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Am J Hum Genet. 2003 Feb;72(2):438-47. Epub 2003 Jan 17.

Studying parents and grandparents to assess genetic contributions to early-onset disease.

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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.


Suppose DNA is available from affected individuals, their parents, and their grandparents. Particularly for early-onset diseases, maternally mediated genetic effects can play a role, because the mother determines the prenatal environment. The proposed maximum-likelihood approach for the detection of apparent transmission distortion treats the triad consisting of the affected individual and his or her two parents as the outcome, conditioning on grandparental mating types. Under a null model in which the allele under study does not confer susceptibility, either through linkage or directly, and when there are no maternally mediated genetic effects, conditional probabilities for specific triads are easily derived. A log-linear model permits a likelihood-ratio test (LRT) and allows the estimation of relative penetrances. The proposed approach is robust against genetic population stratification. Missing-data methods permit the inclusion of incomplete families, even if the missing person is the affected grandchild, as is the case when an induced abortion has followed the detection of a malformation. When screening multiple markers, one can begin by genotyping only the grandparents and the affected grandchildren. LRTs based on conditioning on grandparental mating types (i.e., ignoring the parents) have asymptotic relative efficiencies that are typically >150% (per family), compared with tests based on parents. A test for asymmetry in the number of copies carried by maternal versus paternal grandparents yields an LRT specific to maternal effects. One can then genotype the parents for only the genes that passed the initial screen. Conditioning on both the grandparents' and the affected grandchild's genotypes, a third log-linear model captures the remaining information, in an independent LRT for maternal effects.

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