Multipoint linkage mapping using sibpairs: Non-parametric estimation of trait effects with quantitative covariates



Multipoint linkage analysis using sibpair designs remains a common approach to help investigators to narrow chromosomal regions for traits (either qualitative or quantitative) of interest. Despite its popularity, the success of this approach depends heavily on how issues such as genetic heterogeneity, gene-gene, and gene-environment interactions are properly handled. If addressed properly, the likelihood of detecting genetic linkage and of efficiently estimating the location of the trait locus would be enhanced, sometimes drastically. Previously, we have proposed an approach to deal with these issues by modeling the genetic effect of the target trait locus as a function of covariates pertained to the sibpairs. Here the genetic effect is simply the probability that a sibpair shares the same allele at the trait locus from their parents. Such modeling helps to divide the sibpairs into more homogeneous subgroups, which in turn helps to enhance the chance to detect linkage. One limitation of this approach is the need to categorize the covariates so that a small and fixed number of genetic effect parameters are introduced. In this report, we take advantage of the fact that nowadays multiple markers are readily available for genotyping simultaneously. This suggests that one could estimate the dependence of the generic effect on the covariates nonparametrically. We present an iterative procedure to estimate (1) the genetic effect nonparametrically and (2) the location of the trait locus through estimating functions developed by Liang et al. ([2001a] Hum Hered 51:67–76). We apply this new method to the linkage study of schizophrenia to illustrate how the onset ages of each sibpair may help to address the issue of genetic heterogeneity. This analysis sheds new light on the dependence of the trait effect on onset ages from affected sibpairs, an observation not revealed previously. In addition, we have carried out some simulation work, which suggests that this method provides accurate inference for estimating the location of quantitative trait loci. Genet. Epidemiol. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.