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A two-step approach to testing overall effect of gene-environment interaction for multiple phenotypes

By Arunabha Majumdar, Kathryn S. Burch, Sriram Sankararaman, Bogdan Pasaniuc, W. James Gauderman, John S. Witte

Posted 07 Jul 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.07.06.190256

While gene-environment (GxE) interactions contribute importantly to many different phenotypes, detecting such interactions requires well-powered studies and has proven difficult. To address this, we combine two approaches to improve GxE power: simultaneously evaluating multiple phenotypes and using a two-step analysis approach. Previous work shows that the power to identify a main genetic effect can be improved by simultaneously analyzing multiple related phenotypes. For a univariate phenotype, two-step methods produce higher power for detecting a GxE interaction compared to single step analysis. Therefore, we propose a two-step approach to test for an overall GxE effect for multiple phenotypes. Using simulations we demonstrate that, when more than one phenotype has GxE effect (i.e., GxE pleiotropy), our approach offers substantial gain in power (18%-43%) to detect an aggregate-level GxE effect for a multivariate phenotype compared to an analogous two-step method to identify GxE effect for a univariate phenotype. We applied the proposed approach to simultaneously analyze three lipids, LDL, HDL and Triglyceride with the frequency of alcohol consumption as environmental factor in the UK Biobank. The method identified two independent genome-wide significant signals of an overall GxE effect on the vector of lipids. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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