Quickly identifying identical and closely related subjects in large databases using genotype data

PLoS One. 2017 Jun 13;12(6):e0179106. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179106. eCollection 2017.


Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) usually rely on the assumption that different samples are not from closely related individuals. Detection of duplicates and close relatives becomes more difficult both statistically and computationally when one wants to combine datasets that may have been genotyped on different platforms. The dbGaP repository at the National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI) contains datasets from hundreds of studies with over one million samples. There are many duplicates and closely related individuals both within and across studies from different submitters. Relationships between studies cannot always be identified by the submitters of individual datasets. To aid in curation of dbGaP, we developed a rapid statistical method called Genetic Relationship and Fingerprinting (GRAF) to detect duplicates and closely related samples, even when the sets of genotyped markers differ and the DNA strand orientations are unknown. GRAF extracts genotypes of 10,000 informative and independent SNPs from genotype datasets obtained using different methods, and implements quick algorithms that enable it to find all of the duplicate pairs from more than 880,000 samples within and across dbGaP studies in less than two hours. In addition, GRAF uses two statistical metrics called All Genotype Mismatch Rate (AGMR) and Homozygous Genotype Mismatch Rate (HGMR) to determine subject relationships directly from the observed genotypes, without estimating probabilities of identity by descent (IBD), or kinship coefficients, and compares the predicted relationships with those reported in the pedigree files. We implemented GRAF in a freely available C++ program of the same name. In this paper, we describe the methods in GRAF and validate the usage of GRAF on samples from the dbGaP repository. Other scientists can use GRAF on their own samples and in combination with samples downloaded from dbGaP.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Data Mining / methods*
  • Databases, Nucleic Acid / statistics & numerical data*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / statistics & numerical data*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Reproducibility of Results

Grants and funding

This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine.