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PLoS One. 2011 Feb 28;6(2):e16981. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016981.

Practical and theoretical considerations in study design for detecting gene-gene interactions using MDR and GMDR approaches.

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  • 1Institute of Bioinformatics, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, People's Republic of China.


Detection of interacting risk factors for complex traits is challenging. The choice of an appropriate method, sample size, and allocation of cases and controls are serious concerns. To provide empirical guidelines for planning such studies and data analyses, we investigated the performance of the multifactor dimensionality reduction (MDR) and generalized MDR (GMDR) methods under various experimental scenarios. We developed the mathematical expectation of accuracy and used it as an indicator parameter to perform a gene-gene interaction study. We then examined the statistical power of GMDR and MDR within the plausible range of accuracy (0.50∼0.65) reported in the literature. The GMDR with covariate adjustment had a power of >80% in a case-control design with a sample size of ≥2000, with theoretical accuracy ranging from 0.56 to 0.62. However, when the accuracy was <0.56, a sample size of ≥4000 was required to have sufficient power. In our simulations, the GMDR outperformed the MDR under all models with accuracy ranging from 0.56∼0.62 for a sample size of 1000-2000. However, the two methods performed similarly when the accuracy was outside this range or the sample was significantly larger. We conclude that with adjustment of a covariate, GMDR performs better than MDR and a sample size of 1000∼2000 is reasonably large for detecting gene-gene interactions in the range of effect size reported by the current literature; whereas larger sample size is required for more subtle interactions with accuracy <0.56.

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