Analysing the effect of candidate genes on complex traits: An application in multiple sclerosis

Tineke Hooper-Van Veen*, Johannes Berkhof, Chris H. Polman, Bernard M.J. Uitdehaag

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The conventional approach of candidate gene studies in complex diseases is to look at the effect of one gene at a time. However, as the outcome of chronic diseases is influenced by a large number of alleles, simultaneous analysis is needed. We demonstrate the application of multivariate regression and cluster analysis to a multiple sclerosis (MS) dataset with genotypes for 489 patients at 11 candidate genes selected on their involvement in the immune response. Using multivariate regression, we observed that different sets of genes were associated with different disease characteristics that reflect different aspects of disease. Out of 15 polymorphisms, we identified one that contributed to the severity of disease. In addition, the set of 15 polymorphisms was predictive for yearly increase in lesion volume as seen on T1-weighted MRI (p=0.044). From this set, no individual polymorphisms could be identified after adjustment for multiple hypotheses testing. By means of a cluster analysis, we aimed to identify subgroups of patients with different pathogenic subtypes of MS on the basis of their genetic profile. We constructed genetic profiles from the genotypes at the 11 candidate genes. The approach proved to be feasible. We observed three clusters in the sample of patients. In this study, we observed no significant differences in the usual clinical and MRI outcome measures between the different clusters. However, a number of consistent trends indicated that this clustering might be related to the course of disease. With a larger number of genes regulating the course of disease, we may be able to identify clinically relevant clusters. The analyses are easily implemented and will be applicable to candidate gene studies of complex traits in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-354
Number of pages8
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2006

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