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Open Access Methodology article

The power comparison of the haplotype-based collapsing tests and the variant-based collapsing tests for detecting rare variants in pedigrees

Wei Guo and Yin Yao Shugart*

Author Affiliations

Division of Intramural Division Program, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Health, 35 Convent Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:632  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-632

Published: 28 July 2014



Both common and rare genetic variants have been shown to contribute to the etiology of complex diseases. Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have successfully investigated how common variants contribute to the genetic factors associated with common human diseases. However, understanding the impact of rare variants, which are abundant in the human population (one in every 17 bases), remains challenging. A number of statistical tests have been developed to analyze collapsed rare variants identified by association tests. Here, we propose a haplotype-based approach. This work inspired by an existing statistical framework of the pedigree disequilibrium test (PDT), which uses genetic data to assess the effects of variants in general pedigrees. We aim to compare the performance between the haplotype-based approach and the rare variant-based approach for detecting rare causal variants in pedigrees.


Extensive simulations in the sequencing setting were carried out to evaluate and compare the haplotype-based approach with the rare variant methods that drew on a more conventional collapsing strategy. As assessed through a variety of scenarios, the haplotype-based pedigree tests had enhanced statistical power compared with the rare variants based pedigree tests when the disease of interest was mainly caused by rare haplotypes (with multiple rare alleles), and vice versa when disease was caused by rare variants acting independently. For most of other situations when disease was caused both by haplotypes with multiple rare alleles and by rare variants with similar effects, these two approaches provided similar power in testing for association.


The haplotype-based approach was designed to assess the role of rare and potentially causal haplotypes. The proposed rare variants-based pedigree tests were designed to assess the role of rare and potentially causal variants. This study clearly documented the situations under which either method performs better than the other. All tests have been implemented in a software, which was submitted to the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN) for general use as a computer program named rvHPDT.

Haplotype; Pedigree disequilibrium test; Rare variants; Weights; Association