Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UC San Francisco Previously Published Works bannerUCSF

Inclusion of variants discovered from diverse populations improves polygenic risk score transferability


The majority of polygenic risk scores (PRSs) have been developed and optimized in individuals of European ancestry and may have limited generalizability across other ancestral populations. Understanding aspects of PRSs that contribute to this issue and determining solutions is complicated by disease-specific genetic architecture and limited knowledge of sharing of causal variants and effect sizes across populations. Motivated by these challenges, we undertook a simulation study to assess the relationship between ancestry and the potential bias in PRSs developed in European ancestry populations. Our simulations show that the magnitude of this bias increases with increasing divergence from European ancestry, and this is attributed to population differences in linkage disequilibrium and allele frequencies of European-discovered variants, likely as a result of genetic drift. Importantly, we find that including into the PRS variants discovered in African ancestry individuals has the potential to achieve unbiased estimates of genetic risk across global populations and admixed individuals. We confirm our simulation findings in an analysis of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), asthma, and prostate cancer in the UK Biobank. Given the demonstrated improvement in PRS prediction accuracy, recruiting larger diverse cohorts will be crucial-and potentially even necessary-for enabling accurate and equitable genetic risk prediction across populations.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View