Previously described methods for the combined analysis of common and rare variants have disadvantages such as requiring an arbitrary classification of variants or permutation testing to assess statistical significance. Here we propose a novel method which implements a weighting scheme based on allele frequencies observed in both cases and controls. Because the test is unbiased, scores can be analyzed with a standard t-test. To test its validity we applied it to data for common, rare, and very rare variants simulated under the null hypothesis. To test its power we applied it to simulated data in which association was present, including data using the observed allele frequencies of common and rare variants in NOD2 previously reported in cases of Crohn's disease and controls. The method produced results that conformed well to those expected under the null hypothesis. It demonstrated more power to detect association when rare and common variants were analyzed jointly, the power further increasing when rare variants were assigned higher weights. 20,000 analyses of a gene containing 62 variants could be performed in 80 minutes on a laptop. This approach shows promise for the analysis of data currently emerging from genome wide sequencing studies.
Keywords: common; exome; genome; rare; sequence; variant.