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Journal of Applied Genetics 49(1), 2008, pp. 81-92

Statistical aspects of genetic association testing in small samples, based on selective DNA pooling data in the arctic fox

Joanna Szyda, Zengting Liu, Magdalena Zaton-Dobrowolska, Heliodor Wierzbicki, Anna Rzasa

Abstract: We analysed data from a selective DNA pooling experiment with 130 individuals of the arctic fox (Alopex lagopus), which originated from 2 different types regarding body size. The association between alleles of 6 selected unlinked molecular markers and body size was tested by using univariate and multinomial logistic regression models, applying odds ratio and test statistics from the power divergence family. Due to the small sample size and the resulting sparseness of the data table, in hypothesis testing we could not rely on the asymptotic distributions of the tests. Instead, we tried to account for data sparseness by (i) modifying confidence intervals of odds ratio; (ii) using a normal approximation of the asymptotic distribution of the power divergence tests with different approaches for calculating moments of the statistics; and (iii) assessing P values empirically, based on bootstrap samples. As a result, a significant association was observed for 3 markers. Furthermore, we used simulations to assess the validity of the normal approximation of the asymptotic distribution of the test statistics under the conditions of small and sparse samples.

Key words: association, asymptotic properties, model selection, power divergence family, sparse data.

Correspondence: J. Szyda, Wroclaw University of Life Sciences, Department of Animal Genetics, Kozuchowska 7, 51-631 Wroclaw, Poland; e-mail:

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