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Integrating Predicted Transcriptome From Multiple Tissues Improves Association Detection

By Alvaro N Barbeira, Milton D Pividori, Jiamao Zheng, Heather E Wheeler, Dan L Nicolae, Hae Kyung Im

Posted 31 Mar 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/292649 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007889)

Integration of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) studies is needed to improve our understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying GWAS hits, and our ability to identify therapeutic targets. Gene-level association test methods such as PrediXcan can prioritize candidate targets. However, limited eQTL sample sizes and absence of relevant developmental and disease context restricts our ability to detect associations. Here we propose an efficient statistical method that leverages the substantial sharing of eQTLs across tissues and contexts to improve our ability to identify potential target genes: MulTiXcan. MulTiXcan integrates evidence across multiple panels while taking into account their correlation. We apply our method to a broad set of complex traits available from the UK Biobank and show that we can detect a larger set of significantly associated genes than using each panel separately. To improve applicability, we developed an extension to work on summary statistics: S-MulTiXcan, which we show yields highly concordant results with the individual level version. Results from our analysis as well as software and necessary resources to apply our method are publicly available.

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