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Eur J Hum Genet. 2005 Jul;13(7):840-8.

Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium in genetic association studies: an empirical evaluation of reporting, deviations, and power.

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MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK.


We evaluated the testing and reporting of Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (HWE) in recent genetic association studies, detected how frequently HWE was violated and estimated the power for HWE testing in this literature. Genetic association studies published in 2002 in Nature Genetics, American Journal of Human Genetics, and American Journal of Medical Genetics were assessed. Data were analyzed on 239 biallelic associations using 154 distinct genotype distribution data sets where HWE could be tested. Any information on HWE was given only for 150 (62.8%) associations (92 (59.7%) data sets). Reanalysis of the data showed significant deviation from HWE in the disease-free controls of 20 associations (13 data sets), but only four of them (two data sets) were admitted in the published articles. Another four deviations (in two data sets) were observed in the combined sample of cases and controls of studies where both cases and controls were diseased, and none were reported in the papers. In all six tested multiallelic associations (six data sets), there was violation of HWE, but this was not admitted in the published articles. Power calculations showed that most studies conforming to HWE simply were largely underpowered to detect HWE deviation; for example, power to detect an inbreeding of magnitude F=0.10 exceeded 80% in only 11 (7%) of the data sets being tested. This empirical evidence suggests that, even in high profile genetics journals, testing and reporting for HWE is often neglected and deviations are rarely admitted in the published reports. Moreover, power is limited for HWE testing in most current genetic association studies.

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