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Am J Hum Genet. 2000 Jun;66(6):1933-44. Epub 2000 May 8.

The power of genomic control.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Although association analysis is a useful tool for uncovering the genetic underpinnings of complex traits, its utility is diminished by population substructure, which can produce spurious association between phenotype and genotype within population-based samples. Because family-based designs are robust against substructure, they have risen to the fore of association analysis. Yet, if population substructure could be ignored, this robustness can come at the price of power. Unfortunately it is rarely evident when population substructure can be ignored. Devlin and Roeder recently have proposed a method, termed "genomic control" (GC), which has the robustness of family-based designs even though it uses population-based data. GC uses the genome itself to determine appropriate corrections for population-based association tests. Using the GC method, we contrast the power of two study designs, family trios (i.e., father, mother, and affected progeny) versus case-control. For analysis of trios, we use the TDT test. When population substructure is absent, we find GC is always more powerful than TDT; furthermore, contrary to previous results, we show that as a disease becomes more prevalent the discrepancy in power becomes more extreme. When population substructure is present, however, the results are more complex: TDT is more powerful when population substructure is substantial, and GC is more powerful otherwise. We also explore general issues of power and implementation of GC within the case-control setting and find that, economically, GC is at least comparable to and often less expensive than family-based methods. Therefore, GC methods should prove a useful complement to family-based methods for the genetic analysis of complex traits.

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