Open Access Open Badges Methodology article

Principal-component-based multivariate regression for genetic association studies of metabolic syndrome components

Hao Mei1, Wei Chen2, Andrew Dellinger3, Jiang He1, Meng Wang4, Canddy Yau5, Sathanur R Srinivasan2 and Gerald S Berenson2*

Author affiliations

1 Epidemiology Department, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, USA

2 Tulane Center for Cardiovascular Health, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, USA

3 Center for Human Genetics, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

4 School of Life Science, Nanjing University, Nanjing, PR China

5 Biostatistics Department, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Genetics 2010, 11:100  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-11-100

Published: 9 November 2010



Quantitative traits often underlie risk for complex diseases. For example, weight and body mass index (BMI) underlie the human abdominal obesity-metabolic syndrome. Many attempts have been made to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) over the past decade, including association studies. However, a single QTL is often capable of affecting multiple traits, a quality known as gene pleiotropy. Gene pleiotropy may therefore cause a loss of power in association studies focused only on a single trait, whether based on single or multiple markers.


We propose using principal-component-based multivariate regression (PCBMR) to test for gene pleiotropy with comprehensive evaluation. This method generates one or more independent canonical variables based on the principal components of original traits and conducts a multivariate regression to test for association with these new variables. Systematic simulation studies have shown that PCBMR has great power. PCBMR-based pleiotropic association studies of abdominal obesity-metabolic syndrome and its possible linkage to chromosomal band 3q27 identified 11 susceptibility genes with significant associations. Whereas some of these genes had been previously reported to be associated with metabolic traits, others had never been identified as metabolism-associated genes.


PCBMR is a computationally efficient and powerful test for gene pleiotropy. Application of PCBMR to abdominal obesity-metabolic syndrome indicated the existence of gene pleiotropy affecting this syndrome.