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eSCAN: Scan Regulatory Regions for Aggregate Association Testing using Whole Genome Sequencing Data

By Yingxi Yang, Yuchen Yang, Le Huang, Jai G Broome, Adolfo Correa, Alexander P Reiner, NHLBI Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) Consortium, Laura M. Raffield, Yun Li

Posted 02 Dec 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.11.30.405266

With advances in whole genome sequencing (WGS) technology, multiple statistical methods for aggregate association testing have been developed. Many common approaches aggregate variants in a given genomic window of a fixed/varying size and are not reliant on existing knowledge to define appropriate test units, resulting in most identified regions not being clearly linked to genes, limiting biological understanding. Functional information from new technologies (such as Hi-C and its derivatives), which can help link enhancers to the genes they affect, can be leveraged to predefine variant sets for aggregate testing in WGS. Therefore, in this paper we propose the eSCAN (Scan the Enhancers) method for genome-wide assessment of enhancer regions in sequencing studies, combining the advantages of dynamic window selection in SCANG with the advantages of increased incorporation of genomic annotation. eSCAN searches biologically meaningful searching windows, increasing power and aiding biological interpretation, as demonstrated by simulation studies under a wide range of scenarios. We also apply eSCAN for association analysis of blood cell traits using TOPMed WGS data from Women's Health Initiative (WHI) and Jackson Heart Study (JHS). Results from this real data example show that eSCAN is able to capture more significant signals, and these signals are of shorter length and drive association of larger regions detected by other methods.

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