Replication in genome-wide association studies

Stat Sci. 2009 Nov 1;24(4):561-573. doi: 10.1214/09-STS290.


Replication helps ensure that a genotype-phenotype association observed in a genome-wide association (GWA) study represents a credible association and is not a chance finding or an artifact due to uncontrolled biases. We discuss prerequisites for exact replication; issues of heterogeneity; advantages and disadvantages of different methods of data synthesis across multiple studies; frequentist vs. Bayesian inferences for replication; and challenges that arise from multi-team collaborations. While consistent replication can greatly improve the credibility of a genotype-phenotype association, it may not eliminate spurious associations due to biases shared by many studies. Conversely, lack of replication in well-powered follow-up studies usually invalidates the initially proposed association, although occasionally it may point to differences in linkage disequilibrium or effect modifiers across studies.