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A note on the use of the generalized odds ratio in meta-analysis of association studies involving bi- and tri-allelic polymorphisms

Tiago V Pereira and Regina C Mingroni-Netto*

Author Affiliations

Centro de Estudos do Genoma Humano, Departamento de Genética e Biologia Evolutiva, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:172  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-172

Published: 6 June 2011



The generalized odds ratio (GOR) was recently suggested as a genetic model-free measure for association studies. However, its properties were not extensively investigated. We used Monte Carlo simulations to investigate type-I error rates, power and bias in both effect size and between-study variance estimates of meta-analyses using the GOR as a summary effect, and compared these results to those obtained by usual approaches of model specification. We further applied the GOR in a real meta-analysis of three genome-wide association studies in Alzheimer's disease.


For bi-allelic polymorphisms, the GOR performs virtually identical to a standard multiplicative model of analysis (e.g. per-allele odds ratio) for variants acting multiplicatively, but augments slightly the power to detect variants with a dominant mode of action, while reducing the probability to detect recessive variants. Although there were differences among the GOR and usual approaches in terms of bias and type-I error rates, both simulation- and real data-based results provided little indication that these differences will be substantial in practice for meta-analyses involving bi-allelic polymorphisms. However, the use of the GOR may be slightly more powerful for the synthesis of data from tri-allelic variants, particularly when susceptibility alleles are less common in the populations (≤10%). This gain in power may depend on knowledge of the direction of the effects.


For the synthesis of data from bi-allelic variants, the GOR may be regarded as a multiplicative-like model of analysis. The use of the GOR may be slightly more powerful in the tri-allelic case, particularly when susceptibility alleles are less common in the populations.