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Integrating Comprehensive Functional Annotations to Boost Power and Accuracy in Gene-Based Association Analysis

By Corbin Quick, Xiaoquan Wen, Gonçalo Abecasis, Michael Boehnke, Hyun Min Kang

Posted 12 Aug 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/732404

Gene-based association tests aggregate genotypes across multiple variants for each gene, providing an interpretable gene-level analysis framework for genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Early gene-based test applications often focused on rare coding variants; a more recent wave of gene-based methods, e.g. TWAS, use eQTLs to interrogate regulatory associations. Regulatory variants are expected to be particularly valuable for gene-based analysis, since most GWAS associations to date are non-coding. However, identifying causal genes from regulatory associations remains challenging and contentious. Here, we present a statistical framework and computational tool to integrate heterogeneous annotations with GWAS summary statistics for gene-based analysis, applied with comprehensive coding and tissue-specific regulatory annotations. We compare power and accuracy identifying causal genes across single-annotation, omnibus, and annotation-agnostic gene-based tests in simulation studies and an analysis of 128 traits from the UK Biobank, and find that incorporating heterogeneous annotations in gene-based association analysis increases power and performance identifying causal genes.

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