Genome-wide association studies commonly involve simultaneous tests of millions of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) for disease association. The SNPs in nearby genomic regions, however, are often highly correlated due to linkage disequilibrium (LD, a genetic term for correlation). Simple Bonferonni correction for multiple comparisons is therefore too conservative. Permutation tests, which are often employed in practice, are both computationally expensive for genome-wide studies and limited in their scopes. We present an accurate and computationally efficient method, based on Poisson de-clumping heuristics, for approximating genome-wide significance of SNP associations. Compared with permutation tests and other multiple comparison adjustment approaches, our method computes the most accurate and robust p-value adjustments for millions of correlated comparisons within seconds. We demonstrate analytically that the accuracy and the efficiency of our method are nearly independent of the sample size, the number of SNPs, and the scale of p-values to be adjusted. In addition, our method can be easily adopted to estimate false discovery rate. When applied to genome-wide SNP datasets, we observed highly variable p-value adjustment results evaluated from different genomic regions. The variation in adjustments along the genome, however, are well conserved between the European and the African populations. The p-value adjustments are significantly correlated with LD among SNPs, recombination rates, and SNP densities. Given the large variability of sequence features in the genome, we further discuss a novel approach of using SNP-specific (local) thresholds to detect genome-wide significant associations. This article has supplementary material online.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Statistics and Probability
- Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty