PLoS Genet 2017 12 27;13(12):e1007142. Epub 2017 Dec 27.
Department of Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, United States of America.
Rare variants of major effect play an important role in human complex diseases and can be discovered by sequencing-based genome-wide association studies. Here, we introduce an integrated approach that combines the rare variant association test with gene network and phenotype information to identify risk genes implicated by rare variants for human complex diseases. Our data integration method follows a 'discovery-driven' strategy without relying on prior knowledge about the disease and thus maintains the unbiased character of genome-wide association studies. Simulations reveal that our method can outperform a widely-used rare variant association test method by 2 to 3 times. In a case study of a small disease cohort, we uncovered putative risk genes and the corresponding rare variants that may act as genetic modifiers of congenital heart disease in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome patients. These variants were missed by a conventional approach that relied on the rare variant association test alone.