The initial presentation of multifactor dimensionality reduction (MDR) featured cross-validation to mitigate over-fitting, computationally efficient searches of the epistatic model space, and variable construction with constructive induction to alleviate the curse of dimensionality. However, the method was unable to differentiate association signals arising from true interactions from those due to independent main effects at individual loci. This issue leads to problems in inference and interpretability for the results from MDR and the family-based compliment the MDR-pedigree disequilibrium test (PDT). A suggestion from previous work was to fit regression models post hoc to specifically evaluate the null hypothesis of no interaction for MDR or MDR-PDT models. We demonstrate with simulation that fitting a regression model on the same data as that analyzed by MDR or MDR-PDT is not a valid test of interaction. This is likely to be true for any other procedure that searches for models, and then performs an uncorrected test for interaction. We also show with simulation that when strong main effects are present and the null hypothesis of no interaction is true, that MDR and MDR-PDT reject at far greater than the nominal rate. We also provide a valid regression-based permutation test procedure that specifically tests the null hypothesis of no interaction, and does not reject the null when only main effects are present. The regression-based permutation test implemented here conducts a valid test of interaction after a search for multilocus models, and can be applied to any method that conducts a search to find a multilocus model representing an interaction.
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