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Genome-wide association reveals three SNPs associated with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis through a two-locus analysis

Qiuying Sha1, Zhaogong Zhang12, Jennifer C Schymick34, Bryan J Traynor35 and Shuanglin Zhang16*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Mathematical Sciences, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI, USA

2 School of Computer Science and Technology, Heilongjiang University, Harbin, PR China

3 Laboratory of Neurogenetics, National Institute on Aging, NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA

4 Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

5 Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA

6 Department of Mathematics, Heilongjiang University, Harbin, PR China

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Citation and License

BMC Medical Genetics 2009, 10:86  doi:10.1186/1471-2350-10-86

Published: 9 September 2009



Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal, degenerative neuromuscular disease characterized by a progressive loss of voluntary motor activity. About 95% of ALS patients are in "sporadic form"-meaning their disease is not associated with a family history of the disease. To date, the genetic factors of the sporadic form of ALS are poorly understood.


We proposed a two-stage approach based on seventeen biological plausible models to search for two-locus combinations that have significant joint effects to the disease in a genome-wide association study (GWAS). We used a two-stage strategy to reduce the computational burden associated with performing an exhaustive two-locus search across the genome. In the first stage, all SNPs were screened using a single-marker test. In the second stage, all pairs made from the 1000 SNPs with the lowest p-values from the first stage were evaluated under each of the 17 two-locus models.


we performed the two-stage approach on a GWAS data set of sporadic ALS from the SNP Database at the NINDS Human Genetics Resource Center DNA and Cell Line Repository webcite. Our two-locus analysis showed that two two-locus combinations--rs4363506 (SNP1) and rs3733242 (SNP2), and rs4363506 and rs16984239 (SNP3) -- were significantly associated with sporadic ALS. After adjusting for multiple tests and multiple models, the combination of SNP1 and SNP2 had a p-value of 0.032 under the Dom∩Dom epistatic model; SNP1 and SNP3 had a p-value of 0.042 under the Dom × Dom multiplicative model.


The proposed two-stage analytical method can be used to search for joint effects of genes in GWAS. The two-stage strategy decreased the computational time and the multiple testing burdens associated with GWAS. We have also observed that the loci identified by our two-stage strategy can not be detected by single-locus tests.