A powerful microbiome-based association test and a microbial taxa discovery framework for comprehensive association mapping.

Author(s): Koh H,  Blaser MJ,  Li H

Journal: Microbiome

Date: 2017 Apr 24

Major Program(s) or Research Group(s): PLCO

PubMed ID: 28438217

PMC ID: PMC5402681

Abstract: BACKGROUND: The role of the microbiota in human health and disease has been increasingly studied, gathering momentum through the use of high-throughput technologies. Further identification of the roles of specific microbes is necessary to better understand the mechanisms involved in diseases related to microbiome perturbations. METHODS: Here, we introduce a new microbiome-based group association testing method, optimal microbiome-based association test (OMiAT). OMiAT is a data-driven testing method which takes an optimal test throughout different tests from the sum of powered score tests (SPU) and microbiome regression-based kernel association test (MiRKAT). We illustrate that OMiAT efficiently discovers significant association signals arising from varying microbial abundances and different relative contributions from microbial abundance and phylogenetic information. We also propose a way to apply it to fine-mapping of diverse upper-level taxa at different taxonomic ranks (e.g., phylum, class, order, family, and genus), as well as the entire microbial community, within a newly introduced microbial taxa discovery framework, microbiome comprehensive association mapping (MiCAM). RESULTS: Our extensive simulations demonstrate that OMiAT is highly robust and powerful compared with other existing methods, while correctly controlling type I error rates. Our real data analyses also confirm that MiCAM is especially efficient for the assessment of upper-level taxa by integrating OMiAT as a group analytic method. CONCLUSIONS: OMiAT is attractive in practice due to the high complexity of microbiome data and the unknown true nature of the state. MiCAM also provides a hierarchical association map for numerous microbial taxa and can also be used as a guideline for further investigation on the roles of discovered taxa in human health and disease.