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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Assessing the power of tag SNPs in the mapping of quantitative trait loci (QTL) with extremal and random samples

Kui Zhang1 and Fengzhu Sun2

Author Affiliations

1 Section on Statistical Genetics, Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA

2 Molecular and Computational Biology Program, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA

BMC Genetics 2005, 6:51  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-6-51

Published: 19 October 2005

Abstract

Background

Recent studies have indicated that the human genome could be divided into regions with low haplotype diversity interspersed with regions of high haplotype diversity. In regions of low haplotype diversity, a small fraction of SNPs (tag SNPs) are sufficient to account for most of the haplotype diversity of the human genome. These tag SNPs can be extremely useful for testing the association of a marker locus with a qualitative or quantitative trait locus in that it may not be necessary to genotype all the SNPs. When tag SNPs are used to reduce the genotyping effort in association studies, it is important to know how much power is lost. It is also important to know how much power is gained when tag SNPs instead of the same number of randomly chosen SNPs are used.

Results

We design a simulation study to tackle these problems for a variety of quantitative association tests using either case-parent samples or unrelated population samples. First, the samples are generated based on the quantitative trait model with the assumption of either an extremal sampling scheme or a random sampling scheme. Second, a small number of samples are selected to determine the haplotype blocks and the tag SNPs. Third, the statistical power of the tests is evaluated using four kinds of data: (1) all the SNPs and the corresponding haplotypes, (2) the tag SNPs and the corresponding haplotypes, (3) the same number of evenly spaced SNPs with minor allele frequency greater than a threshold and the corresponding haplotypes, (4) the same number of randomly chosen SNPs and their corresponding haplotypes.

Conclusion

Our results suggest that in most situations genotyping efforts can be significantly reduced by using tag SNPs for mapping the QTL in association studies without much loss of power, which is consistent with previous studies on association mapping of qualitative traits. For all situations considered, two-locus haplotype analysis using tag SNPs are more powerful than those using the same number of randomly selected SNPs, but the degree of such power differences depends upon the sampling scheme and the population history.