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Population admixture: detection by Hardy-Weinberg test and its quantitative effects on linkage-disequilibrium methods for localizing genes underlying complex traits.

The Genetics Society of America
Publication Date
  • Research Article
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine


In association studies searching for genes underlying complex traits, the results are often inconsistent, and population admixture has been recognized qualitatively as one major potential cause. Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (HWE) is often employed to test for population admixture; however, its power is generally unknown. Through analytical and simulation approaches, we quantify the power of the HWE test for population admixture and the effects of population admixture on increasing the type I error rate of association studies under various scenarios of population differentiation and admixture. We found that (1) the power of the HWE test for detecting population admixture is usually small; (2) population admixture seriously elevates type I error rate for detecting genes underlying complex traits, the extent of which depends on the degrees of population differentiation and admixture; (3) HWE testing for population admixture should be performed with random samples or only with controls at the candidate genes, or the test can be performed for combined samples of cases and controls at marker loci that are not linked to the disease; (4) testing HWE for population admixture generally reduces false positive association findings of genes underlying complex traits but the effect is small; and (5) with population admixture, a linkage disequilibrium method that employs cases only is more robust and yields many fewer false positive findings than conventional case-control analyses. Therefore, unless random samples are carefully selected from one homogeneous population, admixture is always a legitimate concern for positive findings in association studies except for the analyses that deliberately control population admixture.

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