Motivation: Standard genome-wide association studies, testing the association between one phenotype and a large number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), are limited in two ways: (i) traits are often multivariate, and analysis of composite scores entails loss in statistical power and (ii) gene-based analyses may be preferred, e.g. to decrease the multiple testing problem.
Results: Here we present a new method, multivariate gene-based association test by extended Simes procedure (MGAS), that allows gene-based testing of multivariate phenotypes in unrelated individuals. Through extensive simulation, we show that under most trait-generating genotype-phenotype models MGAS has superior statistical power to detect associated genes compared with gene-based analyses of univariate phenotypic composite scores (i.e. GATES, multiple regression), and multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA). Re-analysis of metabolic data revealed 32 False Discovery Rate controlled genome-wide significant genes, and 12 regions harboring multiple genes; of these 44 regions, 30 were not reported in the original analysis.
Conclusion: MGAS allows researchers to conduct their multivariate gene-based analyses efficiently, and without the loss of power that is often associated with an incorrectly specified genotype-phenotype models.
Availability and implementation: MGAS is freely available in KGG v3.0 (http://statgenpro.psychiatry.hku.hk/limx/kgg/download.php). Access to the metabolic dataset can be requested at dbGaP (https://dbgap.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/). The R-simulation code is available from http://ctglab.nl/people/sophie_van_der_sluis.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press.