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Large uncertainty in individual PRS estimation impacts PRS-based risk stratification

By Yi Ding, Kangcheng Hou, Kathryn S. Burch, Sandra Lapinska, Florian Privé, Bjarni J. Vilhjálmsson, Sriram Sankararaman, Bogdan Pasaniuc

Posted 01 Dec 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.11.30.403188

Large-scale genome-wide association studies have enabled polygenic risk scores (PRS), which estimate the genetic value of an individual for a given trait. Since PRS accuracy is typically assessed using cohort-level metrics (e.g., R2), uncertainty in PRS estimates at individual level remains underexplored. Here we show that Bayesian PRS methods can estimate the variance of an individual's PRS and can yield well-calibrated credible intervals for the genetic value of a single individual. For real traits in the UK Biobank (N=291,273 unrelated "white British") we observe large variance in individual PRS estimates which impacts interpretation of PRS-based stratification; for example, averaging across 13 traits, only 0.8% (s.d. 1.6%) of individuals with PRS point estimates in the top decile have their entire 95% credible intervals fully contained in the top decile. We provide an analytical estimator for individual PRS variance -a function of SNP heritability, number of causal SNPs, and sample size-and observe high concordance with individual variances estimated via posterior sampling. Finally as an example of the utility of individual PRS uncertainties, we explore a probabilistic approach to PRS-based stratification that estimates the probability of an individual's genetic value to be above a prespecified threshold. Our results showcase the importance of incorporating uncertainty in individual PRS estimates into subsequent analyses.

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