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Colocalization of GWAS and eQTL Signals Detects Target Genes

By Farhad Hormozdiari, Martijn van de Bunt, Ayellet V. Segre, Xiao Li, Jong Wha J Joo, Michael Bilow, Jae Hoon Sul, Sriram Sankararaman, Bogdan Pasaniuc, Eleazar Eskin

Posted 21 Jul 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/065037 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2016.10.003)

The vast majority of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) risk loci fall in non-coding regions of the genome. One possible hypothesis is that these GWAS risk loci alter the individual's disease risk through their effect on gene expression in different tissues. In order to understand the mechanisms driving a GWAS risk locus, it is helpful to determine which gene is affected in specific tissue types. For example, the relevant gene and tissue may play a role in the disease mechanism if the same variant responsible for a GWAS locus also affects gene expression. Identifying whether or not the same variant is causal in both GWAS and eQTL studies is challenging due to the uncertainty induced by linkage disequilibrium (LD) and the fact that some loci harbor multiple causal variants. However, current methods that address this problem assume that each locus contains a single causal variant. In this paper, we present a new method, eCAVIAR, that is capable of accounting for LD while computing the quantity we refer to as the colocalization posterior probability (CLPP). The CLPP is the probability that the same variant is responsible for both the GWAS and eQTL signal. eCAVIAR has several key advantages. First, our method can account for more than one causal variant in any loci. Second, it can leverage summary statistics without accessing the individual genotype data. We use both simulated and real datasets to demonstrate the utility of our method. Utilizing publicly available eQTL data on 45 different tissues, we demonstrate that computing CLPP can prioritize likely relevant tissues and target genes for a set of Glucose and Insulin-related traits loci. eCAVIAR is available at http://genetics.cs.ucla.edu/caviar/

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