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Meta-GWAS Accuracy and Power (MetaGAP) calculator shows that hiding heritability is partially due to imperfect genetic correlations across studies

By Ronald de Vlaming, Aysu Okbay, Cornelius A. Rietveld, Magnus Johannesson, Patrik K.E. Magnusson, André G. Uitterlinden, Frank JA van Rooij, Albert Hofman, Patrick JF Groenen, A Roy Thurik, Philipp D. Koellinger

Posted 13 Apr 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/048322 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006495)

Large-scale genome-wide association results are typically obtained from a fixed-effects meta-analysis of GWAS summary statistics from multiple studies spanning different regions and/or time periods. This approach averages the estimated effects of genetic variants across studies. In case genetic effects are heterogeneous across studies, the statistical power of a GWAS and the predictive accuracy of polygenic scores are attenuated, contributing to the so-called 'missing heritability'. Here, we describe the online Meta-GWAS Accuracy and Power calculator (MetaGAP; available at www.devlaming.eu) which quantifies this attenuation based on a novel multi-study framework. By means of simulation studies, we show that under a wide range of genetic architectures, the statistical power and predictive accuracy provided by this calculator are accurate. We compare the predictions from MetaGAP with actual results obtained in the GWAS literature. Specifically, we use genomic-relatedness-matrix restricted maximum likelihood (GREML) to estimate the SNP heritability and cross-study genetic correlation of height, BMI, years of education, and self-rated health in three large samples. These estimates are used as input parameters for the MetaGAP calculator. Results from the calculator suggest that cross-study heterogeneity has led to attenuation of statistical power and predictive accuracy in recent large-scale GWAS efforts on these traits (e.g., for years of education, we estimate a relative loss of 51–62% in the number of genome-wide significant loci and a relative loss in polygenic score R2 of 36–38%). Hence, cross-study heterogeneity contributes to the missing heritability.

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