Multi-SNP mediation intersection-union test

Bioinformatics. 2019 Nov 1;35(22):4724-4729. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btz285.


Summary: Tens of thousands of reproducibly identified GWAS (Genome-Wide Association Studies) variants, with the vast majority falling in non-coding regions resulting in no eventual protein products, call urgently for mechanistic interpretations. Although numerous methods exist, there are few, if any methods, for simultaneously testing the mediation effects of multiple correlated SNPs via some mediator (e.g. the expression of a gene in the neighborhood) on phenotypic outcome. We propose multi-SNP mediation intersection-union test (SMUT) to fill in this methodological gap. Our extensive simulations demonstrate the validity of SMUT as well as substantial, up to 92%, power gains over alternative methods. In addition, SMUT confirmed known mediators in a real dataset of Finns for plasma adiponectin level, which were missed by many alternative methods. We believe SMUT will become a useful tool to generate mechanistic hypotheses underlying GWAS variants, facilitating functional follow-up.

Availability and implementation: The R package SMUT is publicly available from CRAN at

Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Software