University of Michigan Center for Statistical 


Quantitative trait linkage analysis using gaussian copulas.

Li M, Boehnke M, Abecasis GR and Song PX

Genetics (2006) 173:2317-27

Mapping and identifying variants that influence quantitative traits is an important problem for genetic studies. Traditional QTL mapping relies on a variance-components (VC) approach with the key assumption that the trait values in a family follow a multivariate normal distribution. Violation of this assumption can lead to inflated type I error, reduced power, and biased parameter estimates. To accommodate nonnormally distributed data, we developed and implemented a modified VC method, which we call the "copula VC method," that directly models the nonnormal distribution using Gaussian copulas. The copula VC method allows the analysis of continuous, discrete, and censored trait data, and the standard VC method is a special case when the data are distributed as multivariate normal. Through the use of link functions, the copula VC method can easily incorporate covariates. We use computer simulations to show that the proposed method yields unbiased parameter estimates, correct type I error rates, and improved power for testing linkage with a variety of nonnormal traits as compared with the standard VC and the regression-based methods.


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