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1.  Gene-based interaction analysis by incorporating external linkage disequilibrium information 
Gene–gene interactions have an important role in complex human diseases. Detection of gene–gene interactions has long been a challenge due to their complexity. The standard method aiming at detecting SNP–SNP interactions may be inadequate as it does not model linkage disequilibrium (LD) among SNPs in each gene and may lose power due to a large number of comparisons. To improve power, we propose a principal component (PC)-based framework for gene-based interaction analysis. We analytically derive the optimal weight for both quantitative and binary traits based on pairwise LD information. We then use PCs to summarize the information in each gene and test for interactions between the PCs. We further extend this gene-based interaction analysis procedure to allow the use of imputation dosage scores obtained from a popular imputation software package, MACH, which incorporates multilocus LD information. To evaluate the performance of the gene-based interaction tests, we conducted extensive simulations under various settings. We demonstrate that gene-based interaction tests are more powerful than SNP-based tests when more than two variants interact with each other; moreover, tests that incorporate external LD information are generally more powerful than those that use genotyped markers only. We also apply the proposed gene-based interaction tests to a candidate gene study on high-density lipoprotein. As our method operates at the gene level, it can be applied to a genome-wide association setting and used as a screening tool to detect gene–gene interactions.
PMCID: PMC3025792  PMID: 20924406
gene–gene interaction; linkage disequilibrium; imputation
2.  A Ground Truth Based Comparative Study on Detecting Epistatic SNPs 
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been widely applied to identify informative SNPs associated with common and complex diseases. Besides single-SNP analysis, the interaction between SNPs is believed to play an important role in disease risk due to the complex networking of genetic regulations. While many approaches have been proposed for detecting SNP interactions, the relative performance and merits of these methods in practice are largely unclear. In this paper, a ground-truth based comparative study is reported involving 9 popular SNP detection methods using realistic simulation datasets. The results provide general characteristics and guidelines on these methods that may be informative to the biological investigators.
PMCID: PMC2998769  PMID: 21151836
Genome-wide association study; single-nucleotide polymorphism; SNP interaction
3.  Kernel canonical correlation analysis for assessing gene–gene interactions and application to ovarian cancer 
Although single-locus approaches have been widely applied to identify disease-associated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), complex diseases are thought to be the product of multiple interactions between loci. This has led to the recent development of statistical methods for detecting statistical interactions between two loci. Canonical correlation analysis (CCA) has previously been proposed to detect gene–gene coassociation. However, this approach is limited to detecting linear relations and can only be applied when the number of observations exceeds the number of SNPs in a gene. This limitation is particularly important for next-generation sequencing, which could yield a large number of novel variants on a limited number of subjects. To overcome these limitations, we propose an approach to detect gene–gene interactions on the basis of a kernelized version of CCA (KCCA). Our simulation studies showed that KCCA controls the Type-I error, and is more powerful than leading gene-based approaches under a disease model with negligible marginal effects. To demonstrate the utility of our approach, we also applied KCCA to assess interactions between 200 genes in the NF-κB pathway in relation to ovarian cancer risk in 3869 cases and 3276 controls. We identified 13 significant gene pairs relevant to ovarian cancer risk (local false discovery rate <0.05). Finally, we discuss the advantages of KCCA in gene–gene interaction analysis and its future role in genetic association studies.
PMCID: PMC3865403  PMID: 23591404
association studies; canonical correlation; gene–gene interaction; kernel methods
4.  Assessment of Network Inference Methods: How to Cope with an Underdetermined Problem 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90481.
The inference of biological networks is an active research area in the field of systems biology. The number of network inference algorithms has grown tremendously in the last decade, underlining the importance of a fair assessment and comparison among these methods. Current assessments of the performance of an inference method typically involve the application of the algorithm to benchmark datasets and the comparison of the network predictions against the gold standard or reference networks. While the network inference problem is often deemed underdetermined, implying that the inference problem does not have a (unique) solution, the consequences of such an attribute have not been rigorously taken into consideration. Here, we propose a new procedure for assessing the performance of gene regulatory network (GRN) inference methods. The procedure takes into account the underdetermined nature of the inference problem, in which gene regulatory interactions that are inferable or non-inferable are determined based on causal inference. The assessment relies on a new definition of the confusion matrix, which excludes errors associated with non-inferable gene regulations. For demonstration purposes, the proposed assessment procedure is applied to the DREAM 4 In Silico Network Challenge. The results show a marked change in the ranking of participating methods when taking network inferability into account.
PMCID: PMC3946176  PMID: 24603847
5.  Powerful Cocktail Methods for Detecting Genome-wide Gene-Environment Interaction 
Genetic epidemiology  2012;36(3):10.1002/gepi.21610.
Identifying gene and environment interaction (GxE) can provide insights into biological networks of complex diseases, identify novel genes that act synergistically with environmental factors, and inform risk prediction. However, despite the fact that hundreds of novel disease-associated loci have been identified from genome-wide association studies (GWAS), few GxEs have been discovered. One reason is that most studies are underpowered for detecting these interactions. Several new methods have been proposed to improve power for GxE analysis, but performance varies with scenario. In this article we present a module-based approach to integrating various methods that exploits each method’s most appealing aspects. There are three modules in our approach: 1) a screening module for prioritizing SNPs; 2) a multiple comparison module for testing GxE; and 3) a GxE testing module. We combine all three of these modules and develop two novel “cocktail” methods. We demonstrate that the proposed cocktail methods maintain the type I error, and that the power tracks well with the best existing methods, despite that the best methods may be different under various scenarios and interaction models. For GWAS, where the true interaction models are unknown, methods like our “cocktail” methods that are powerful under a wide range of situations are particularly appealing. Broadly speaking, the modular approach is conceptually straightforward and computationally simple. It builds on common test statistics and is easily implemented without additional computational efforts. It also allows for an easy incorporation of new methods as they are developed. Our work provides a comprehensive and powerful tool for devising effective strategies for genome-wide detection of gene-environment interactions.
PMCID: PMC3654520  PMID: 22714933
Cocktail Method; Empirical Bayes; Gene-environment interaction; Genome-wide study; Modular Approach; Screening; Weighted Hypothesis Testing
6.  Allelic-Based Gene-Gene Interaction Associated With Quantitative Traits 
Genetic epidemiology  2009;33(4):332-343.
Recent studies have shown that quantitative phenotypes may be influenced not only by multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within a gene but also by the interaction between SNPs at unlinked genes. We propose a new statistical approach that can detect gene-gene interactions at the allelic level which contribute to the phenotypic variation in a quantitative trait. By testing for the association of allelic combinations at multiple unlinked loci with a quantitative trait, we can detect the SNP allelic interaction whether or not it can be detected as a main effect. Our proposed method assigns a score to unrelated subjects according to their allelic combination inferred from observed genotypes at two or more unlinked SNPs, and then tests for the association of the allelic score with a quantitative trait. To investigate the statistical properties of the proposed method, we performed a simulation study to estimate type I error rates and power and demonstrated that this allelic approach achieves greater power than the more commonly used genotypic approach to test for gene-gene interaction. As an example, the proposed method was applied to data obtained as part of a candidate gene study of sodium retention by the kidney. We found that this method detects an interaction between the calcium-sensing receptor gene (CaSR), the chloride channel gene (CLCNKB) and the Na, K, 2Cl cotransporter gene (CLC12A1) that contributes to variation in diastolic blood pressure.
PMCID: PMC2825760  PMID: 19058262
quantitative trait loci; allelic test; interaction effect; blood pressure
7.  A genome-wide association study of seed protein and oil content in soybean 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:1.
Association analysis is an alternative to conventional family-based methods to detect the location of gene(s) or quantitative trait loci (QTL) and provides relatively high resolution in terms of defining the genome position of a gene or QTL. Seed protein and oil concentration are quantitative traits which are determined by the interaction among many genes with small to moderate genetic effects and their interaction with the environment. In this study, a genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) controlling seed protein and oil concentration in 298 soybean germplasm accessions exhibiting a wide range of seed protein and oil content.
A total of 55,159 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped using various methods including Illumina Infinium and GoldenGate assays and 31,954 markers with minor allele frequency >0.10 were used to estimate linkage disequilibrium (LD) in heterochromatic and euchromatic regions. In euchromatic regions, the mean LD (r 2 ) rapidly declined to 0.2 within 360 Kbp, whereas the mean LD declined to 0.2 at 9,600 Kbp in heterochromatic regions. The GWAS results identified 40 SNPs in 17 different genomic regions significantly associated with seed protein. Of these, the five SNPs with the highest associations and seven adjacent SNPs were located in the 27.6-30.0 Mbp region of Gm20. A major seed protein QTL has been previously mapped to the same location and potential candidate genes have recently been identified in this region. The GWAS results also detected 25 SNPs in 13 different genomic regions associated with seed oil. Of these markers, seven SNPs had a significant association with both protein and oil.
This research indicated that GWAS not only identified most of the previously reported QTL controlling seed protein and oil, but also resulted in narrower genomic regions than the regions reported as containing these QTL. The narrower GWAS-defined genome regions will allow more precise marker-assisted allele selection and will expedite positional cloning of the causal gene(s).
PMCID: PMC3890527  PMID: 24382143
GWAS; Glycine max; Seed protein and oil content; Single nucleotide polymorphism; Linkage disequilibrium
8.  Detecting Epistatic SNPs Associated with Complex Diseases via a Bayesian Classification Tree Search Method 
Annals of human genetics  2010;75(1):112-121.
Complex phenotypes are known to be associated with interactions among genetic factors. A growing body of evidence suggests that gene–gene interactions contribute to many common human diseases. Identifying potential interactions of multiple polymorphisms thus may be important to understand the biology and biochemical processes of the disease etiology. However, despite the great success of genome-wide association studies that mostly focus on single locus analysis, it is challenging to detect these interactions, especially when the marginal effects of the susceptible loci are weak and/or they involve several genetic factors. Here we describe a Bayesian classification tree model to detect such interactions in case-control association studies. We show that this method has the potential to uncover interactions involving polymorphisms showing weak to moderate marginal effects as well as multi-factorial interactions involving more than two loci.
PMCID: PMC3178841  PMID: 21121902
Epistasis; GWAS; Bayesian CART; MCMC; logistic regression; Crohn’s disease
9.  Allelic Based Gene-Gene Interaction in Case-Control Studies 
Human Heredity  2009;69(1):14-27.
In case-control studies identifying disease susceptibility loci, it has been shown that the interaction caused by multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within a gene as well as by SNPs at unlinked genes plays an important role in influencing risk of a disease. A novel statistical approach is proposed to detect gene-gene interactions at the allelic level contributing to a disease trait. With a new allelic score inferred from the observed genotypes at two or more unlinked SNPs, we derive a score test from logistic regression and test for association of the allelic scores with a disease trait. Furthermore, F and likelihood ratio tests are derived from Cochran-Armitage regression. By testing for the association, the interaction can be assessed both in cases where the SNP association can be detected and cannot be detected as a main effect in single SNP approach. The analytical power and type I error rates over 6 two-way interaction models are investigated based on the non-centrality parameter approximation of the score test. Simulation studies demonstrate that (1) the power of the score test is asymptotically equivalent to that of the test statistics by the Cochran-Armitage method and (2) the allelic based method provides higher power than two genotypic based methods.
PMCID: PMC2880732  PMID: 19797905
Allelic test; Interaction effect; Score test; Cochran-Armitage method; Epistasis
10.  Epistatic Module Detection for Case-Control Studies: A Bayesian Model with a Gibbs Sampling Strategy 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(5):e1000464.
The detection of epistatic interactive effects of multiple genetic variants on the susceptibility of human complex diseases is a great challenge in genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Although methods have been proposed to identify such interactions, the lack of an explicit definition of epistatic effects, together with computational difficulties, makes the development of new methods indispensable. In this paper, we introduce epistatic modules to describe epistatic interactive effects of multiple loci on diseases. On the basis of this notion, we put forward a Bayesian marker partition model to explain observed case-control data, and we develop a Gibbs sampling strategy to facilitate the detection of epistatic modules. Comparisons of the proposed approach with three existing methods on seven simulated disease models demonstrate the superior performance of our approach. When applied to a genome-wide case-control data set for Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the proposed approach successfully identifies two known susceptible loci and suggests that a combination of two other loci—one in the gene SGCD and the other in SCAPER—is associated with the disease. Further functional analysis supports the speculation that the interaction of these two genetic variants may be responsible for the susceptibility of AMD. When applied to a genome-wide case-control data set for Parkinson's disease, the proposed method identifies seven suspicious loci that may contribute independently to the disease.
Author Summary
Although genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been quite popular due to recent advances in low-cost genotyping techniques, most of the reported studies only analyze single-locus effects because traditional multi-locus methods are not computationally practical in the detection of epistatic interactive effects of multiple loci. Here, on the basis of a rigorous definition of epistatic modules that describe interactive effects of multiple loci, we take advantage of a Bayesian model with a properly designed Gibbs sampling strategy to facilitate the detection of such modules. We confirm via extensive simulation studies that the proposed method, named epiMODE, is not only feasible in detecting multi-locus effects but also more powerful than three representative methods on seven disease models. We apply the proposed method to an Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) data and discover that a combination of two loci—one in the gene SGCD and the other in SCAPER—might be associated with AMD. Considering its advantages, we suggest that the proposed method be applied to more GWAS data for the detection of multi-locus interactive effects.
PMCID: PMC2669883  PMID: 19412524
11.  Pathways to Age of Onset of Heroin Use: A Structural Model Approach Exploring the Relationship of the COMT Gene, Impulsivity and Childhood Trauma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48735.
The interaction of the association of dopamine genes, impulsivity and childhood trauma with substance abuse remains unclear.
To clarify the impacts and the interactions of the Catechol -O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene, impulsivity and childhood trauma on the age of onset of heroin use among heroin dependent patients in China.
202 male and 248 female inpatients who meet DSM-IV criteria of heroin dependence were enrolled. Impulsivity and childhood trauma were measured using BIS-11 (Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11) and ETISR-SF (Early Trauma Inventory Self Report-Short Form). The single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs737866 on the COMT gene-which has previously been associated with heroin abuse, was genotyped using a DNA sequence detection system. Structural equations model was used to assess the interaction paths between these factors and the age of onset of heroin use.
Principal Findings
Chi-square test indicated the individuals with TT allele have earlier age of onset of heroin use than those with CT or CC allele. In the correlation analysis, the severity of childhood trauma was positively correlated to impulsive score, but both of them were negatively related to the age of onset of heroin use. In structure equation model, both the COMT gene and childhood trauma had impacts on the age of onset of heroin use directly or via impulsive personality.
Our findings indicated that the COMT gene, impulsive personality traits and childhood trauma experience were interacted to impact the age of onset of heroin use, which play a critical role in the development of heroin dependence. The impact of environmental factor was greater than the COMT gene in the development of heroin dependence.
PMCID: PMC3498242  PMID: 23155402
12.  A Modified Entropy-Based Approach for Identifying Gene-Gene Interactions in Case-Control Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69321.
Gene-gene interactions may play an important role in the genetics of a complex disease. Detection and characterization of gene-gene interactions is a challenging issue that has stimulated the development of various statistical methods to address it. In this study, we introduce a method to measure gene interactions using entropy-based statistics from a contingency table of trait and genotype combinations. We also developed an exploration procedure by using graphs. We propose a standardized relative information gain (RIG) measure to evaluate the interactions between single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) combinations. To identify the kth order interactions, contingency tables of trait and genotype combinations of k SNPs are constructed, with which RIGs are calculated. The RIGs are standardized using the mean and standard deviation from the permuted datasets. SNP combinations yielding high standardized RIG are chosen for gene-gene interactions. Detection of high-order interactions and comparison of interaction strengths between different orders are made possible by using standardized RIG. We have applied the proposed standardized entropy-based method to two types of data sets from a simulation study and a real genetic association study. We have compared our method and the multifactor dimensionality reduction (MDR) method through power analysis of eight different genetic models with varying penetrance rates, number of SNPs, and sample sizes. Our method shows successful identification of genetic associations and gene-gene interactions both in simulation and real genetic data. Simulation results suggest that the proposed entropy-based method is better able to detect high-order interactions and is superior to the MDR method in most cases. The proposed method is well suited for detecting interactions without main effects as well as for models including main effects.
PMCID: PMC3715501  PMID: 23874943
13.  Spatial chemical conservation of hot spot interactions in protein-protein complexes 
BMC Biology  2007;5:43.
Conservation of the spatial binding organizations at the level of physico-chemical interactions is important for the formation and stability of protein-protein complexes as well as protein and drug design. Due to the lack of computational tools for recognition of spatial patterns of interactions shared by a set of protein-protein complexes, the conservation of such interactions has not been addressed previously.
We performed extensive spatial comparisons of physico-chemical interactions common to different types of protein-protein complexes. We observed that 80% of these interactions correspond to known hot spots. Moreover, we show that spatially conserved interactions allow prediction of hot spots with a success rate higher than obtained by methods based on sequence or backbone similarity. Detection of spatially conserved interaction patterns was performed by our novel MAPPIS algorithm. MAPPIS performs multiple alignments of the physico-chemical interactions and the binding properties in three dimensional space. It is independent of the overall similarity in the protein sequences, folds or amino acid identities. We present examples of interactions shared between complexes of colicins with immunity proteins, serine proteases with inhibitors and T-cell receptors with superantigens. We unravel previously overlooked similarities, such as the interactions shared by the structurally different RNase-inhibitor families.
The key contribution of MAPPIS is in discovering the 3D patterns of physico-chemical interactions. The detected patterns describe the conserved binding organizations that involve energetically important hot spot residues and are crucial for the protein-protein associations.
PMCID: PMC2231411  PMID: 17925020
14.  Bayesian Combinatorial Partitioning For Detecting Interactions Among Genetic Variants 
Detecting epistatic (nolinear) interactions among single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at multiple loci is important in the analysis of genomic data in association studies. We developed a Bayesian combinatorial partitioning (BCP) for detecting such interactions among SNPs that are predictive of disease. When compared with multifactor dimensionality reduction (MDR), a widely used combinatorial partitioning method for detecting interactions, BCP has significantly greater power and is computationally more efficient.
PMCID: PMC3041553  PMID: 21347185
15.  TRM: A Powerful Two-stage Machine Learning Approach for Identifying SNP-SNP Interactions 
Annals of human genetics  2011;76(1):53-62.
Studies have shown that interactions of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) may play an important role for understanding causes of complex disease. Machine learning approaches provide useful features to explore interactions more effectively and efficiently. We have proposed an integrated method that combines two machine learning methods - Random Forests (RF) and Multivariate Adaptive Regression Splines (MARS) - to identify a subset of important SNPs and detect interaction patterns. In this two-stage RF-MARS (TRM) approach, RF is first applied to detect a predictive subset of SNPs, and then MARS is used to identify the interaction patterns among the selected SNPs. We evaluated the TRM performances in four models: three causal models with one two-way interaction and one null model. RF variable selection was based on out-of-bag classification error rate (OOB) and variable important spectrum (IS). First, we compared the selection of important variable of RF and MARS. Our results support that RFOOB had better performance than MARS and RFIS in detecting important variables. We also evaluated the true positive rate and false positive rate of identifying interaction patterns in TRM and MARS. This study demonstrates that TRMOOB, which is RFOOB plus MARS, has combined the strengths of RF and MARS in identifying SNP-SNP interaction patterns in a scenario of 100 candidate SNPs. TRMOOB had greater true positive rate and lower false positive rate compared with MARS, particularly for searching interactions with a strong association with the outcome. Therefore the use of TRMOOB is favored for exploring SNP-SNP interactions in a large-scale genetic variation study.
PMCID: PMC3243917  PMID: 22150548
polymorphism; interaction; machine learning
16.  Identification of Gene-Gene Interactions in the Presence of Missing Data using the Multifactor Dimensionality Reduction Method 
Genetic epidemiology  2009;33(7):646-656.
Gene-gene interaction is believed to play an important role in understanding complex traits. Multifactor dimensionality reduction (MDR) was proposed by Ritchie, et al. [2001] to identify multiple loci that simultaneously affect disease susceptibility. Although the MDR method has been widely used to detect gene-gene interactions, few studies have been reported on MDR analysis when there are missing data. Currently, there are four approaches available in MDR analysis to handle missing data. The first approach uses only complete observations that have no missing data, which can cause a severe loss of data. The second approach is to treat missing values as an additional genotype category, but interpretation of the results may then be not clear and the conclusions may be misleading. Furthermore, it performs poorly when the missing rates are unbalanced between the case and control groups. The third approach is a simple imputation method that imputes missing genotypes as the most frequent genotype, which also may produce biased results. The fourth approach, Available, uses all data available for the given loci, to increase power. In any real data analysis, it is not clear which MDR approach one should use when there are missing data. In this paper, we consider a new EM Impute approach, to handle missing data more appropriately. Through simulation studies, we compared the performance of the proposed EM Impute approach with the current approaches. Our results showed that Available and EM Impute approaches perform better than the three other current approaches in terms of power and precision.
PMCID: PMC2766017  PMID: 19241410
Gene-gene interaction; Multifactor Dimensionality Reduction; Missing genotypes; Association study
17.  Global tests of P-values for multifactor dimensionality reduction models in selection of optimal number of target genes 
BioData Mining  2012;5:3.
Multifactor Dimensionality Reduction (MDR) is a popular and successful data mining method developed to characterize and detect nonlinear complex gene-gene interactions (epistasis) that are associated with disease susceptibility. Because MDR uses a combinatorial search strategy to detect interaction, several filtration techniques have been developed to remove genes (SNPs) that have no interactive effects prior to analysis. However, the cutoff values implemented for these filtration methods are arbitrary, therefore different choices of cutoff values will lead to different selections of genes (SNPs).
We suggest incorporating a global test of p-values to filtration procedures to identify the optimal number of genes/SNPs for further MDR analysis and demonstrate this approach using a ReliefF filter technique. We compare the performance of different global testing procedures in this context, including the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test, the inverse chi-square test, the inverse normal test, the logit test, the Wilcoxon test and Tippett’s test. Additionally we demonstrate the approach on a real data application with a candidate gene study of drug response in Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.
Extensive simulation of correlated p-values show that the inverse chi-square test is the most appropriate approach to be incorporated with the screening approach to determine the optimal number of SNPs for the final MDR analysis. The Kolmogorov-Smirnov test has high inflation of Type I errors when p-values are highly correlated or when p-values peak near the center of histogram. Tippett’s test has very low power when the effect size of GxG interactions is small.
The proposed global tests can serve as a screening approach prior to individual tests to prevent false discovery. Strong power in small sample sizes and well controlled Type I error in absence of GxG interactions make global tests highly recommended in epistasis studies.
PMCID: PMC3508622  PMID: 22616673
P-value; Global tests; ReliefF; Multifactor dimensionality reduction
18.  Bayesian epistasis association mapping via SNP imputation 
Biostatistics (Oxford, England)  2010;12(2):211-222.
Genetic mutations may interact to increase the risk of human complex diseases. Mapping of multiple interacting disease loci in the human genome has recently shown promise in detecting genes with little main effects. The power of interaction association mapping, however, can be greatly influenced by the set of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyped in a case–control study. Previous imputation methods only focus on imputation of individual SNPs without considering their joint distribution of possible interactions. We present a new method that simultaneously detects multilocus interaction associations and imputes missing SNPs from a full Bayesian model. Our method treats both the case–control sample and the reference data as random observations. The output of our method is the posterior probabilities of SNPs for their marginal and interacting associations with the disease. Using simulations, we show that the method produces accurate and robust imputation with little overfitting problems. We further show that, with the type I error rate maintained at a common level, SNP imputation can consistently and sometimes substantially improve the power of detecting disease interaction associations. We use a data set of inflammatory bowel disease to demonstrate the application of our method.
PMCID: PMC3062153  PMID: 20923970
Bayesian analysis; Case–control studies; Missing data
19.  A Bayesian Method for Identifying Genetic Interactions 
An important challenge in the analysis of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data is the identification of SNPs that interact in a nonlinear fashion in their association with disease. Such epistatic interactions among genetic variants at multiple loci likely underlie the inheritance of common diseases. We have developed a novel method called the Bayesian combinatorial method (BCM) for detecting combination of genetic variants that are predictive of disease. When compared with the multifactor dimensionality reduction (MDR), a widely used combinatorial method, BCM has significantly greater power to detect interactions and is computationally more efficient.
PMCID: PMC2815434  PMID: 20351939
20.  Identifying Genetic Interactions in Genome-Wide Data Using Bayesian Networks 
Genetic epidemiology  2010;34(6):575-581.
It is believed that interactions among genes (epistasis) may play an important role in susceptibility to common diseases [Moore and Williams, 2002; Ritchie et al., 2001].
To study the underlying genetic variants of diseases, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that simultaneously assay several hundreds of thousands of SNPs are being increasingly used. Often, the data from these studies are analyzed with single-locus methods [Lambert et al., 2009; Reiman et al., 2007]. However, epistatic interactions may not be easily detected with single-locus methods [Marchini et al., 2005]. As a result, both parametric and nonparametric multi-locus methods have been developed to detect such interactions [Heidema et al., 2006]. However, efficiently analyzing epistasis using high-dimensional genome-wide data remains a crucial challenge.
We develop a method based on Bayesian networks and the minimum description length principle for detecting epistatic interactions. We compare its ability to detect gene-gene interactions and its efficiency to that of the combinatorial method multifactor dimensionality reduction (MDR) using 28000 simulated data sets generated from 70 different genetic models We further apply the method to over 300,000 SNPs obtained from a GWAS involving late onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD). Our method outperforms MDR and we substantiate previous results indicating that the GAB2 gene is associated with LOAD. To our knowledge, this is the first successful model-based epistatic analysis using a high-dimensional genome-wide data set.
PMCID: PMC3931553  PMID: 20568290
Alzheimer’s; APOE; GAB2; genome-wide; epistasis; Bayesian network; minimum description length
21.  Association of TNFSF15 polymorphism with irritable bowel syndrome 
Gut  2011;60(12):1671-1677.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common gastrointestinal disorder, affecting more than 10% of the general population worldwide. Although a genetic component is suspected, unambiguous susceptibility genes have so far not been identified. This study tested the hypothesis that genes contributing to epithelial barrier integrity, control of mucosal immune responses and interactions with bacteria in the gut are associated with IBS.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) corresponding to top signals of association with Crohn's disease at 30 known susceptibility loci were tested for their effect on IBS risk in 1992 individuals from two independent case–control cohorts from Sweden and the USA. Association tests included a conservative Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons, and were also performed on specific subgroups of patients characterised by constipation (IBS-C), diarrhoea (IBS-D) or alternating constipation and diarrhoea (IBS-A).
The Crohn's disease risk allele rs4263839 G in the TNFSF15 gene was significantly associated with an increased risk of both IBS (p=2.2×10–5; OR 1.37) and more pronouncedly, IBS-C (p=8.7×10–7; OR 1.79) in the entire sample. Similar associations and risk effects of the same magnitude were observed in the two cohorts analysed separately. A correlation between rs4263839 genotype and TNFSF15 mRNA expression was detected both in peripheral blood and in rectal mucosal biopsies from healthy individuals (combined p=0.0033).
TNFSF15 is a susceptibility gene for IBS and IBS constipation. As TL1A, the protein encoded by TNFSF15, contributes to the modulation of inflammatory responses, the results support a role of immune activation in IBS.
PMCID: PMC3922294  PMID: 21636646
22.  Human population structure detection via multilocus genotype clustering 
BMC Genetics  2007;8:34.
We describe a hierarchical clustering algorithm for using Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) genetic data to assign individuals to populations. The method does not assume Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and linkage equilibrium among loci in sample population individuals.
We show that the algorithm can assign sample individuals highly accurately to their corresponding ethnic groups in our tests using HapMap SNP data and it is also robust to admixed populations when tested with Perlegen SNP data. Moreover, it can detect fine-scale population structure as subtle as that between Chinese and Japanese by using genome-wide high-diversity SNP loci.
The algorithm provides an alternative approach to the popular STRUCTURE program, especially for fine-scale population structure detection in genome-wide association studies. This is the first successful separation of Chinese and Japanese samples using random SNP loci with high statistical support.
PMCID: PMC1934381  PMID: 17592628
23.  Testing gene-environment interactions in gene-based association studies 
BMC Proceedings  2011;5(Suppl 9):S26.
Gene-based and single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) set association studies provide an important complement to SNP analysis. Kernel-based nonparametric regression has recently emerged as a powerful and flexible tool for this purpose. Our goal is to explore whether this approach can be extended to incorporate and test for interaction effects, especially for genes containing rare variant SNPs. Here, we construct nonparametric regression models that can be used to include a gene-environment interaction effect under the framework of the least-squares kernel machine and examine the performance of the proposed method on the Genetic Analysis Workshop 17 unrelated individuals data set. Two hundred simulated replicates were used to explore the power for detecting interaction. We demonstrate through a genome scan of the quantitative phenotype Q1 that the simulated gene-environment interaction effect in the data can be detected with reasonable power by using the least-squares kernel machine method.
PMCID: PMC3287861  PMID: 22373316
24.  SNP interaction detection with Random Forests in high-dimensional genetic data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13:164.
Identifying variants associated with complex human traits in high-dimensional data is a central goal of genome-wide association studies. However, complicated etiologies such as gene-gene interactions are ignored by the univariate analysis usually applied in these studies. Random Forests (RF) are a popular data-mining technique that can accommodate a large number of predictor variables and allow for complex models with interactions. RF analysis produces measures of variable importance that can be used to rank the predictor variables. Thus, single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis using RFs is gaining popularity as a potential filter approach that considers interactions in high-dimensional data. However, the impact of data dimensionality on the power of RF to identify interactions has not been thoroughly explored. We investigate the ability of rankings from variable importance measures to detect gene-gene interaction effects and their potential effectiveness as filters compared to p-values from univariate logistic regression, particularly as the data becomes increasingly high-dimensional.
RF effectively identifies interactions in low dimensional data. As the total number of predictor variables increases, probability of detection declines more rapidly for interacting SNPs than for non-interacting SNPs, indicating that in high-dimensional data the RF variable importance measures are capturing marginal effects rather than capturing the effects of interactions.
While RF remains a promising data-mining technique that extends univariate methods to condition on multiple variables simultaneously, RF variable importance measures fail to detect interaction effects in high-dimensional data in the absence of a strong marginal component, and therefore may not be useful as a filter technique that allows for interaction effects in genome-wide data.
PMCID: PMC3463421  PMID: 22793366
25.  Analyses and Comparison of Imputation-Based Association Methods 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(5):e10827.
Genotype imputation methods have become increasingly popular for recovering untyped genotype data. An important application with imputed genotypes is to test genetic association for diseases. Imputation-based association test can provide additional insight beyond what is provided by testing on typed tagging SNPs only. A variety of effective imputation-based association tests have been proposed. However, their performances are affected by a variety of genetic factors, which have not been well studied. In this study, using both simulated and real data sets, we investigated the effects of LD, MAF of untyped causal SNP and imputation accuracy rate on the performances of seven popular imputation-based association methods, including MACH2qtl/dat, SNPTEST, ProbABEL, Beagle, Plink, BIMBAM and SNPMStat. We also aimed to provide a comprehensive comparison among methods. Results show that: 1). imputation-based association tests can boost signals and improve power under medium and high LD levels, with the power improvement increasing with strengthening LD level; 2) the power increases with higher MAF of untyped causal SNPs under medium to high LD level; 3). under low LD level, a high imputation accuracy rate cannot guarantee an improvement of power; 4). among methods, MACH2qtl/dat, ProbABEL and SNPTEST perform similarly and they consistently outperform other methods. Our results are helpful in guiding the choice of imputation-based association test in practical application.
PMCID: PMC2877082  PMID: 20520814

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