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Genetics. 2011 May;188(1):181-8. doi: 10.1534/genetics.110.125070. Epub 2011 Mar 2.

An optimal weighted aggregated association test for identification of rare variants involved in common diseases.

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  • 1Computer Science Department, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


The advent of next generation sequencing technologies allows one to discover nearly all rare variants in a genomic region of interest. This technological development increases the need for an effective statistical method for testing the aggregated effect of rare variants in a gene on disease susceptibility. The idea behind this approach is that if a certain gene is involved in a disease, many rare variants within the gene will disrupt the function of the gene and are associated with the disease. In this article, we present the rare variant weighted aggregate statistic (RWAS), a method that groups rare variants and computes a weighted sum of differences between case and control mutation counts. We show that our method outperforms the groupwise association test of Madsen and Browning in the disease-risk model that assumes that each variant makes an equally small contribution to disease risk. In addition, we can incorporate prior information into our method of which variants are likely causal. By using simulated data and real mutation screening data of the susceptibility gene for ataxia telangiectasia, we demonstrate that prior information has a substantial influence on the statistical power of association studies. Our method is publicly available at http://genetics.cs.ucla.edu/rarevariants.

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