Individual genome scans for quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping often suffer from low statistical power and imprecise estimates of QTL location and effect. This lack of precision yields large confidence intervals for QTL location, which are problematic for subsequent fine mapping and positional cloning. In prioritizing areas for follow-up after an initial genome scan and in evaluating the credibility of apparent linkage signals, investigators typically examine the results of other genome scans of the same phenotype and informally update their beliefs about which linkage signals in their scan most merit confidence and follow-up via a subjective-intuitive integration approach. A method that acknowledges the wisdom of this general paradigm but formally borrows information from other scans to increase confidence in objectivity would be a benefit. We developed an empirical Bayes analytic method to integrate information from multiple genome scans. The linkage statistic obtained from a single genome scan study is updated by incorporating statistics from other genome scans as prior information. This technique does not require that all studies have an identical marker map or a common estimated QTL effect. The updated linkage statistic can then be used for the estimation of QTL location and effect. We evaluate the performance of our method by using extensive simulations based on actual marker spacing and allele frequencies from available data. Results indicate that the empirical Bayes method can account for between-study heterogeneity, estimate the QTL location and effect more precisely, and provide narrower confidence intervals than results from any single individual study. We also compared the empirical Bayes method with a method originally developed for meta-analysis (a closely related but distinct purpose). In the face of marked heterogeneity among studies, the empirical Bayes method outperforms the comparator.
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