Evaluating the results of genomewide linkage scans of complex traits by locus counting

Am J Hum Genet. 2002 Nov;71(5):1175-82. doi: 10.1086/342976. Epub 2002 Sep 25.


The evaluation of results from primary genomewide linkage scans of complex human traits remains an area of importance and considerable debate. Apart from the usual assessment of statistical significance by use of asymptotic and empirical calculations, an additional means of evaluation--based on counting the number of distinct regions showing evidence of linkage--is possible. We have explored the characteristics of such a locus-counting method over a range of experimental conditions typically encountered during genomewide scans for complex trait loci. Under the null hypothesis, factors that have an impact on the informativeness of the data--such as map density, availability of parental data, and completeness of genotyping--are seen to markedly influence the number of regions of excess allele sharing and the empirically derived genomewide significance of the associated LOD score thresholds. In some circumstances, the expected number of regions is less than one-quarter of that predicted under the assumption of a dense map and complete extraction of inheritance information. We have applied this method to a previously analyzed data set--the Warren 2 genome scan for type 2-diabetes susceptibility--and demonstrate that more regions showing evidence for linkage were observed in the primary genome scan than would be expected by chance, across the whole range of LOD scores, even though no single linkage result achieved empirical genomewide statistical significance. Locus counting may be useful in assessing the results from genome scans for complex traits in general, especially because relatively few scans generate evidence for linkage reaching genomewide significance by dense-map criteria. By taking account of the effects of reduced data informativeness on the expected number of regions showing evidence for linkage, a more meaningful, and less conservative, evaluation of the results from such linkage studies is possible.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics
  • Genetic Linkage*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome
  • Humans
  • Lod Score
  • Models, Genetic
  • Multifactorial Inheritance / genetics*