Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
The investigation of associations between rare genetic variants and diseases or phenotypes has two goals. Firstly, the identification of which genes or genomic regions are associated, and secondly, discrimination of associated variants from background noise within each region. Over the last few years, many new methods have been developed which associate genomic regions with phenotypes. However, classical methods for high-dimensional data have received little attention. Here we investigate whether several classical statistical methods for high-dimensional data: ridge regression (RR), principal components regression (PCR), partial least squares regression (PLS), a sparse version of PLS (SPLS), and the LASSO are able to detect associations with rare genetic variants. These approaches have been extensively used in statistics to identify the true associations in data sets containing many predictor variables. Using genetic variants identified in three genes that were Sanger sequenced in 1998 individuals, we simulated continuous phenotypes under several different models, and we show that these feature selection and feature extraction methods can substantially outperform several popular methods for rare variant analysis. Furthermore, these approaches can identify which variants are contributing most to the model fit, and therefore both goals of rare variant analysis can be achieved simultaneously with the use of regression regularization methods. These methods are briefly illustrated with an analysis of adiponectin levels and variants in the ADIPOQ gene.