Background: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) identify disease-associations for single-nucleotide-polymorphisms (SNPs) from scattered genomic-locations. However, SNPs frequently reside on several different SNP-haplotypes, only some of which may be disease-associated. This circumstance lowers the observed odds-ratio for disease-association.
Methodology/principal findings: Here we develop a method to identify the two SNP-haplotypes, which combine to produce each person's SNP-genotype over specified chromosomal segments. Two multiple sclerosis (MS)-associated genetic regions were modeled; DRB1 (a Class II molecule of the major histocompatibility complex) and MMEL1 (an endopeptidase that degrades both neuropeptides and β-amyloid). For each locus, we considered sets of eleven adjacent SNPs, surrounding the putative disease-associated gene and spanning ∼200 kb of DNA. The SNP-information was converted into an ordered-set of eleven-numbers (subject-vectors) based on whether a person had zero, one, or two copies of particular SNP-variant at each sequential SNP-location. SNP-strings were defined as those ordered-combinations of eleven-numbers (0 or 1), representing a haplotype, two of which combined to form the observed subject-vector. Subject-vectors were resolved using probabilistic methods. In both regions, only a small number of SNP-strings were present. We compared our method to the SHAPEIT-2 phasing-algorithm. When the SNP-information spanning 200 kb was used, SHAPEIT-2 was inaccurate. When the SHAPEIT-2 window was increased to 2,000 kb, the concordance between the two methods, in both of these eleven-SNP regions, was over 99%, suggesting that, in these regions, both methods were quite accurate. Nevertheless, correspondence was not uniformly high over the entire DNA-span but, rather, was characterized by alternating peaks and valleys of concordance. Moreover, in the valleys of poor-correspondence, SHAPEIT-2 was also inconsistent with itself, suggesting that the SNP-string method is more accurate across the entire region.
Conclusions/significance: Accurate haplotype identification will enhance the detection of genetic-associations. The SNP-string method provides a simple means to accomplish this and can be extended to cover larger genomic regions, thereby improving a GWAS's power, even for those published previously.