Exploiting population samples to enhance genome-wide association studies of disease

Shachar Kaufman, Saharon Rosset*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is widely acknowledged that genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of complex human disease fail to explain a large portion of heritability, primarily due to lack of statistical power-a problem that is exacerbated when seeking detection of interactions of multiple genomic loci. An untapped source of information that is already widely available, and that is expected to grow in coming years, is population samples. Such samples contain genetic marker data for additional individuals, but not their relevant phenotypes. In this article we develop a highly efficient testing framework based on a constrained maximum-likelihood estimate in a case-control- population setting. We leverage the available population data and optional modeling assumptions, such as Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (HWE) in the population and linkage equilibrium (LE) between distal loci, to substantially improve power of association and interaction tests. We demonstrate, via simulation and application to actual GWAS data sets, that our approach is substantially more powerful and robust than standard testing approaches that ignore or make naive use of the population sample. We report several novel and credible pairwise interactions, in bipolar disorder, coronary artery disease, Crohn's disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-349
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2014


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