Quantifying the extent to which index event biases influence large genetic association studies
Human Molecular Genetics
Oxford University Press (OUP)
Reason for embargo
As genetic association studies increase in size to 100,000s of individuals, subtle biases may influence conclusions. One possible bias is "index event bias" (IEB) that appears due to the stratification by, or enrichment for, disease status when testing associations between genetic variants and a disease-associated trait. We aimed to test the extent to which IEB influences some known trait associations in a range of study designs and provide a statistical framework for assessing future associations. Analysing data from 113,203 non-diabetic UK Biobank participants, we observed three (near TCF7L2, CDKN2AB and CDKAL1) overestimated (BMI-decreasing) and one (near MTNR1B) underestimated (BMI-increasing) associations among 11 type 2 diabetes risk alleles (at P < 0.05). IEB became even stronger when we tested a type 2 diabetes genetic risk score composed of these 11 variants (-0.010 SDs BMI per allele, P = 5x10(-4)), which was confirmed in four additional independent studies. Similar results emerged when examining the effect of blood pressure increasing alleles on BMI in normotensive UK Biobank samples. Furthermore, we demonstrated that, under realistic scenarios, common disease alleles would become associated at p < 5x10(-8) with disease-related traits through IEB alone, if disease prevalence in the sample differs appreciably from the background population prevalence. For example, some hypertension and type 2 diabetes alleles will be associated with BMI in sample sizes of > 500,000 if the prevalence of those diseases differs by > 10% from the background population. In conclusion, IEB may result in false positive or negative genetic associations in very large studies stratified or strongly enriched for/against disease cases.
H.Y., A.R.W. and T.M.F. are supported by the European Research Council grant: 323195; SZ-245 50371-GLUCOSEGENES-FP7-IDEAS-ERC. S.E.J. is funded by the Medical Research Council (grant: MR/M005070/1). M.A.T., M.N.W. and A.M. are supported by the Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Award (WT097835MF). R.M.F. is a Sir Henry Dale Fellow (Wellcome Trust and Royal Society grant: 104150/Z/14/Z). R.B. is funded by the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society grant: 104150/Z/14/Z. J.T. is funded by a Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation Fellowship. Z.K. received financial support from the Leenaards Foundation, the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics and the Swiss National Science Foundation (31003A-143914) and SystemsX.ch (39). The work of M.P.B was supported by the National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award no. T32HL007779. Generation Scotland received core support from the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health Directorates [CZD/16/6] and the Scottish Funding Council [HR03006]. E.R.P. holds a WT New investigator award 102820/Z/13/Z.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 26 (5), pp. 1018-1030
Place of publication