Dissecting Meta-Analysis in GWAS Era: Bayesian Framework for Gene/Subnetwork-Specific Meta-Analysis

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Over the past decades, advanced high-throughput technologies have continuously contributed to genome-wide association studies (GWASs). GWAS meta-analysis has been increasingly adopted, has cross-ancestry replicability, and has power to illuminate the genetic architecture of complex traits, informing about the reliability of estimation effects and their variability across human ancestries. However, detecting genetic variants that have low disease risk still poses a challenge. Designing a meta-analysis approach that combines the effect of various SNPs within genes or genes within pathways from multiple independent population GWASs may be helpful in identifying associations with small effect sizes and increasing the association power. Here, we proposed ancMETA, a Bayesian graph-based framework, to perform the gene/pathway-specific meta-analysis by combining the effect size of multiple SNPs within genes, and genes within subnetwork/pathways across multiple independent population GWASs to deconvolute the interactions between genes underlying the pathogenesis of complex diseases across human populations. We assessed the proposed framework on simulated datasets, and the results show that the proposed model holds promise for increasing statistical power for meta-analysis of genetic variants underlying the pathogenesis of complex diseases. To illustrate the proposed meta-analysis framework, we leverage seven different European bipolar disorder (BD) cohorts, and we identify variants in the angiotensinogen (AGT) gene to be significantly associated with BD across all 7 studies. We detect a commonly significant BD-specific subnetwork with the ESR1 gene as the main hub of a subnetwork, associated with neurotrophin signaling (p = 4e<jats:sup/>−14) and myometrial relaxation and contraction (p = 3e<jats:sup/>−08) pathways. ancMETA provides a new contribution to post-GWAS methodologies and holds promise for comprehensively examining interactions between genes underlying the pathogenesis of genetic diseases and also underlying ethnic differences.
Original languageEnglish
Article number838518
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2022
Externally publishedYes


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