Calibrating the performance of SNP arrays for whole-genome association studies


To facilitate whole-genome association studies (WGAS), several high-density SNP genotyping arrays have been developed. Genetic coverage and statistical power are the primary benchmark metrics in evaluating the performance of SNP arrays. Ideally, such evaluations would be done on a SNP set and a cohort of individuals that are both independently sampled from the original SNPs and individuals used in developing the arrays. Without utilization of an independent test set, previous estimates of genetic coverage and statistical power may be subject to an overfitting bias. Additionally, the SNP arrays' statistical power in WGAS has not been systematically assessed on real traits. One robust setting for doing so is to evaluate statistical power on thousands of traits measured from a single set of individuals. In this study, 359 newly sampled Americans of European descent were genotyped using both Affymetrix 500K (Affx500K) and Illumina 650Y (Ilmn650K) SNP arrays. From these data, we were able to obtain estimates of genetic coverage, which are robust to overfitting, by constructing an independent test set from among these genotypes and individuals. Furthermore, we collected liver tissue RNA from the participants and profiled these samples on a comprehensive gene expression microarray. The RNA levels were used as a large-scale set of quantitative traits to calibrate the relative statistical power of the commercial arrays. Our genetic coverage estimates are lower than previous reports, providing evidence that previous estimates may be inflated due to overfitting. The Ilmn650K platform showed reasonable power (50% or greater) to detect SNPs associated with quantitative traits when the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) is greater than or equal to 0.5 and the causal SNP's minor allele frequency (MAF) is greater than or equal to 20% (Nā€Š=ā€Š359). In testing each of the more than 40,000 gene expression traits for association to each of the SNPs on the Ilmn650K and Affx500K arrays, we found that the Ilmn650K yielded 15% times more discoveries than the Affx500K at the same false discovery rate (FDR) level.

PLoS Genetics, 4 (6): e1000109