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Why do we test multiple traits in genetic association studies?

Journal of the Korean Statistical Society
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jkss.2008.10.006
  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Directed Acyclic Graphs
  • Family-Based Association Studies
  • Linear Structural Equation Model
  • Multiple Traits
  • Medicine


Abstract In studies of complex disorders such as nicotine dependence, it is common that researchers assess multiple variables related to a disorder as well as other disorders that are potentially correlated with the primary disorder of interest. In this work, we refer to those variables and disorders broadly as multiple traits. The multiple traits may or may not have a common causal genetic variant. Intuitively, it may be more powerful to accommodate multiple traits in genetic traits, but the analysis of multiple traits is generally more complicated than the analysis of a single trait. Furthermore, it is not well documented as to how much power we may potentially gain by considering multiple traits. Our aim is to enhance our understanding on this important and practical issue. We considered a variety of correlation structures between traits and the disease locus. To focus on the effect of accommodating multiple traits, we examined genetic models that are relatively simple so that we can pinpoint the factors affecting the power. We conducted simulation studies to explore the performance of testing multiple traits simultaneously and the performance of testing a single trait at a time in family-based association studies. Our simulation results demonstrated that the performance of testing multiple traits simultaneously is better than that of testing each trait individually for almost models considered. We also found that the power of association tests varies among the underlying models. The advantage of conducting a multiple traits test is minimized when some traits are influenced by the gene only through other traits; and it is maximized when there are causal relations between the traits and the gene, and among the traits themselves or when there are extraneous traits.

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