High-throughput sequencing of related individuals has become an important tool for studying human disease. However, owing to technical complexity and lack of available tools, most pedigree-based sequencing studies rely on an ad hoc combination of suboptimal analyses. Here we present pedigree-VAAST (pVAAST), a disease-gene identification tool designed for high-throughput sequence data in pedigrees. pVAAST uses a sequence-based model to perform variant and gene-based linkage analysis. Linkage information is then combined with functional prediction and rare variant case-control association information in a unified statistical framework. pVAAST outperformed linkage and rare-variant association tests in simulations and identified disease-causing genes from whole-genome sequence data in three human pedigrees with dominant, recessive and de novo inheritance patterns. The approach is robust to incomplete penetrance and locus heterogeneity and is applicable to a wide variety of genetic traits. pVAAST maintains high power across studies of monogenic, high-penetrance phenotypes in a single pedigree to highly polygenic, common phenotypes involving hundreds of pedigrees.

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An allocation of computer time on the University of Texas MD Anderson Research Computing High Performance Computing (HPC) facility is gratefully acknowledged. This work was supported by US National Institutes of Health grants R01 GM104390 (M.Y., L.B.J., C.D.H. and H.H.), R01 DK091374 (S.L.G., C.D.H. and L.B.J.), R01 CA164138 (S.V.T. and C.D.H.), R44HG006579 (M.G.R. and M.Y.) and R01 GM59290 (L.B.J.) as well as the University of Luxembourg—Institute for Systems Biology Program. D.S. was supported by grants from the NHLBI (UO1 HL100406 and U01 HL098179) related to this project. H.C. was supported by NIH grants R01 MH094400 and R01 MH099134. H.H. was supported by the MD Anderson Cancer Center Odyssey Program. J.X. was supported by NIH grant R00HG005846.

Author information


  1. Department of Epidemiology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA.

    • Hao Hu
    • , Shankaracharya
    • , Paul Scheet
    •  & Chad D Huff
  2. Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, Washington, USA.

    • Jared C Roach
    • , Gustavo Glusman
    • , Robert Hubley
    • , Hong Li
    •  & Leroy Hood
  3. Department of Psychiatry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    • Hilary Coon
  4. Department of Pediatrics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    • Stephen L Guthery
  5. Department of Pathology, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    • Karl V Voelkerding
  6. ARUP Institute for Clinical and Experimental Pathology, ARUP Laboratories, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    • Karl V Voelkerding
    • , Rebecca L Margraf
    •  & Jacob D Durtschi
  7. Department of Oncological Sciences, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    • Sean V Tavtigian
  8. Department of Human Genetics and USTAR Center for Genetic Discovery, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    • Wilfred Wu
    • , Barry Moore
    • , Lynn B Jorde
    •  & Mark Yandell
  9. Department of Genetics, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA.

    • Shuoguo Wang
    •  & Jinchuan Xing
  10. Department of Pediatrics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA.

    • Vidu Garg
  11. Center for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Research, Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, USA.

    • Vidu Garg
  12. Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine, University of Luxembourg, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg.

    • David J Galas
  13. Pacific Northwest Diabetes Research Institute, Seattle, Washington, USA.

    • David J Galas
  14. Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease and University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.

    • Deepak Srivastava
  15. Omicia, Inc., Oakland, California, USA.

    • Martin G Reese


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C.D.H. conceived of the project. C.D.H. oversaw and coordinated the research. C.D.H. and H.H. designed the algorithms. H.H. and B.M. wrote the software. C.D.H., H.H. and P.S. contributed to the statistical development. C.D.H., H.H., J.C.R., M.Y., S.V.T., D.S., K.V.V., L.H., L.B.J., M.G.R. and S.L.G. designed the experiments. H.H., H.C., W.W., R.L.M., J.D.D., S.W., H.L., J.X., Shankaracharya, R.H., B.M., J.C. and G.G. performed the experiments. H.H., C.D.H., M.Y., S.V.T., S.L.G. and L.B.J. analyzed and interpreted the data. H.H. generated the figures. H.H., C.D.H., L.B.J., M.Y., S.L.G., P.S., and S.V.T. wrote the paper. S.L.G., D.S., V.G., D.J.G., L.H., H.L., R.H., K.V.V., R.L.M., J.D.D., G.G. participated in pedigree identification, recruitment and validation.

Competing interests

M.G.R. is a founder and officer of Omicia, Inc.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Mark Yandell or Chad D Huff.

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    Supplementary Code

    pVAAST source code

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