Analysis of rare variants in family-based studies remains a challenge. Transmission-based approaches provide robustness against population stratification, but the evaluation of the significance of test statistics based on asymptotic theory can be imprecise. Also, power will depend heavily on the choice of the test statistic and on the underlying genetic architecture of the locus, which will be generally unknown.


In our proposed framework, we utilize the FBAT haplotype algorithm to obtain the conditional offspring genotype distribution under the null hypothesis given the sufficient statistic. Based on this conditional offspring genotype distribution, the significance of virtually any association test statistic can be evaluated based on simulations or exact computations, without the need for asymptotic approximations. Besides standard linear burden-type statistics, this enables our approach to also evaluate other test statistics such as variance components statistics, higher criticism approaches, and maximum-single-variant-statistics, where asymptotic theory might be involved or does not provide accurate approximations for rare variant data. Based on these P-values, combined test statistics such as the aggregated Cauchy association test (ACAT) can also be utilized. In simulation studies, we show that our framework outperforms existing approaches for family-based studies in several scenarios. We also applied our methodology to a TOPMed whole-genome sequencing dataset with 897 asthmatic trios from Costa Rica.

Availability and implementation

FBAT software is available at Simulation code is available at Whole-genome sequencing data for ‘NHLBI TOPMed: The Genetic Epidemiology of Asthma in Costa Rica’ is available at

Supplementary information

Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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