Stat Methods Med Res. 2023 Oct 13:9622802231197977. doi: 10.1177/09622802231197977. Online ahead of print.
With the cost-effectiveness technology in whole-genome sequencing, more sophisticated statistical methods for testing genetic association with both rare and common variants are being investigated to identify the genetic variation between individuals. Several methods which group variants, also called gene-based approaches, are developed. For instance, advanced extensions of the sequence kernel association test, which is a widely used variant-set test, have been proposed for unrelated samples and extended for family data. Family data have been shown to be powerful when analyzing rare variants. However, most of such methods capture familial relatedness using a random effect component within the generalized linear mixed model framework. Therefore, there is a need to develop unified and flexible methods to study the association between a set of genetic variants and a trait, especially for a binary outcome. Copulas are multivariate distribution functions with uniform margins on the [0,1] interval and they provide suitable models to capture familial dependence structure. In this work, we propose a flexible family-based association test for both rare and common variants in the presence of binary traits. The method, termed novel rare variant association test (NRVAT), uses a marginal logistic model and a Gaussian Copula. The latter is employed to model the dependence between relatives. An analytic score-type test is derived. Through simulations, we show that our method can achieve greater power than existing approaches. The proposed model is applied to investigate the association between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in a family-based cohort consisting of 17 extended families from Eastern Quebec.