The increasing number of genetic association studies conducted in multiple populations provides an unprecedented opportunity to study how the genetic architecture of complex phenotypes varies between populations, a problem important for both medical and population genetics. Here, we have developed a method for estimating the transethnic genetic correlation: the correlation of causal-variant effect sizes at SNPs common in populations. This methods takes advantage of the entire spectrum of SNP associations and uses only summary-level data from genome-wide association studies. This avoids the computational costs and privacy concerns associated with genotype-level information while remaining scalable to hundreds of thousands of individuals and millions of SNPs. We applied our method to data on gene expression, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 2 diabetes and overwhelmingly found that the genetic correlation was significantly less than 1. Our method is implemented in a Python package called Popcorn.
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