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1.  A Partially Linear Tree-based Regression Model for Multivariate Outcomes 
Biometrics  2009;66(1):89-96.
In the genetic study of complex traits, especially behavior related ones, such as smoking and alcoholism, usually several phenotypic measurements are obtained for the description of the complex trait, but no single measurement can quantify fully the complicated characteristics of the symptom because of our lack of understanding of the underlying etiology. If those phenotypes share a common genetic mechanism, rather than studying each individual phenotype separately, it is more advantageous to analyze them jointly as a multivariate trait in order to enhance the power to identify associated genes. We propose a multilocus association test for the study of multivariate traits. The test is derived from a partially linear tree-based regression model for multiple outcomes. This novel tree-based model provides a formal statistical testing framework for the evaluation of the association between a multivariate outcome and a set of candidate predictors, such as markers within a gene or pathway, while accommodating adjustment for other covariates. Through simulation studies we show that the proposed method has an acceptable type I error rate and improved power over the univariate outcome analysis, which studies each component of the complex trait separately with multiple-comparison adjustment. A candidate gene association study of multiple smoking-related phenotypes is used to demonstrate the application and advantages of this new method. The proposed method is general enough to be used for the assessment of the joint effect of a set of multiple risk factors on a multivariate outcome in other biomedical research settings.
PMCID: PMC2875329  PMID: 19432770
Generalized estimating equation; Genetic association study; Model selection; Multiple-comparison adjustment; Tree-based model
2.  Pathway analysis by adaptive combination of P-values 
Genetic epidemiology  2009;33(8):700-709.
It is increasingly recognized that pathway analyses—a joint test of association between the outcome and a group of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within a biological pathway—could potentially complement single-SNP analysis and provide additional insights for the genetic architecture of complex diseases. Building upon existing P-value combining methods, we propose a class of highly flexible pathway analysis approaches based on an adaptive rank truncated product (ARTP) statistic that can effectively combine evidence of associations over different SNPs and genes within a pathway. The statistical significance of the pathway-level test-statistics is evaluated using a highly efficient permutation algorithm that remains computationally feasible irrespective of the size of the pathway and complexity of the underlying test-statistics for summarizing SNP- and gene-level associations. We demonstrate through simulation studies that a gene-based analysis, that treats the underlying genes, as opposed to the underlying SNPs, as the basic units for hypothesis testing, is a very robust and powerful approach to pathway-based association testing. We also illustrate the advantage of the proposed methods using a study of the association between the nicotinic receptor pathway and cigarette smoking behaviors.
PMCID: PMC2790032  PMID: 19333968
Pathway analysis; genetic association study; permutation procedure
3.  Phase I Metabolic Genes and Risk of Lung Cancer: Multiple Polymorphisms and mRNA Expression 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5652.
Polymorphisms in genes coding for enzymes that activate tobacco lung carcinogens may generate inter-individual differences in lung cancer risk. Previous studies had limited sample sizes, poor exposure characterization, and a few single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) tested in candidate genes. We analyzed 25 SNPs (some previously untested) in 2101 primary lung cancer cases and 2120 population controls from the Environment And Genetics in Lung cancer Etiology (EAGLE) study from six phase I metabolic genes, including cytochrome P450s, microsomal epoxide hydrolase, and myeloperoxidase. We evaluated the main genotype effects and genotype-smoking interactions in lung cancer risk overall and in the major histology subtypes. We tested the combined effect of multiple SNPs on lung cancer risk and on gene expression. Findings were prioritized based on significance thresholds and consistency across different analyses, and accounted for multiple testing and prior knowledge. Two haplotypes in EPHX1 were significantly associated with lung cancer risk in the overall population. In addition, CYP1B1 and CYP2A6 polymorphisms were inversely associated with adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma risk, respectively. Moreover, the association between CYP1A1 rs2606345 genotype and lung cancer was significantly modified by intensity of cigarette smoking, suggesting an underling dose-response mechanism. Finally, increasing number of variants at CYP1A1/A2 genes revealed significant protection in never smokers and risk in ever smokers. Results were supported by differential gene expression in non-tumor lung tissue samples with down-regulation of CYP1A1 in never smokers and up-regulation in smokers from CYP1A1/A2 SNPs. The significant haplotype associations emphasize that the effect of multiple SNPs may be important despite null single SNP-associations, and warrants consideration in genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Our findings emphasize the necessity of post-GWAS fine mapping and SNP functional assessment to further elucidate cancer risk associations.
PMCID: PMC2682568  PMID: 19479063
4.  Genome-Wide and Candidate Gene Association Study of Cigarette Smoking Behaviors 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(2):e4653.
The contribution of common genetic variation to one or more established smoking behaviors was investigated in a joint analysis of two genome wide association studies (GWAS) performed as part of the Cancer Genetic Markers of Susceptibility (CGEMS) project in 2,329 men from the Prostate, Lung, Colon and Ovarian (PLCO) Trial, and 2,282 women from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS). We analyzed seven measures of smoking behavior, four continuous (cigarettes per day [CPD], age at initiation of smoking, duration of smoking, and pack years), and three binary (ever versus never smoking, ≤10 versus >10 cigarettes per day [CPDBI], and current versus former smoking). Association testing for each single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) was conducted by study and adjusted for age, cohabitation/marital status, education, site, and principal components of population substructure. None of the SNPs achieved genome-wide significance (p<10−7) in any combined analysis pooling evidence for association across the two studies; we observed between two and seven SNPs with p<10−5 for each of the seven measures. In the chr15q25.1 region spanning the nicotinic receptors CHRNA3 and CHRNA5, we identified multiple SNPs associated with CPD (p<10−3), including rs1051730, which has been associated with nicotine dependence, smoking intensity and lung cancer risk. In parallel, we selected 11,199 SNPs drawn from 359 a priori candidate genes and performed individual-gene and gene-group analyses. After adjusting for multiple tests conducted within each gene, we identified between two and five genes associated with each measure of smoking behavior. Besides CHRNA3 and CHRNA5, MAOA was associated with CPDBI (gene-level p<5.4×10−5), our analysis provides independent replication of the association between the chr15q25.1 region and smoking intensity and data for multiple other loci associated with smoking behavior that merit further follow-up.
PMCID: PMC2644817  PMID: 19247474

Results 1-4 (4)