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Estimating genetic correlation jointly using individual-level and summary-level GWAS data

By Yiliang Zhang, Youshu Cheng, Yixuan Ye, Wei Jiang, Qiongshi Lu, Hongyu Zhao

Posted 19 Aug 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.08.18.456908

With the increasing accessibility of individual-level data from genome wide association studies, it is now common for researchers to have individual-level data of some traits in one specific population. For some traits, we can only access public released summary-level data due to privacy and safety concerns. The current methods to estimate genetic correlation can only be applied when the input data type of the two traits of interest is either both individual-level or both summary-level. When researchers have access to individual-level data for one trait and summary-level data for the other, they have to transform the individual-level data to summary-level data first and then apply summary data-based methods to estimate the genetic correlation. This procedure is computationally and statistically inefficient and introduces information loss. We introduce GENJI (Genetic correlation EstimatioN Jointly using Individual-level and summary data), a method that can estimate within-population or transethnic genetic correlation based on individual-level data for one trait and summary-level data for another trait. Through extensive simulations and analyses of real data on within-population and transethnic genetic correlation estimation, we show that GENJI produces more reliable and efficient estimation than summary data-based methods. Besides, when individual-level data are available for both traits, GENJI can achieve comparable performance than individual-level data-based methods. Downstream applications of genetic correlation can benefit from more accurate estimates. In particular, we show that more accurate genetic correlation estimation facilitates the predictability of cross-population polygenic risk scores.

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