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Localizing components of shared transethnic genetic architecture of complex traits from GWAS summary data

By Huwenbo Shi, Kathryn S. Burch, Ruth Dolly Johnson, Malika K. Freund, Gleb Kichaev, Nicholas Mancuso, Astrid M Manuel, Natalie Dong, Bogdan Pasaniuc

Posted 29 Nov 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/858431 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.04.012)

Despite strong transethnic genetic correlations reported in the literature for many complex traits, the non-transferability of polygenic risk scores across populations suggests the presence of population-specific components of genetic architecture. We propose an approach that models GWAS summary data for one trait in two populations to estimate genome-wide proportions of population-specific/shared causal SNPs. In simulations across various genetic architectures, we show that our approach yields approximately unbiased estimates with in-sample LD and slight upward-bias with out-of-sample LD. We analyze 9 complex traits in individuals of East Asian and European ancestry, restricting to common SNPs (MAF > 5%), and find that most common causal SNPs are shared by both populations. Using the genome-wide estimates as priors in an empirical Bayes framework, we perform fine-mapping and observe that high-posterior SNPs (for both the population-specific and shared causal configurations) have highly correlated effects in East Asians and Europeans. In population-specific GWAS risk regions, we observe a 2.8x enrichment of shared high-posterior SNPs, suggesting that population-specific GWAS risk regions harbor shared causal SNPs that are undetected in the other GWAS due to differences in LD, allele frequencies, and/or sample size. Finally, we report enrichments of shared high-posterior SNPs in 53 tissue-specific functional categories and find evidence that SNP-heritability enrichments are driven largely by many low-effect common SNPs.

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