A resource-efficient tool for mixed model association analysis of large-scale data.
Jiang L., Zheng Z., Qi T., Kemper KE., Wray NR., Visscher PM., Yang J.
The genome-wide association study (GWAS) has been widely used as an experimental design to detect associations between genetic variants and a phenotype. Two major confounding factors, population stratification and relatedness, could potentially lead to inflated GWAS test statistics and hence to spurious associations. Mixed linear model (MLM)-based approaches can be used to account for sample structure. However, genome-wide association (GWA) analyses in biobank samples such as the UK Biobank (UKB) often exceed the capability of most existing MLM-based tools especially if the number of traits is large. Here, we develop an MLM-based tool (fastGWA) that controls for population stratification by principal components and for relatedness by a sparse genetic relationship matrix for GWA analyses of biobank-scale data. We demonstrate by extensive simulations that fastGWA is reliable, robust and highly resource-efficient. We then apply fastGWA to 2,173 traits on array-genotyped and imputed samples from 456,422 individuals and to 2,048 traits on whole-exome-sequenced samples from 46,191 individuals in the UKB.