The proliferation of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) has prompted the use of two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) with genetic variants as instrumental variables (IVs) for drawing reliable causal relationships between health risk factors and disease outcomes. However, the unique features of GWAS demand that MR methods account for both linkage disequilibrium (LD) and ubiquitously existing horizontal pleiotropy among complex traits, which is the phenomenon wherein a variant affects the outcome through mechanisms other than exclusively through the exposure. Therefore, statistical methods that fail to consider LD and horizontal pleiotropy can lead to biased estimates and false-positive causal relationships. To overcome these limitations, we proposed a probabilistic model for MR analysis in identifying the causal effects between risk factors and disease outcomes using GWAS summary statistics in the presence of LD and to properly account for horizontal pleiotropy among genetic variants (MR-LDP) and develop a computationally efficient algorithm to make the causal inference. We then conducted comprehensive simulation studies to demonstrate the advantages of MR-LDP over the existing methods. Moreover, we used two real exposure–outcome pairs to validate the results from MR-LDP compared with alternative methods, showing that our method is more efficient in using all-instrumental variants in LD. By further applying MR-LDP to lipid traits and body mass index (BMI) as risk factors for complex diseases, we identified multiple pairs of significant causal relationships, including a protective effect of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol on peripheral vascular disease and a positive causal effect of BMI on hemorrhoids.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Structural Biology
- Molecular Biology
- Computer Science Applications
- Applied Mathematics