Robust inference in summary data Mendelian randomization via the zero modal pleiotropy assumption
Mendelian randomization (MR) is being increasingly used to strengthen causal inference in observational studies. Availability of summary data of genetic associations for a variety of phenotypes from large genome-wide association studies (GWAS) allows straightforward application of MR using summary data methods, typically in a two-sample design. In addition to the conventional inverse variance weighting (IVW) method, recently developed summary data MR methods, such as the MR-Egger and weighted median approaches, allow a relaxation of the instrumental variable assumptions.Methods:
Here, a new method - the mode-based estimate (MBE) - is proposed to obtain a single causal effect estimate from multiple genetic instruments. The MBE is consistent when the largest number of similar (identical in infinite samples) individual-instrument causal effect estimates comes from valid instruments, even if the majority of instruments are invalid. We evaluate the performance of the method in simulations designed to mimic the two-sample summary data setting, and demonstrate its use by investigating the causal effect of plasma lipid fractions and urate levels on coronary heart disease risk.Results:
The MBE presented less bias and lower type-I error rates than other methods under the null in many situations. Its power to detect a causal effect was smaller compared with the IVW and weighted median methods, but was larger than that of MR-Egger regression, with sample size requirements typically smaller than those available from GWAS consortia.Conclusions:
The MBE relaxes the instrumental variable assumptions, and should be used in combination with other approaches in sensitivity analyses.