Gene-based testing of interactions in association studies of quantitative traits

TitleGene-based testing of interactions in association studies of quantitative traits
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsMa L, Clark AG, Keinan A
JournalPLoS Genet.
KeywordsComputer Simulation, Epistasis, Genetic, Genome-Wide Association Study, Genotype, Humans, Linkage Disequilibrium, Models, Phenotype, Polymorphism, Protein Binding, Quantitative Trait Loci, Single Nucleotide, Theoretical

Various methods have been developed for identifying gene-gene interactions in genome-wide association studies ({GWAS).} However, most methods focus on individual markers as the testing unit, and the large number of such tests drastically erodes statistical power. In this study, we propose novel interaction tests of quantitative traits that are gene-based and that confer advantage in both statistical power and biological interpretation. The framework of gene-based gene-gene interaction ({GGG)} tests combine marker-based interaction tests between all pairs of markers in two genes to produce a gene-level test for interaction between the two. The tests are based on an analytical formula we derive for the correlation between marker-based interaction tests due to linkage disequilibrium. We propose four {GGG} tests that extend the following P value combining methods: minimum P value, extended Simes procedure, truncated tail strength, and truncated P value product. Extensive simulations point to correct type I error rates of all tests and show that the two truncated tests are more powerful than the other tests in cases of markers involved in the underlying interaction not being directly genotyped and in cases of multiple underlying interactions. We applied our tests to pairs of genes that exhibit a protein-protein interaction to test for gene-level interactions underlying lipid levels using genotype data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. We identified five novel interactions that are not evident from marker-based interaction testing and successfully replicated one of these interactions, between {SMAD3} and {NEDD9}, in an independent sample from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. We conclude that our {GGG} tests show improved power to identify gene-level interactions in existing, as well as emerging, association studies.