As we move forward from the current generation of genome-wide association (GWA) studies, additional cohorts of different ancestries will be studied to increase power, fine map association signals, and generalize association results to additional populations. Knowledge of genetic ancestry as well as population substructure will become increasingly important for GWA studies in populations of unknown ancestry. Here we propose genotyping pooled DNA samples using genome-wide SNP arrays as a viable option to efficiently and inexpensively estimate admixture proportion and identify ancestry informative markers (AIMs) in populations of unknown origin. We constructed DNA pools from African American, Native Hawaiian, Latina, and Jamaican samples and genotyped them using the Affymetrix 6.0 array. Aided by individual genotype data from the African American cohort, we established quality control filters to remove poorly performing SNPs and estimated allele frequencies for the remaining SNPs in each panel. We then applied a regression-based method to estimate the proportion of admixture in each cohort using the allele frequencies estimated from pooling and populations from the International HapMap Consortium as reference panels, and identified AIMs unique to each population. In this study, we demonstrated that genotyping pooled DNA samples yields estimates of admixture proportion that are both consistent with our knowledge of population history and similar to those obtained by genotyping known AIMs. Furthermore, through validation by individual genotyping, we demonstrated that pooling is quite effective for identifying SNPs with large allele frequency differences (i.e., AIMs) and that these AIMs are able to differentiate two closely related populations (HapMap JPT and CHB).
Many association studies have been published looking for genetic variants contributing to a variety of human traits such as obesity, diabetes, and height. Because the frequency of genetic variants can differ across populations, it is important to have estimates of genetic ancestry in the individuals being studied. In this study, we were able to measure genetic ancestry in populations of mixed ancestry by genotyping pooled, rather than individual, DNA samples. This represents a rapid and inexpensive means for modeling genetic ancestry and thus could facilitate future association or population-genetic studies in populations of unknown ancestry for which whole-genome data do not already exist.