An Analysis Paradigm for Investigating Multi-locus Effects in Complex Disease: Examination of Three GABAA Receptor Subunit Genes on 15q11-q13 as Risk Factors for Autistic Disorder.


Correspondence author: Allison Ashley-Koch, Ph.D., Center for Human Genetics, Duke University Medical Center, Box 3400, 2007 Snyderman Genomic Sciences Building, 595 LaSalle Street, Durham, NC 27710, Phone: (919) 684-1805; Fax: (919) 684-0912; E-mail:


Gene-gene interactions are likely involved in many complex genetic disorders and new statistical approaches for detecting such interactions are needed. We propose a multi-analytic paradigm, relying on convergence of evidence across multiple analysis tools. Our paradigm tests for main and interactive effects, through allele, genotype and haplotype association. We applied our paradigm to genotype data from three GABAA receptor subunit genes (GABRB3, GABRA5, and GABRG3) on chromosome 15 in 470 Caucasian autism families. Previously implicated in autism, we hypothesized these genes interact to contribute to risk. We detected no evidence of main effects by allelic (PDT, FBAT) or genotypic (genotype-PDT) association at individual markers. However, three two-marker haplotypes in GABRG3 were significant (HBAT). We detected no significant multi-locus associations using genotype-PDT analysis or the EMDR data reduction program. However, consistent with the haplotype findings, the best single locus EMDR model selected a GABRG3 marker. Further, the best pairwise genotype-PDT result involved GABRB3 and GABRG3, and all multi-locus EMDR models also selected GABRB3 and GABRG3 markers. GABA receptor subunit genes do not significantly interact to contribute to autism risk in our overall data set. However, the consistency of results across analyses suggests that we have defined a useful framework for evaluating gene-gene interactions.