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Title: Bayesian methods for multivariate phenotype analysis in genome-wide association studies
Author: Iotchkova, Valentina Valentinova
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Most genome-wide association studies search for genetic variants associated to a single trait of interest, despite the main interest usually being the understanding of a complex genotype-phenotype network. Furthermore, many studies collect data on multiple phenotypes, each measuring a different aspect of the biological system under consideration, therefore it can often make sense to jointly analyze the phenotypes. However this is rarely the case and there is a lack of well developed methods for multiple phenotype analysis. Here we propose novel approaches for genome-wide association analysis, which scan the genome one SNP at a time for association with multivariate traits. The first half of this thesis focuses on an analytic model averaging approach which bi-partitions traits into associated and unassociated, fits all such models and measures evidence of association using a Bayes factor. The discrete nature of the model allows very fine control of prior beliefs about which sets of traits are more likely to be jointly associated. Using simulated data we show that this method can have much greater power than simpler approaches that do not explicitly model residual correlation between traits. On real data of six hematological parameters in 3 population cohorts (KORA, UKNBS and TwinsUK) from the HaemGen consortium, this model allows us to uncover an association at the RCL locus that was not identified in the original analysis but has been validated in a much larger study. In the second half of the thesis we propose and explore the properties of models that use priors encouraging sparse solutions, in the sense that genetic effects of phenotypes are shrunk towards zero when there is little evidence of association. To do this we explore and use spike and slab (SAS) priors. All methods combine both hypothesis testing, via calculation of a Bayes factor, and model selection, which occurs implicitly via the sparsity priors. We have successfully implemented a Variational Bayesian approach to fit this model, which provides a tractable approximation to the posterior distribution, and allows us to approximate the very high-dimensional integral required for the Bayes factor calculation. This approach has a number of desirable properties. It can handle missing phenotype data, which is a real feature of most studies. It allows for both correlation due to relatedness between subjects or population structure and residual phenotype correlation. It can be viewed as a sparse Bayesian multivariate generalization of the mixed model approaches that have become popular recently in the GWAS literature. In addition, the method is computationally fast and can be applied to millions of SNPs for a large number of phenotypes. Furthermore we apply our method to 15 glycans from 3 isolated population cohorts (ORCADES, KORCULA and VIS), where we uncover association at a known locus, not identified in the original study but discovered later in a larger one. We conclude by discussing future directions.
Supervisor: Marchini, Jonathan Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Statistics (see also social sciences) ; Computationally-intensive statistics ; Mathematical genetics and bioinformatics (statistics) ; Applications and algorithms ; statistics ; method ; modelling ; genotype ; phenotype ; bayesian ; multivariate