Robust association tests for quantitative traits on the X chromosome

Heredity (Edinb). 2022 Oct;129(4):244-256. doi: 10.1038/s41437-022-00560-y. Epub 2022 Sep 10.


The genome-wide association study is an elementary tool to assess the genetic contribution to complex human traits. However, such association tests are mainly proposed for autosomes, and less attention has been given to methods for identifying loci on the X chromosome due to their distinct biological features. In addition, the existing association tests for quantitative traits on the X chromosome either fail to incorporate the information of males or only detect variance heterogeneity. Therefore, we propose four novel methods, which are denoted as QXcat, QZmax, QMVXcat and QMVZmax. When using these methods, it is assumed that the risk alleles for females and males are the same and that the locus being studied satisfies the generalized genetic model for females. The first two methods are based on comparing the means of the trait value across different genotypes, while the latter two methods test for the difference of both means and variances. All four methods effectively incorporate the information of X chromosome inactivation. Simulation studies demonstrate that the proposed methods control the type I error rates well. Under the simulated scenarios, the proposed methods are generally more powerful than the existing methods. We also apply our proposed methods to data from the Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research and find 10 single nucleotide polymorphisms that are statistically significantly associated with at least two traits at the significance level of 1 × 10-3.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Chromosomes, Human, X* / genetics
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study* / methods
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • X Chromosome Inactivation