Huaqing Zhao, Nandita Mitra, Peter A. Kanetsky, Katherine L. Nathanson, Timothy R. Rebbeck
December 4, 2018
Article number: 20170054
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are susceptible to bias due to population stratification (PS). The most widely used method to correct bias due to PS is principal components (PCs) analysis (PCA), but there is no objective method to guide which PCs to include as covariates. Often, the ten PCs with the highest eigenvalues are included to adjust for PS. This selection is arbitrary, and patterns of local linkage disequilibrium may affect PCA corrections. To address these limitations, we estimate genomic propensity scores based on all statistically significant PCs selected by the Tracy-Widom (TW) statistic. We compare a principal components and propensity scores (PCAPS) approach to PCA and EMMAX using simulated GWAS data under no, moderate, and severe PS. PCAPS reduced spurious genetic associations regardless of the degree of PS, resulting in odds ratio (OR) estimates closer to the true OR. We illustrate our PCAPS method using GWAS data from a study of testicular germ cell tumors. PCAPS provided a more conservative adjustment than PCA. Advantages of the PCAPS approach include reduction of bias compared to PCA, consistent selection of propensity scores to adjust for PS, the potential ability to handle outliers, and ease of implementation using existing software packages.