Infoscience

Journal article

A strategy to discover genes that carry multi-allelic or mono-allelic risk for common diseases: A cohort allelic sums test (CAST)

A method is described to discover if a gene carries one or more allelic mutations that confer risk for any specified common disease. The method does not depend upon genetic linkage of risk-conferring mutations to high frequency genetic markers such as single nucleotide polymorphisms. Instead, the sums of allelic mutation frequencies in case and control cohorts are determined and a statistical test is applied to discover if the difference in these sums is greater than would be expected by chance. A statistical model is presented that defines the ability of such tests to detect significant gene-disease relationships as a function of case and control cohort sizes and key confounding variables: zygosity and genicity, environmental risk factors, errors in diagnosis, limits to mutant detection, linkage of neutral and risk-conferring mutations, ethnic diversity in the general population and the expectation that among all exonic mutants in the human genome greater than 90% will be neutral with regard to any effect on disease risk. Means to test the null hypothesis for, and determine the statistical power of, each test are provided. For this "cohort allelic sums test" or "CAST", the statistical model and test are provided as an Excel™ program, CASTAT© at http://epidemiology.mit.edu. Based on genetics, technology and statistics, a strategy of enumerating the mutant alleles carried in the exons and splice sites of the estimated ∼25,000 human genes in case cohort samples of 10,000 persons for each of 100 common diseases is proposed and evaluated: A wide range of possible conditions of multi-allelic or mono-allelic and monogenic, multigenic or polygenic (including epistatic) risk are found to be detectable using the statistical criteria of 1 or 10 "false positive" gene associations per 25,000 gene-disease pair-wise trials and a statistical power of >0.8. Using estimates of the distribution of both neutral and gene-inactivating nondeleterious mutations in humans and the sensitivity of the test to multigenic or multicausal risk, it is estimated that about 80% of nullizygous, heterozygous and functionally dominant gene-common disease associations may be discovered. Limitations include relative insensitivity of CAST to about 60% of possible associations given homozygous (wild type) risk and, more rarely, other stochastic limits when the frequency of mutations in the case cohort approaches that of the control cohort and biases such as absence of genetic risk masked by risk derived from a shared cultural environment. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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