Trans-ethnic meta-analysis is a powerful tool for detecting novel loci in genetic association studies. However, in the presence of heterogeneity among different populations, existing gene-/region-based rare variants meta-analysis methods may be unsatisfactory because they do not consider genetic similarity or dissimilarity among different populations. In response, we propose a score test under the modified random effects model for gene-/region-based rare variants associations. We adapt the kernel regression framework to construct the model and incorporate genetic similarities across populations into modeling the heterogeneity structure of the genetic effect coefficients. We use a resampling-based copula method to approximate asymptotic distribution of the test statistic, enabling efficient estimation of p-values. Simulation studies show that our proposed method controls type I error rates and increases power over existing approaches in the presence of heterogeneity. We illustrate our method by analyzing T2D-GENES consortium exome sequence data to explore rare variant associations with several traits.

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