Linear mixed models (LMMs) are widely used in genome-wide association studies (GWASs) to account for population structure and relatedness, for both continuous and binary traits. Motivated by the failure of LMMs to control type I errors in a GWAS of asthma, a binary trait, we show that LMMs are generally inappropriate for analyzing binary traits when population stratification leads to violation of the LMM's constant-residual variance assumption. To overcome this problem, we develop a computationally efficient logistic mixed model approach for genome-wide analysis of binary traits, the generalized linear mixed model association test (GMMAT). This approach fits a logistic mixed model once per GWAS and performs score tests under the null hypothesis of no association between a binary trait and individual genetic variants. We show in simulation studies and real data analysis that GMMAT effectively controls for population structure and relatedness when analyzing binary traits in a wide variety of study designs.
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