Epistasis Blog

From the Computational Genetics Laboratory at Dartmouth Medical School (www.epistasis.org)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Interactome Networks and Human Disease

Consider whether we should be doing genetic analysis one SNP at a time after reading this paper.

Vidal M, Cusick ME, Barabási AL. Interactome networks and human disease. Cell. 2011 Mar 18;144(6):986-98. [PubMed]


Complex biological systems and cellular networks may underlie most genotype to phenotype relationships. Here, we review basic concepts in network biology, discussing different types of interactome networks and the insights that can come from analyzing them. We elaborate on why interactome networks are important to consider in biology, how they can be mapped and integrated with each other, what global properties are starting to emerge from interactome network models, and how these properties may relate to human disease.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gene–Environment Interactions in Human Disease

A nice current review in TiG on the importance of assessing GxE.

Ober C, Vercelli D. Gene-environment interactions in human disease: nuisance or opportunity? Trends Genet. 2011 Mar;27(3):107-15. [PubMed]


Many environmental risk factors for common, complex human diseases have been revealed by epidemiologic studies, but how genotypes at specific loci modulate individual responses to environmental risk factors is largely unknown. Gene-environment interactions will be missed in genome-wide association studies and could account for some of the 'missing heritability' for these diseases. In this review, we focus on asthma as a model disease for studying gene-environment interactions because of relatively large numbers of candidate gene-environment interactions with asthma risk in the literature. Identifying these interactions using genome-wide approaches poses formidable methodological problems, and elucidating molecular mechanisms for these interactions has been challenging. We suggest that studying gene-environment interactions in animal models, although more tractable, might not be sufficient to shed light on the genetic architecture of human diseases. Lastly, we propose avenues for future studies to find gene-environment interactions.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Model-Based Multifactor Dimensionality Reduction to detect epistasis for quantitative traits in the presence of error-free and noisy data

A new model-based MDR paper.

Mahachie John JM, Van Lishout F, Van Steen K. Model-Based Multifactor Dimensionality Reduction to detect epistasis for quantitative traits in the presence of error-free and noisy data. Eur J Hum Genet. 2011, in press [PubMed]


Detecting gene-gene interactions or epistasis in studies of human complex diseases is a big challenge in the area of epidemiology. To address this problem, several methods have been developed, mainly in the context of data dimensionality reduction. One of these methods, Model-Based Multifactor Dimensionality Reduction, has so far mainly been applied to case-control studies. In this study, we evaluate the power of Model-Based Multifactor Dimensionality Reduction for quantitative traits to detect gene-gene interactions (epistasis) in the presence of error-free and noisy data. Considered sources of error are genotyping errors, missing genotypes, phenotypic mixtures and genetic heterogeneity. Our simulation study encompasses a variety of settings with varying minor allele frequencies and genetic variance for different epistasis models. On each simulated data, we have performed Model-Based Multifactor Dimensionality Reduction in two ways: with and without adjustment for main effects of (known) functional SNPs. In line with binary trait counterparts, our simulations show that the power is lowest in the presence of phenotypic mixtures or genetic heterogeneity compared to scenarios with missing genotypes or genotyping errors. In addition, empirical power estimates reduce even further with main effects corrections, but at the same time, false-positive percentages are reduced as well. In conclusion, phenotypic mixtures and genetic heterogeneity remain challenging for epistasis detection, and careful thought must be given to the way important lower-order effects are accounted for in the analysis.