626137
24.  Tools for efficient epistasis detection in genome-wide association study 
Genome-wide association study (GWAS) aims to find genetic factors underlying complex phenotypic traits, for which epistasis or gene-gene interaction detection is often preferred over single-locus approach. However, the computational burden has been a major hurdle to apply epistasis test in the genome-wide scale due to a large number of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) pairs to be tested.
We have developed a set of three efficient programs, FastANOVA, COE and TEAM, that support epistasis test in a variety of problem settings in GWAS. These programs utilize permutation test to properly control error rate such as family-wise error rate (FWER) and false discovery rate (FDR). They guarantee to find the optimal solutions, and significantly speed up the process of epistasis detection in GWAS.
A web server with user interface and source codes are available at the website The source codes are also available at SourceForge
PMCID: PMC3022563  PMID: 21205316
25.  SNP-PRAGE: SNP-based parametric robust analysis of gene set enrichment 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5(Suppl 2):S11.
The current genome-wide association (GWA) analysis mainly focuses on the single genetic variant, which may not reveal some the genetic variants that have small individual effects but large joint effects. Considering the multiple SNPs jointly in Genome-wide association (GWA) analysis can increase power. When multiple SNPs are jointly considered, the corresponding SNP-level association measures are likely to be correlated due to the linkage disequilibrium (LD) among SNPs.
We propose SNP-based parametric robust analysis of gene-set enrichment (SNP-PRAGE) method which handles correlation adequately among association measures of SNPs, and minimizes computing effort by the parametric assumption. SNP-PRAGE first obtains gene-level association measures from SNP-level association measures by incorporating the size of corresponding (or nearby) genes and the LD structure among SNPs. Afterward, SNP-PRAGE acquires the gene-set level summary of genes that undergo the same biological knowledge. This two-step summarization makes the within-set association measures to be independent from each other, and therefore the central limit theorem can be adequately applied for the parametric model.
Results & conclusions
We applied SNP-PRAGE to two GWA data sets: hypertension data of 8,842 samples from the Korean population and bipolar disorder data of 4,806 samples from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC). We found two enriched gene sets for hypertension and three enriched gene sets for bipolar disorder. By a simulation study, we compared our method to other gene set methods, and we found SNP-PRAGE reduced many false positives notably while requiring much less computational efforts than other permutation-based gene set approaches.
PMCID: PMC3287477  PMID: 22784568

Results 1-25 (1185054)