Boosting gene mapping power and efficiency with efficient exact variance component tests of single nucleotide polymorphism sets

Jin Zhou, Tao Hu, Dandi Qiao, Michael H. Cho, Hua Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) set tests have been a powerful method in analyzing next-generation sequencing (NGS) data. The popular sequence kernel association test (SKAT) method tests a set of variants as random effects in the linear mixed model setting. Its P-value is calculated based on asymptotic theory that requires a large sample size. Therefore, it is known that SKAT is conservative and can lose power at small or moderate sample sizes. Given the current cost of sequencing technology, scales of NGS are still limited. In this report, we derive and implement computationally efficient, exact (nonasymptotic) score (eScore), likelihood ratio (eLRT), and restricted likelihood ratio (eRLRT) tests, EXACTVCTEST, that can achieve high power even when sample sizes are small. We perform simulation studies under various genetic scenarios. Our EXACTVCTEST (i.e., eScore, eLRT, eRLRT) exhibits well-controlled type I error. Under the alternative model, eScore P-values are universally smaller than those from SKAT. eLRT and eRLRT demonstrate significantly higher power than eScore, SKAT, and SKAT optimal (SKAT-o) across all scenarios and various samples sizes. We applied these tests to an exome sequencing study. Our findings replicate previous results and shed light on rare variant effects within genes. The software package is implemented in the open source, high-performance technical computing language JULIA, and is freely available at Analysis of each trait in the exome sequencing data set with 399 individuals and 16; 619 genes takes around 1 min on a desktop computer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)921-931
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2016



  • Exact tests
  • Linear mixed effect model
  • Next-generation sequencing studies
  • Small sample sizes
  • SNP set tests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics

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