Power, false discovery rate and Winner’s Curse in eQTL studies

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Authors Qin Qin Huang, Scott C Ritchie, Marta Brozynska, Michael Inouye
Journal/Conference Name NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Investigation of the genetic architecture of gene expression traits has aided interpretation of disease and trait-associated genetic variants; however, key aspects of expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) study design and analysis remain understudied. We used extensive, empirically driven simulations to explore eQTL study design and the performance of various analysis strategies. Across multiple testing correction methods, false discoveries of genes with eQTLs (eGenes) were substantially inflated when false discovery rate (FDR) control was applied to all tests and only appropriately controlled using hierarchical procedures. All multiple testing correction procedures had low power and inflated FDR for eGenes whose causal SNPs had small allele frequencies using small sample sizes (e.g. frequency 25%). Overestimation of eQTL effect sizes, so-called 'Winner's Curse', was common in low and moderate power settings. To address this, we developed a bootstrap method (BootstrapQTL) that led to more accurate effect size estimation. These insights provide a foundation for future eQTL studies, especially those with sampling constraints and subtly different conditions.
Date of publication 2018
Code Programming Language R
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