Inherent bias toward the null hypothesis in conventional multipoint nonparametric linkage analysis

Am J Hum Genet. 2004 Feb;74(2):306-16. doi: 10.1086/381714. Epub 2004 Jan 19.


Traditional nonparametric "multipoint" statistical procedures have been developed for assigning allele-sharing values at a locus of interest to pairs of relatives for linkage studies. These procedures attempt to accommodate a lack of informativity, nongenotyped loci, missing data, and related issues concerning the genetic markers used in a linkage study. However, such procedures often cannot overcome these phenomena in compelling ways and, as a result, assign relevant relative pairs allele-sharing values that are "expected" for those pairs. The practice of assigning expected allele-sharing values to relative pairs in the face of a lack of explicit allele-transmission information can bias traditional nonparametric linkage test statistics toward the null hypothesis of no locus effect. This bias is due to the use of expected values, rather than to a lack of information about actual allele sharing at relevant marker loci. The bias will vary from study to study on the basis of the DNA markers, sample size, relative-pair types, and pedigree structures used, but it can be extremely pronounced and could contribute to a lack of consistent success in the application of traditional nonparametric linkage analyses to complex human traits and diseases. There are several potential ways to overcome this problem, but their foundations deserve greater research. We expose many of the issues concerning allele sharing with data from a large affected-sibling-pair study investigating the genetic basis of autism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 2
  • Genetic Linkage*
  • Humans
  • Siblings