Weighted Score Tests Implementing Model-Averaging Schemes in Detection of Rare Variants in Case-Control Studies.
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Multi-locus effect modeling is a powerful approach for detection of genes influencing a complex disease. Especially for rare variants, we need to analyze multiple variants together to achieve adequate power for detection. In this paper, we propose several parsimonious branching model techniques to assess the joint effect of a group of rare variants in a case-control study. These models implement a data reduction strategy within a likelihood framework and use a weighted score test to assess the statistical significance of the effect of the group of variants on the disease. The primary advantage of the proposed approach is that it performs model-averaging over a substantially smaller set of models supported by the data and thus gains power to detect multi-locus effects. We illustrate these proposed approaches on simulated and real data and study their performance compared to several existing rare variant detection approaches. The primary goal of this paper is to assess if there is any gain in power to detect association by averaging over a number of models instead of selecting the best model. Extensive simulations and real data application demonstrate the advantage the proposed approach in presence of causal variants with opposite directional effects along with a moderate number of null variants in linkage disequilibrium.