Search tips
Search criteria

Results 1-25 (1255592)

Clipboard (0)

Related Articles

1.  A variable selection method for genome-wide association studies 
Bioinformatics  2010;27(1):1-8.
Motivation: 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).
Results: 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 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.
Availability: The software implementing GWASelect is available at
Access to WTCCC data:
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics Online.
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.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  Simultaneous Analysis of All SNPs in Genome-Wide and Re-Sequencing Association Studies 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(7):e1000130.
Testing one SNP at a time does not fully realise the potential of genome-wide association studies to identify multiple causal variants, which is a plausible scenario for many complex diseases. We show that simultaneous analysis of the entire set of SNPs from a genome-wide study to identify the subset that best predicts disease outcome is now feasible, thanks to developments in stochastic search methods. We used a Bayesian-inspired penalised maximum likelihood approach in which every SNP can be considered for additive, dominant, and recessive contributions to disease risk. Posterior mode estimates were obtained for regression coefficients that were each assigned a prior with a sharp mode at zero. A non-zero coefficient estimate was interpreted as corresponding to a significant SNP. We investigated two prior distributions and show that the normal-exponential-gamma prior leads to improved SNP selection in comparison with single-SNP tests. We also derived an explicit approximation for type-I error that avoids the need to use permutation procedures. As well as genome-wide analyses, our method is well-suited to fine mapping with very dense SNP sets obtained from re-sequencing and/or imputation. It can accommodate quantitative as well as case-control phenotypes, covariate adjustment, and can be extended to search for interactions. Here, we demonstrate the power and empirical type-I error of our approach using simulated case-control data sets of up to 500 K SNPs, a real genome-wide data set of 300 K SNPs, and a sequence-based dataset, each of which can be analysed in a few hours on a desktop workstation.
Author Summary
Tests of association with disease status are normally conducted one SNP at a time, ignoring the effects of all other genotyped SNPs. We developed a computationally efficient method to simultaneously analyse all SNPs, either in a genome-wide association (GWA) study, or a fine-mapping study based on re-sequencing and/or imputation. The method selects a subset of SNPs that best predicts disease status, while controlling the type-I error of the selected SNPs. This brings many advantages over standard single-SNP approaches, because the signal from a particular SNP can be more clearly assessed when other SNPs associated with disease status are already included in the model. Thus, in comparison with single-SNP analyses, power is increased and the false positive rate is reduced because of reduced residual variation. Localisation is also greatly improved. We demonstrate these advantages over the widely used single-SNP Armitage Trend Test using GWA simulation studies, a real GWA dataset, and a sequence-based fine-mapping simulation study.
PMCID: PMC2464715  PMID: 18654633
7.  Improved Detection of Common Variants Associated with Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Using Pleiotropy-Informed Conditional False Discovery Rate 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(4):e1003455.
Several lines of evidence suggest that genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have the potential to explain more of the “missing heritability” of common complex phenotypes. However, reliable methods to identify a larger proportion of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that impact disease risk are currently lacking. Here, we use a genetic pleiotropy-informed conditional false discovery rate (FDR) method on GWAS summary statistics data to identify new loci associated with schizophrenia (SCZ) and bipolar disorders (BD), two highly heritable disorders with significant missing heritability. Epidemiological and clinical evidence suggest similar disease characteristics and overlapping genes between SCZ and BD. Here, we computed conditional Q–Q curves of data from the Psychiatric Genome Consortium (SCZ; n = 9,379 cases and n = 7,736 controls; BD: n = 6,990 cases and n = 4,820 controls) to show enrichment of SNPs associated with SCZ as a function of association with BD and vice versa with a corresponding reduction in FDR. Applying the conditional FDR method, we identified 58 loci associated with SCZ and 35 loci associated with BD below the conditional FDR level of 0.05. Of these, 14 loci were associated with both SCZ and BD (conjunction FDR). Together, these findings show the feasibility of genetic pleiotropy-informed methods to improve gene discovery in SCZ and BD and indicate overlapping genetic mechanisms between these two disorders.
Author Summary
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have thus far identified only a small fraction of the heritability of common complex disorders, such as severe mental disorders. We used a conditional false discovery rate approach for analysis of GWAS data, exploiting “genetic pleiotropy” to increase discovery of common gene variants associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Leveraging the increased power from combining GWAS of two associated phenotypes, we found a striking overlap in polygenic signals, allowing for the discovery of several new common gene variants associated with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia that were not identified in the original analysis using traditional GWAS methods. Some of the gene variants have been identified in other studies with large targeted replication samples, validating the present findings. Our pleiotropy-informed method may be of significant importance for detecting effects that are below the traditional genome-wide significance level in GWAS, particularly in highly polygenic, complex phenotypes, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, where most of the genetic signal is missing (i.e., “missing heritability”). The findings also offer insights into mechanistic relationships between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3636100  PMID: 23637625
8.  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
9.  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
10.  Enhanced Statistical Tests for GWAS in Admixed Populations: Assessment using African Americans from CARe and a Breast Cancer Consortium 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(4):e1001371.
While genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have primarily examined populations of European ancestry, more recent studies often involve additional populations, including admixed populations such as African Americans and Latinos. In admixed populations, linkage disequilibrium (LD) exists both at a fine scale in ancestral populations and at a coarse scale (admixture-LD) due to chromosomal segments of distinct ancestry. Disease association statistics in admixed populations have previously considered SNP association (LD mapping) or admixture association (mapping by admixture-LD), but not both. Here, we introduce a new statistical framework for combining SNP and admixture association in case-control studies, as well as methods for local ancestry-aware imputation. We illustrate the gain in statistical power achieved by these methods by analyzing data of 6,209 unrelated African Americans from the CARe project genotyped on the Affymetrix 6.0 chip, in conjunction with both simulated and real phenotypes, as well as by analyzing the FGFR2 locus using breast cancer GWAS data from 5,761 African-American women. We show that, at typed SNPs, our method yields an 8% increase in statistical power for finding disease risk loci compared to the power achieved by standard methods in case-control studies. At imputed SNPs, we observe an 11% increase in statistical power for mapping disease loci when our local ancestry-aware imputation framework and the new scoring statistic are jointly employed. Finally, we show that our method increases statistical power in regions harboring the causal SNP in the case when the causal SNP is untyped and cannot be imputed. Our methods and our publicly available software are broadly applicable to GWAS in admixed populations.
Author Summary
This paper presents improved methodologies for the analysis of genome-wide association studies in admixed populations, which are populations that came about by the mixing of two or more distant continental populations over a few hundred years (e.g., African Americans or Latinos). Studies of admixed populations offer the promise of capturing additional genetic diversity compared to studies over homogeneous populations such as Europeans. In admixed populations, correlation between genetic variants exists both at a fine scale in the ancestral populations and at a coarse scale due to chromosomal segments of distinct ancestry. Disease association statistics in admixed populations have previously considered either one or the other type of correlation, but not both. In this work we develop novel statistical methods that account for both types of genetic correlation, and we show that the combined approach attains greater statistical power than that achieved by applying either approach separately. We provide analysis of simulated and real data from major studies performed in African-American men and women to show the improvement obtained by our methods over the standard methods for analyzing association studies in admixed populations.
PMCID: PMC3080860  PMID: 21541012
11.  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
12.  Integrating Functional Data to Prioritize Causal Variants in Statistical Fine-Mapping Studies 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(10):e1004722.
Standard statistical approaches for prioritization of variants for functional testing in fine-mapping studies either use marginal association statistics or estimate posterior probabilities for variants to be causal under simplifying assumptions. Here, we present a probabilistic framework that integrates association strength with functional genomic annotation data to improve accuracy in selecting plausible causal variants for functional validation. A key feature of our approach is that it empirically estimates the contribution of each functional annotation to the trait of interest directly from summary association statistics while allowing for multiple causal variants at any risk locus. We devise efficient algorithms that estimate the parameters of our model across all risk loci to further increase performance. Using simulations starting from the 1000 Genomes data, we find that our framework consistently outperforms the current state-of-the-art fine-mapping methods, reducing the number of variants that need to be selected to capture 90% of the causal variants from an average of 13.3 to 10.4 SNPs per locus (as compared to the next-best performing strategy). Furthermore, we introduce a cost-to-benefit optimization framework for determining the number of variants to be followed up in functional assays and assess its performance using real and simulation data. We validate our findings using a large scale meta-analysis of four blood lipids traits and find that the relative probability for causality is increased for variants in exons and transcription start sites and decreased in repressed genomic regions at the risk loci of these traits. Using these highly predictive, trait-specific functional annotations, we estimate causality probabilities across all traits and variants, reducing the size of the 90% confidence set from an average of 17.5 to 13.5 variants per locus in this data.
Author Summary
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have successfully identified numerous regions in the genome that harbor genetic variants that increase risk for various complex traits and diseases. However, it is generally the case that GWAS risk variants are not themselves causally affecting the trait, but rather, are correlated to the true causal variant through linkage disequilibrium (LD). Plausible causal variants are identified in fine-mapping studies through targeted sequencing followed by prioritization of variants for functional validation. In this work, we propose methods that leverage two sources of independent information, the association strength and genomic functional location, to prioritize causal variants. We demonstrate in simulations and empirical data that our approach reduces the number of SNPs that need to be selected for follow-up to identify the true causal variants at GWAS risk loci.
PMCID: PMC4214605  PMID: 25357204
13.  Prioritized Subset Analysis: Improving Power in Genome-wide Association Studies 
Human Heredity  2007;65(3):129-141.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are now feasible for studying the genetics underlying complex diseases. For many diseases, a list of candidate genes or regions exists and incorporation of such information into data analyses can potentially improve the power to detect disease variants. Traditional approaches for assessing the overall statistical significance of GWAS results ignore such information by inherently treating all markers equally.
We propose the prioritized subset analysis (PSA), in which a prioritized subset of markers is pre-selected from candidate regions, and the false discovery rate (FDR) procedure is carried out in the prioritized subset and its complementary subset, respectively.
The PSA is more powerful than the whole-genome single-step FDR adjustment for a range of alternative models. The degree of power improvement depends on the fraction of associated SNPs in the prioritized subset and their nominal power, with higher fraction of associated SNPs and higher nominal power leading to more power improvement. The power improvement can be substantial; for disease loci not included in the prioritized subset, the power loss is almost negligible.
The PSA has the flexibility of allowing investigators to combine prior information from a variety of sources, and will be a useful tool for GWAS.
PMCID: PMC2858373  PMID: 17934316
Association analysis; False discovery rate; HapMap
14.  Liver and Adipose Expression Associated SNPs Are Enriched for Association to Type 2 Diabetes 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(5):e1000932.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have demonstrated the ability to identify the strongest causal common variants in complex human diseases. However, to date, the massive data generated from GWAS have not been maximally explored to identify true associations that fail to meet the stringent level of association required to achieve genome-wide significance. Genetics of gene expression (GGE) studies have shown promise towards identifying DNA variations associated with disease and providing a path to functionally characterize findings from GWAS. Here, we present the first empiric study to systematically characterize the set of single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with expression (eSNPs) in liver, subcutaneous fat, and omental fat tissues, demonstrating these eSNPs are significantly more enriched for SNPs that associate with type 2 diabetes (T2D) in three large-scale GWAS than a matched set of randomly selected SNPs. This enrichment for T2D association increases as we restrict to eSNPs that correspond to genes comprising gene networks constructed from adipose gene expression data isolated from a mouse population segregating a T2D phenotype. Finally, by restricting to eSNPs corresponding to genes comprising an adipose subnetwork strongly predicted as causal for T2D, we dramatically increased the enrichment for SNPs associated with T2D and were able to identify a functionally related set of diabetes susceptibility genes. We identified and validated malic enzyme 1 (Me1) as a key regulator of this T2D subnetwork in mouse and provided support for the association of this gene to T2D in humans. This integration of eSNPs and networks provides a novel approach to identify disease susceptibility networks rather than the single SNPs or genes traditionally identified through GWAS, thereby extracting additional value from the wealth of data currently being generated by GWAS.
Author Summary
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) seek to identify loci in which changes in DNA are correlated with disease. However, GWAS do not necessarily lead directly to genes associated with disease, and they do not typically inform the broader context in which disease genes operate, thereby providing limited insights into the mechanisms driving disease. One critical task to providing further insights into GWAS is developing an understanding of the genetics of gene expression (GGE). We present the first empiric study demonstrating that SNPs in human cohorts that associate with gene expression in liver and adipose tissues are enriched for associating with Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) in humans. By filtering “eSNPs” based on causal gene networks defined in an experimental cross population segregating T2D traits, we demonstrate a dramatically increased enrichment of T2D SNPs that enhance our ability to assess T2D risk. We demonstrate the utility of this approach by identifying malic enzyme 1 (ME1) as a novel T2D susceptibility gene in humans and then functionally validating the causal connection between ME1 and T2D in a mouse knockout model for Me1. This approach provides a path to identifying disease susceptibility networks rather than single SNPs or genes traditionally identified through GWAS.
PMCID: PMC2865508  PMID: 20463879
15.  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
16.  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
17.  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
18.  Two-stage study designs combining genome-wide association studies, tag single-nucleotide polymorphisms, and exome sequencing: accuracy of genetic effect estimates 
BMC Proceedings  2011;5(Suppl 9):S64.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) test for disease-trait associations and estimate effect sizes at tag single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which imperfectly capture variation at causal SNPs. Sequencing studies can examine potential causal SNPs directly; however, sequencing the whole genome or exome can be prohibitively expensive. Costs can be limited by using a GWAS to detect the associated region(s) at tag SNPs followed by targeted sequencing to identify and estimate the effect size of the causal variant. Genetic effect estimates obtained from association studies can be inflated because of a form of selection bias known as the winner’s curse. Conversely, estimates at tag SNPs can be attenuated compared to the causal SNP because of incomplete linkage disequilibrium. These two effects oppose each other. Analysis of rare SNPs further complicates our understanding of the winner’s curse because rare SNPs are difficult to tag and analysis can involve collapsing over multiple rare variants. In two-stage analysis of Genetic Analysis Workshop 17 simulated data sets, we find that selection at the tag SNP produces upward bias in the estimate of effect at the causal SNP, even when the tag and causal SNPs are not well correlated. The bias similarly carries through to effect estimates for rare variant summary measures. Replication studies designed with sample sizes computed using biased estimates will be under-powered to detect a disease-causing variant. Accounting for bias in the original study is critical to avoid discarding disease-associated SNPs at follow up.
PMCID: PMC3287903  PMID: 22373407
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.  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
21.  Weighted selective collapsing strategy for detecting rare and common variants in genetic association study 
BMC Genetics  2012;13:7.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been used successfully in detecting associations between common genetic variants and complex diseases. However, common SNPs detected by current GWAS only explain a small proportion of heritable variability. With the development of next-generation sequencing technologies, researchers find more and more evidence to support the role played by rare variants in heritable variability. However, rare and common variants are often studied separately. The objective of this paper is to develop a robust strategy to analyze association between complex traits and genetic regions using both common and rare variants.
We propose a weighted selective collapsing strategy for both candidate gene studies and genome-wide association scans. The strategy considers genetic information from both common and rare variants, selectively collapses all variants in a given region by a forward selection procedure, and uses an adaptive weight to favor more likely causal rare variants. Under this strategy, two tests are proposed. One test denoted by BwSC is sensitive to the directions of genetic effects, and it separates the deleterious and protective effects into two components. Another denoted by BwSCd is robust in the directions of genetic effects, and it considers the difference of the two components. In our simulation studies, BwSC achieves a higher power when the casual variants have the same genetic effect, while BwSCd is as powerful as several existing tests when a mixed genetic effect exists. Both of the proposed tests work well with and without the existence of genetic effects from common variants.
Two tests using a weighted selective collapsing strategy provide potentially powerful methods for association studies of sequencing data. The tests have a higher power when both common and rare variants contribute to the heritable variability and the effect of common variants is not strong enough to be detected by traditional methods. Our simulation studies have demonstrated a substantially higher power for both tests in all scenarios regardless whether the common SNPs are associated with the trait or not.
PMCID: PMC3296579  PMID: 22309429
22.  A Markov blanket-based method for detecting causal SNPs in GWAS 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11(Suppl 3):S5.
Detecting epistatic interactions associated with complex and common diseases can help to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of these diseases. With the development of genome-wide association studies (GWAS), designing powerful and robust computational method for identifying epistatic interactions associated with common diseases becomes a great challenge to bioinformatics society, because the study of epistatic interactions often deals with the large size of the genotyped data and the huge amount of combinations of all the possible genetic factors. Most existing computational detection methods are based on the classification capacity of SNP sets, which may fail to identify SNP sets that are strongly associated with the diseases and introduce a lot of false positives. In addition, most methods are not suitable for genome-wide scale studies due to their computational complexity.
We propose a new Markov Blanket-based method, DASSO-MB (Detection of ASSOciations using Markov Blanket) to detect epistatic interactions in case-control GWAS. Markov blanket of a target variable T can completely shield T from all other variables. Thus, we can guarantee that the SNP set detected by DASSO-MB has a strong association with diseases and contains fewest false positives. Furthermore, DASSO-MB uses a heuristic search strategy by calculating the association between variables to avoid the time-consuming training process as in other machine-learning methods. We apply our algorithm to simulated datasets and a real case-control dataset. We compare DASSO-MB to other commonly-used methods and show that our method significantly outperforms other methods and is capable of finding SNPs strongly associated with diseases.
Our study shows that DASSO-MB can identify a minimal set of causal SNPs associated with diseases, which contains less false positives compared to other existing methods. Given the huge size of genomic dataset produced by GWAS, this is critical in saving the potential costs of biological experiments and being an efficient guideline for pathogenesis research.
PMCID: PMC2863064  PMID: 20438652
23.  Pathways of Distinction Analysis: A New Technique for Multi–SNP Analysis of GWAS Data 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002101.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have become increasingly common due to advances in technology and have permitted the identification of differences in single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) alleles that are associated with diseases. However, while typical GWAS analysis techniques treat markers individually, complex diseases (cancers, diabetes, and Alzheimers, amongst others) are unlikely to have a single causative gene. Thus, there is a pressing need for multi–SNP analysis methods that can reveal system-level differences in cases and controls. Here, we present a novel multi–SNP GWAS analysis method called Pathways of Distinction Analysis (PoDA). The method uses GWAS data and known pathway–gene and gene–SNP associations to identify pathways that permit, ideally, the distinction of cases from controls. The technique is based upon the hypothesis that, if a pathway is related to disease risk, cases will appear more similar to other cases than to controls (or vice versa) for the SNPs associated with that pathway. By systematically applying the method to all pathways of potential interest, we can identify those for which the hypothesis holds true, i.e., pathways containing SNPs for which the samples exhibit greater within-class similarity than across classes. Importantly, PoDA improves on existing single–SNP and SNP–set enrichment analyses, in that it does not require the SNPs in a pathway to exhibit independent main effects. This permits PoDA to reveal pathways in which epistatic interactions drive risk. In this paper, we detail the PoDA method and apply it to two GWAS: one of breast cancer and the other of liver cancer. The results obtained strongly suggest that there exist pathway-wide genomic differences that contribute to disease susceptibility. PoDA thus provides an analytical tool that is complementary to existing techniques and has the power to enrich our understanding of disease genomics at the systems-level.
Author Summary
We present a novel method for multi–SNP analysis of genome-wide association studies. The method is motivated by the intuition that, if a set of SNPs is associated with disease, cases and controls will exhibit more within-group similarity than across-group similarity for the SNPs in the set of interest. Our method, Pathways of Distinction Analysis (PoDA), uses GWAS data and known pathway–gene and gene–SNP associations to identify pathways that permit the distinction of cases from controls. By systematically applying the method to all pathways of potential interest, we can identify pathways containing SNPs for which the cases and controls are distinguished and infer those pathways' role in disease. We detail the PoDA method and describe its results in breast and liver cancer GWAS data, demonstrating its utility as a method for systems-level analysis of GWAS data.
PMCID: PMC3111473  PMID: 21695280
24.  Pathways-Driven Sparse Regression Identifies Pathways and Genes Associated with High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol in Two Asian Cohorts 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(11):e1003939.
Standard approaches to data analysis in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) ignore any potential functional relationships between gene variants. In contrast gene pathways analysis uses prior information on functional structure within the genome to identify pathways associated with a trait of interest. In a second step, important single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) or genes may be identified within associated pathways. The pathways approach is motivated by the fact that genes do not act alone, but instead have effects that are likely to be mediated through their interaction in gene pathways. Where this is the case, pathways approaches may reveal aspects of a trait's genetic architecture that would otherwise be missed when considering SNPs in isolation. Most pathways methods begin by testing SNPs one at a time, and so fail to capitalise on the potential advantages inherent in a multi-SNP, joint modelling approach. Here, we describe a dual-level, sparse regression model for the simultaneous identification of pathways and genes associated with a quantitative trait. Our method takes account of various factors specific to the joint modelling of pathways with genome-wide data, including widespread correlation between genetic predictors, and the fact that variants may overlap multiple pathways. We use a resampling strategy that exploits finite sample variability to provide robust rankings for pathways and genes. We test our method through simulation, and use it to perform pathways-driven gene selection in a search for pathways and genes associated with variation in serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in two separate GWAS cohorts of Asian adults. By comparing results from both cohorts we identify a number of candidate pathways including those associated with cardiomyopathy, and T cell receptor and PPAR signalling. Highlighted genes include those associated with the L-type calcium channel, adenylate cyclase, integrin, laminin, MAPK signalling and immune function.
Author Summary
Genes do not act in isolation, but interact in complex networks or pathways. By accounting for such interactions, pathways analysis methods hope to identify aspects of a disease or trait's genetic architecture that might be missed using more conventional approaches. Most existing pathways methods take a univariate approach, in which each variant within a pathway is separately tested for association with the phenotype of interest. These statistics are then combined to assess pathway significance. As a second step, further analysis can reveal important genetic variants within significant pathways. We have previously shown that a joint-modelling approach using a sparse regression model can increase the power to detect pathways influencing a quantitative trait. Here we extend this approach, and describe a method that is able to simultaneously identify pathways and genes that may be driving pathway selection. We test our method using simulations, and apply it to a study searching for pathways and genes associated with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in two separate East Asian cohorts.
PMCID: PMC3836716  PMID: 24278029
25.  Limits on the reproducibility of marker associations with southern leaf blight resistance in the maize nested association mapping population 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):1068.
A previous study reported a comprehensive quantitative trait locus (QTL) and genome wide association study (GWAS) of southern leaf blight (SLB) resistance in the maize Nested Association Mapping (NAM) panel. Since that time, the genomic resources available for such analyses have improved substantially. An updated NAM genetic linkage map has a nearly six-fold greater marker density than the previous map and the combined SNPs and read-depth variants (RDVs) from maize HapMaps 1 and 2 provided 28.5 M genomic variants for association analysis, 17 fold more than HapMap 1. In addition, phenotypic values of the NAM RILs were re-estimated to account for environment-specific flowering time covariates and a small proportion of lines were dropped due to genotypic data quality problems. Comparisons of original and updated QTL and GWAS results confound the effects of linkage map density, GWAS marker density, population sample size, and phenotype estimates. Therefore, we evaluated the effects of changing each of these parameters individually and in combination to determine their relative impact on marker-trait associations in original and updated analyses.
Of the four parameters varied, map density caused the largest changes in QTL and GWAS results. The updated QTL model had better cross-validation prediction accuracy than the previous model. Whereas joint linkage QTL positions were relatively stable to input changes, the residual values derived from those QTL models (used as inputs to GWAS) were more sensitive, resulting in substantial differences between GWAS results. The updated NAM GWAS identified several candidate genes consistent with previous QTL fine-mapping results.
The highly polygenic nature of resistance to SLB complicates the identification of causal genes. Joint linkage QTL are relatively stable to perturbations of data inputs, but their resolution is generally on the order of tens or more Mbp. GWAS associations have higher resolution, but lower power due to stringent thresholds designed to minimize false positive associations, resulting in variability of detection across studies. The updated higher density linkage map improves QTL estimation and, along with a much denser SNP HapMap, greatly increases the likelihood of detecting SNPs in linkage with causal variants. We recommend use of the updated genetic resources and results but emphasize the limited repeatability of small-effect associations.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-1068) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4300987  PMID: 25475173
Quantitative trait loci; Nested association mapping; Disease resistance; Genome wide association study; Zea mays

Results 1-25 (1255592)