Magnitude of stratification in human populations and impacts on genome wide association studies

PLoS One. 2010 Jan 13;5(1):e8695. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008695.


Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) may be biased by population stratification (PS). We conducted empirical quantification of the magnitude of PS among human populations and its impact on GWAS. Liver tissues were collected from 979, 59 and 49 Caucasian Americans (CA), African Americans (AA) and Hispanic Americans (HA), respectively, and genotyped using Illumina650Y (Ilmn650Y) arrays. RNA was also isolated and hybridized to Agilent whole-genome gene expression arrays. We propose a new method (i.e., hgdp-eigen) for detecting PS by projecting genotype vectors for each sample to the eigenvector space defined by the Human Genetic Diversity Panel (HGDP). Further, we conducted GWAS to map expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) for the approximately 40,000 liver gene expression traits monitored by the Agilent arrays. HGDP-eigen performed similarly to the conventional self-eigen methods in capturing PS. However, leveraging the HGDP offered a significant advantage in revealing the origins, directions and magnitude of PS. Adjusting for eigenvectors had minor impacts on eQTL detection rates in CA. In contrast, for AA and HA, adjustment dramatically reduced association findings. At an FDR = 10%, we identified 65 eQTLs in AA with the unadjusted analysis, but only 18 eQTLs after the eigenvector adjustment. Strikingly, 55 out of the 65 unadjusted AA eQTLs were validated in CA, indicating that the adjustment procedure significantly reduced GWAS power. A number of the 55 AA eQTLs validated in CA overlapped with published disease associated SNPs. For example, rs646776 and rs10903129 have previously been associated with lipid levels and coronary heart disease risk, however, the rs10903129 eQTL was missed in the eigenvector adjusted analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Genetics, Population*
  • Genome, Human
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Quantitative Trait Loci