Investigators interested in whether a disease aggregates in families often collect case-control family data, which consist of disease status and covariate information for families selected via case or control probands. Here, we focus on the use of case-control family data to investigate the relative contributions to the disease of additive genetic effects (A), shared family environment (C), and unique environment (E). To this end, we describe a ACE model for binary family data and then introduce an approach to fitting the model to case-control family data. The structural equation model, which has been described previously, combines a general-family extension of the classic ACE twin model with a (possibly covariate-specific) liability-threshold model for binary outcomes. Our likelihood-based approach to fitting involves conditioning on the proband’s disease status, as well as setting prevalence equal to a pre-specified value that can be estimated from the data themselves if necessary. Simulation experiments suggest that our approach to fitting yields approximately unbiased estimates of the A, C, and E variance components, provided that certain commonly-made assumptions hold. These assumptions include: the usual assumptions for the classic ACE and liability-threshold models; assumptions about shared family environment for relative pairs; and assumptions about the case-control family sampling, including single ascertainment. When our approach is used to fit the ACE model to Austrian case-control family data on depression, the resulting estimate of heritability is very similar to those from previous analyses of twin data.



Included in

Genetics Commons