BMC Bioinformatics. 2023 Jan 3;24(1):2. doi: 10.1186/s12859-022-05114-x.
BACKGROUND: Gene-based association tests provide a useful alternative and complement to the usual single marker association tests, especially in genome-wide association studies (GWAS). The way of weighting for variants in a gene plays an important role in boosting the power of a gene-based association test. Appropriate weights can boost statistical power, especially when detecting genetic variants with weak effects on a trait. One major limitation of existing gene-based association tests lies in using weights that are predetermined biologically or empirically. This limitation often attenuates the power of a test. On another hand, effect sizes or directions of causal genetic variants in real data are usually unknown, driving a need for a flexible yet robust methodology of gene based association tests. Furthermore, access to individual-level data is often limited, while thousands of GWAS summary data are publicly and freely available.
RESULTS: To resolve these limitations, we propose a combination test named as OWC which is based on summary statistics from GWAS data. Several traditional methods including burden test, weighted sum of squared score test [SSU], weighted sum statistic [WSS], SNP-set Kernel Association Test [SKAT], and the score test are special cases of OWC. To evaluate the performance of OWC, we perform extensive simulation studies. Results of simulation studies demonstrate that OWC outperforms several existing popular methods. We further show that OWC outperforms comparison methods in real-world data analyses using schizophrenia GWAS summary data and a fasting glucose GWAS meta-analysis data. The proposed method is implemented in an R package available at https://github.com/Xuexia-Wang/OWC-R-package CONCLUSIONS: We propose a novel gene-based association test that incorporates four different weighting schemes (two constant weights and two weights proportional to normal statistic Z) and includes several popular methods as its special cases. Results of the simulation studies and real data analyses illustrate that the proposed test, OWC, outperforms comparable methods in most scenarios. These results demonstrate that OWC is a useful tool that adapts to the underlying biological model for a disease by weighting appropriately genetic variants and combination of well-known gene-based tests.