GhostKnockoff inference empowers identification of putative causal variants in genome-wide association studies

Zihuai He, Linxi Liu, Michael E. Belloy, Yann Le Guen, Aaron Sossin, Xiaoxia Liu, Xinran Qi, Shiyang Ma, Prashnna K. Gyawali, Tony Wyss-Coray, Hua Tang, Chiara Sabatti, Emmanuel Candès, Michael D. Greicius, Iuliana Ionita-Laza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Recent advances in genome sequencing and imputation technologies provide an exciting opportunity to comprehensively study the contribution of genetic variants to complex phenotypes. However, our ability to translate genetic discoveries into mechanistic insights remains limited at this point. In this paper, we propose an efficient knockoff-based method, GhostKnockoff, for genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that leads to improved power and ability to prioritize putative causal variants relative to conventional GWAS approaches. The method requires only Z-scores from conventional GWAS and hence can be easily applied to enhance existing and future studies. The method can also be applied to meta-analysis of multiple GWAS allowing for arbitrary sample overlap. We demonstrate its performance using empirical simulations and two applications: (1) a meta-analysis for Alzheimer’s disease comprising nine overlapping large-scale GWAS, whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing studies and (2) analysis of 1403 binary phenotypes from the UK Biobank data in 408,961 samples of European ancestry. Our results demonstrate that GhostKnockoff can identify putatively functional variants with weaker statistical effects that are missed by conventional association tests.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7209
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


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