Multiple testing in genome-wide association studies via hidden Markov models

Zhi Wei, Wenguang Sun, Kai Wang, Hakon Hakonarson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Motivation: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) interrogate common genetic variation across the entire human genome in an unbiased manner and hold promise in identifying genetic variants with moderate or weak effect sizes. However, conventional testing procedures, which are mostly P-value based, ignore the dependency and therefore suffer from loss of efficiency. The goal of this article is to exploit the dependency information among adjacent single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to improve the screening efficiency in GWAS. Results: We propose to model the linear block dependency in the SNP data using hidden Markov models (HMMs). A compound decision-theoretic framework for testing HMM-dependent hypotheses is developed. We propose a powerful data-driven procedure [pooled local index of significance (PLIS)] that controls the false discovery rate (FDR) at the nominal level. PLIS is shown to be optimal in the sense that it has the smallest false negative rate (FNR) among all valid FDR procedures. By re-ranking significance for all SNPs with dependency considered, PLIS gains higher power than conventional P-value based methods. Simulation results demonstrate that PLIS dominates conventional FDR procedures in detecting disease-associated SNPs. Our method is applied to analysis of the SNP data from a GWAS of type 1 diabetes. Compared with the Benjamini-Hochberg (BH) procedure, PLIS yields more accurate results and has better reproducibility of findings. Conclusion: The genomic rankings based on our procedure are substantially different from the rankings based on the P -values. By integrating information from adjacent locations, the PLIS rankings benefit from the increased signal-to-noise ratio, hence our procedure often has higher statistical power and better reproducibility. It provides a promising direction in large-scale GWAS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2802-2808
Number of pages7
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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