Undetected genotyping errors cause apparent overtransmission of common alleles in the transmission/disequilibrium test

Am J Hum Genet. 2003 Mar;72(3):598-610. doi: 10.1086/368203. Epub 2003 Feb 13.


The transmission/disequilibrium test (TDT), a family-based test of linkage and association, is a popular and intuitive statistical test for studies of complex inheritance, as it is nonparametric and robust to population stratification. We carried out a literature search and located 79 significant TDT-derived associations between a microsatellite marker allele and a disease. Among these, there were 31 (39%) in which the most common allele was found to exhibit distorted transmission to affected offspring, implying that the allele may be associated with either susceptibility to or protection from a disease. In 27 of these 31 studies (87%), the most common allele appeared to be overtransmitted to affected offspring (a risk factor), and, in the remaining 4 studies, the most common allele appeared to be undertransmitted (a protective factor). In a second literature search, we identified 92 case-control studies in which a microsatellite marker allele was found to have significantly different frequencies in case and control groups. Of these, there were 37 instances (40%) in which the most common allele was involved. In 12 of these 37 studies (32%), the most common allele was enriched in cases relative to controls (a risk factor), and, in the remaining 25 studies, the most common allele was enriched in controls (a protective factor). Thus, the most common allele appears to be a risk factor when identified through the TDT, and it appears to be protective when identified through case-control analysis. To understand this phenomenon, we incorporated an error model into the calculation of the TDT statistic. We show that undetected genotyping error can cause apparent transmission distortion at markers with alleles of unequal frequency. We demonstrate that this distortion is in the direction of overtransmission for common alleles. Therefore, we conclude that undetected genotyping errors may be contributing to an inflated false-positive rate among reported TDT-derived associations and that genotyping fidelity must be increased.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype*
  • Humans
  • Linkage Disequilibrium*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Statistical
  • Mutation*
  • Reproducibility of Results