Analyzing sets of genes in genome-wide association studies is a relatively new approach that aims to capitalize on biological knowledge about the interactions of genes in biological pathways. This approach, called pathway analysis or gene set analysis, has not yet been applied to the analysis of rare variants. Applying pathway analysis to rare variants offers two competing approaches. In the first approach rare variant statistics are used to generate p-values for each gene (e.g., combined multivariate collapsing [CMC] or weighted-sum [WS]) and the gene-level p-values are combined using standard pathway analysis methods (e.g., gene set enrichment analysis or Fishers combined probability method). In the second approach, rare variant methods (e.g., CMC and WS) are applied directly to sets of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) representing all SNPs within genes in a pathway. In this paper we use simulated phenotype and real next-generation sequencing data from Genetic Analysis Workshop 17 to analyze sets of rare variants using these two competing approaches. The initial results suggest substantial differences in the methods, with Fishers combined probability method and the direct application of the WS method yielding the best power. Evidence suggests that the WS method works well in most situations, although Fishers method was more likely to be optimal when the number of causal SNPs in the set was low but the risk of the causal SNPs was high.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work is funded by National Human Genome Research Institute grant R15HG004543. This article has been published as part of BMC Proceedings Volume 5 Supplement 9, 2011: Genetic Analysis Workshop 17. The full contents of the supplement are available online at http://www.biomedcentral.com/1753-6561/5?issue=S9.