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Comparison of methods for estimating genetic correlation between complex traits using GWAS summary statistics

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

Posted 13 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.12.336867

Genetic correlation is the correlation of additive genetic effects on two phenotypes. It is an informative metric to quantify the overall genetic similarity between complex traits, which provides insights into their polygenic genetic architecture. Several methods have been proposed to estimate genetic correlations based on data collected from genome- wide association studies (GWAS). Due to the easy access of GWAS summary statistics and computational efficiency, methods only requiring GWAS summary statistics as input have become more popular than methods utilizing individual-level genotype data. Here, we present a benchmark study for different summary-statistics-based genetic correlation estimation methods through simulation and real data applications. We focus on two major technical challenges in estimating genetic correlation: marker dependency caused by linkage disequilibrium (LD) and sample overlap between different studies. To assess the performance of different methods in the presence of these two challenges, we first conducted comprehensive simulations with diverse LD patterns and sample overlaps. Then we applied these methods to real GWAS summary statistics for a wide spectrum of complex traits. Based on these experiments, we conclude that methods relying on accurate LD estimation are less robust in real data applications compared to other methods due to the imprecision of LD obtained from reference panels. Our findings offer a guidance on how to appropriately choose the method for genetic correlation estimation in post-GWAS analysis in interpretation. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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