A large proportion of risk regions identified by genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are shared across multiple diseases and traits. Understanding whether this clustering is due to sharing of causal variants or chance colocalization can provide insights into shared etiology of complex traits and diseases.


In this work, we propose a flexible, unifying framework to quantify the overlap between a pair of traits called UNITY (Unifying Non-Infinitesimal Trait analYsis). We formulate a Bayesian generative model that relates the overlap between pairs of traits to GWAS summary statistic data under a non-infinitesimal genetic architecture underlying each trait. We propose a Metropolis–Hastings sampler to compute the posterior density of the genetic overlap parameters in this model. We validate our method through comprehensive simulations and analyze summary statistics from height and body mass index GWAS to show that it produces estimates consistent with the known genetic makeup of both traits.

Availability and implementation

The UNITY software is made freely available to the research community at:

Supplementary information

Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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