Inferring direct genetic effects in family-based designs

Sanchez Ortega, Marco Antonio (2022) Inferring direct genetic effects in family-based designs. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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In some genetic association studies, the same genetic loci have been found to be associated with different complex phenotypes. Such associations may be induced by direct genetic effects or indirect genetic effects through some intermediate phenotypes. In order to make valid statistical inference on direct genetic effects on a target phenotype, it is important to distinguish the causative genetic associations. A directed acyclic graph (DAG) can be used to describe possible relationships between genetic variants, primary and intermediate phenotypes, and confounding factors. There are several statistical methods for the aim of estimating direct genetic effects. This study mainly focuses on a novel approach called causal inference based on estimating equations (CIEE) with robust Huber-White sandwich variance estimator. The primary objective of this dissertation is to provide an extension of the CIEE method to family-based designs. Essentially, we are interested in estimating and testing direct genetic effects when some dependence exists among pairs of family members. We consider two statistical models for the analysis of continuous primary phenotypes, which are either completely observed or subject to censoring. In the first modelling approach, we assume independence between phenotypes of family members given measured factors and other phenotypes, while in our second approach the dependence between family members is modelled by a copula function. We formulate unbiased estimating equations to remove the indirect effect and obtain the direct genetic effect. The standard error of the direct effect estimator is obtained by using the so-called robust Huber-White sandwich variance estimator. We use large-sample Wald-type test statistic for testing the absence of direct genetic effect on the target phenotype. We evaluate the performance of our method by conducting Monte Carlo simulation studies for the analysis of quantitative and time-to- event primary traits. The results show that both methods are competitive and provide unbiased direct effect estimates and valid hypothesis testing. However, in general, the CIEE method under the copula model has better performance than the working independence model. It yields more accurate point estimates, valid empirical type I error rates for testing the absence of direct effect and higher empirical power rates across the considered simulation scenarios.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 15328
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 66-68).
Keywords: Causal inference, copula models, directed acyclic graph, direct genetic effect, family-based de- sign, quantitative traits, time-to-event traits and working independence model
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Mathematics and Statistics
Date: February 2022
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Genetic markers; Phenotype; Genetic epidemiology.

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