The future of association studies: gene-based analysis and replication

Am J Hum Genet. 2004 Sep;75(3):353-62. doi: 10.1086/423901. Epub 2004 Jul 22.


Historically, association tests were limited to single variants, so that the allele was considered the basic unit for association testing. As marker density increases and indirect approaches are used to assess association through linkage disequilibrium, association is now frequently considered at the haplotypic level. We suggest that there are difficulties in replicating association findings at the single-nucleotide-polymorphism (SNP) or the haplotype level, and we propose a shift toward a gene-based approach in which all common variation within a candidate gene is considered jointly. Inconsistencies arising from population differences are more readily resolved by use of a gene-based approach rather than either a SNP-based or a haplotype-based approach. A gene-based approach captures all of the potential risk-conferring variations; thus, negative findings are subject only to the issue of power. In addition, chance findings due to multiple testing can be readily accounted for by use of a genewide-significance level. Meta-analysis procedures can be formalized for gene-based methods through the combination of P values. It is only a matter of time before all variation within genes is mapped, at which point the gene-based approach will become the natural end point for association analysis and will inform our search for functional variants relevant to disease etiology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Variation
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Linkage Disequilibrium
  • Mass Screening
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Statistics as Topic