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1.  R/qtl: high-throughput multiple QTL mapping 
Bioinformatics  2010;26(23):2990-2992.
Motivation: R/qtl is free and powerful software for mapping and exploring quantitative trait loci (QTL). R/qtl provides a fully comprehensive range of methods for a wide range of experimental cross types. We recently added multiple QTL mapping (MQM) to R/qtl. MQM adds higher statistical power to detect and disentangle the effects of multiple linked and unlinked QTL compared with many other methods. MQM for R/qtl adds many new features including improved handling of missing data, analysis of 10 000 s of molecular traits, permutation for determining significance thresholds for QTL and QTL hot spots, and visualizations for cis–trans and QTL interaction effects. MQM for R/qtl is the first free and open source implementation of MQM that is multi-platform, scalable and suitable for automated procedures and large genetical genomics datasets.
Availability: R/qtl is free and open source multi-platform software for the statistical language R, and is made available under the GPLv3 license. R/qtl can be installed from R/qtl queries should be directed at the mailing list, see
PMCID: PMC2982156  PMID: 20966004
2.  Bioinformatics tools and database resources for systems genetics analysis in mice—a short review and an evaluation of future needs 
Briefings in Bioinformatics  2011;13(2):135-142.
During a meeting of the SYSGENET working group ‘Bioinformatics’, currently available software tools and databases for systems genetics in mice were reviewed and the needs for future developments discussed. The group evaluated interoperability and performed initial feasibility studies. To aid future compatibility of software and exchange of already developed software modules, a strong recommendation was made by the group to integrate HAPPY and R/qtl analysis toolboxes, GeneNetwork and XGAP database platforms, and TIQS and xQTL processing platforms. R should be used as the principal computer language for QTL data analysis in all platforms and a ‘cloud’ should be used for software dissemination to the community. Furthermore, the working group recommended that all data models and software source code should be made visible in public repositories to allow a coordinated effort on the use of common data structures and file formats.
PMCID: PMC3294237  PMID: 22396485
QTL mapping; database; mouse; systems genetics
3.  Genome-Wide Linkage Analysis of Global Gene Expression in Loin Muscle Tissue Identifies Candidate Genes in Pigs 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16766.
Nearly 6,000 QTL have been reported for 588 different traits in pigs, more than in any other livestock species. However, this effort has translated into only a few confirmed causative variants. A powerful strategy for revealing candidate genes involves expression QTL (eQTL) mapping, where the mRNA abundance of a set of transcripts is used as the response variable for a QTL scan.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We utilized a whole genome expression microarray and an F2 pig resource population to conduct a global eQTL analysis in loin muscle tissue, and compared results to previously inferred phenotypic QTL (pQTL) from the same experimental cross. We found 62 unique eQTL (FDR <10%) and identified 3 gene networks enriched with genes subject to genetic control involved in lipid metabolism, DNA replication, and cell cycle regulation. We observed strong evidence of local regulation (40 out of 59 eQTL with known genomic position) and compared these eQTL to pQTL to help identify potential candidate genes. Among the interesting associations, we found aldo-keto reductase 7A2 (AKR7A2) and thioredoxin domain containing 12 (TXNDC12) eQTL that are part of a network associated with lipid metabolism and in turn overlap with pQTL regions for marbling, % intramuscular fat (% fat) and loin muscle area on Sus scrofa (SSC) chromosome 6. Additionally, we report 13 genomic regions with overlapping eQTL and pQTL involving 14 local eQTL.
Results of this analysis provide novel candidate genes for important complex pig phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3035619  PMID: 21346809
4.  WormQTL—public archive and analysis web portal for natural variation data in Caenorhabditis spp 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(D1):D738-D743.
Here, we present WormQTL (, an easily accessible database enabling search, comparative analysis and meta-analysis of all data on variation in Caenorhabditis spp. Over the past decade, Caenorhabditis elegans has become instrumental for molecular quantitative genetics and the systems biology of natural variation. These efforts have resulted in a valuable amount of phenotypic, high-throughput molecular and genotypic data across different developmental worm stages and environments in hundreds of C. elegans strains. WormQTL provides a workbench of analysis tools for genotype–phenotype linkage and association mapping based on but not limited to R/qtl ( All data can be uploaded and downloaded using simple delimited text or Excel formats and are accessible via a public web user interface for biologists and R statistic and web service interfaces for bioinformaticians, based on open source MOLGENIS and xQTL workbench software. WormQTL welcomes data submissions from other worm researchers.
PMCID: PMC3531126  PMID: 23180786
5.  Exon-Specific QTLs Skew the Inferred Distribution of Expression QTLs Detected Using Gene Expression Array Data 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e30629.
Mapping of expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) is an important technique for studying how genetic variation affects gene regulation in natural populations. In a previous study using Illumina expression data from human lymphoblastoid cell lines, we reported that cis-eQTLs are especially enriched around transcription start sites (TSSs) and immediately upstream of transcription end sites (TESs). In this paper, we revisit the distribution of eQTLs using additional data from Affymetrix exon arrays and from RNA sequencing. We confirm that most eQTLs lie close to the target genes; that transcribed regions are generally enriched for eQTLs; that eQTLs are more abundant in exons than introns; and that the peak density of eQTLs occurs at the TSS. However, we find that the intriguing TES peak is greatly reduced or absent in the Affymetrix and RNA-seq data. Instead our data suggest that the TES peak observed in the Illumina data is mainly due to exon-specific QTLs that affect 3′ untranslated regions, where most of the Illumina probes are positioned. Nonetheless, we do observe an overall enrichment of eQTLs in exons versus introns in all three data sets, consistent with an important role for exonic sequences in gene regulation.
PMCID: PMC3281037  PMID: 22359548
6.  seeQTL: a searchable database for human eQTLs 
Bioinformatics  2011;28(3):451-452.
Summary: seeQTL is a comprehensive and versatile eQTL database, including various eQTL studies and a meta-analysis of HapMap eQTL information. The database presents eQTL association results in a convenient browser, using both segmented local-association plots and genome-wide Manhattan plots.
Availability and implementation: seeQTL is freely available for non-commercial use at
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3268245  PMID: 22171328
7.  eQTL Viewer: visualizing how sequence variation affects genome-wide transcription 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8:7.
Expression Quantitative Trait Locus (eQTL) mapping methods have been used to identify the genetic basis of gene expression variations. To map eQTL, thousands of expression profiles are related with sequence polymorphisms across the genome through their correlated variations. These eQTL distribute in many chromosomal regions, each of which can include many genes. The large number of mapping results produced makes it difficult to consider simultaneously the relationships between multiple genomic regions and multiple expressional profiles. There is a need for informative bioinformatics tools to assist the visualization and interpretation of these mapping results.
We have developed a web-based tool, called eQTL Viewer, to visualize the relationships between the expression trait genes and the candidate genes in the eQTL regions using Scalable Vector Graphics. The plot generated by eQTL Viewer has the capacity to display mapping results with high resolutions at a variety of scales, and superimpose biological annotations onto the mapping results dynamically.
Our tool provides an efficient and intuitive way for biologists to explore transcriptional regulation patterns, and to generate hypotheses on the genetic basis of transcriptional regulations.
PMCID: PMC1780060  PMID: 17212828
8.  eQTL Mapping Using RNA-seq Data 
Statistics in biosciences  2012;5(1):10.1007/s12561-012-9068-3.
As RNA-seq is replacing gene expression microarrays to assess genome-wide transcription abundance, gene expression Quantitative Trait Locus (eQTL) studies using RNA-seq have emerged. RNA-seq delivers two novel features that are important for eQTL studies. First, it provides information on allele-specific expression (ASE), which is not available from gene expression microarrays. Second, it generates unprecedentedly rich data to study RNA-isoform expression. In this paper, we review current methods for eQTL mapping using ASE and discuss some future directions. We also review existing works that use RNA-seq data to study RNA-isoform expression and we discuss the gaps between these works and isoform-specific eQTL mapping.
PMCID: PMC3650863  PMID: 23667399
Gene expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL); RNA-seq; Allele-specific gene expression (ASE); RNA isoform
9.  Data-driven assessment of eQTL mapping methods 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:502.
The analysis of expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) is a potentially powerful way to detect transcriptional regulatory relationships at the genomic scale. However, eQTL data sets often go underexploited because legacy QTL methods are used to map the relationship between the expression trait and genotype. Often these methods are inappropriate for complex traits such as gene expression, particularly in the case of epistasis.
Here we compare legacy QTL mapping methods with several modern multi-locus methods and evaluate their ability to produce eQTL that agree with independent external data in a systematic way. We found that the modern multi-locus methods (Random Forests, sparse partial least squares, lasso, and elastic net) clearly outperformed the legacy QTL methods (Haley-Knott regression and composite interval mapping) in terms of biological relevance of the mapped eQTL. In particular, we found that our new approach, based on Random Forests, showed superior performance among the multi-locus methods.
Benchmarks based on the recapitulation of experimental findings provide valuable insight when selecting the appropriate eQTL mapping method. Our battery of tests suggests that Random Forests map eQTL that are more likely to be validated by independent data, when compared to competing multi-locus and legacy eQTL mapping methods.
PMCID: PMC2996998  PMID: 20849587
10.  XGAP: a uniform and extensible data model and software platform for genotype and phenotype experiments 
Genome Biology  2010;11(3):R27.
XGAP, a software platform for the integration and analysis of genotype and phenotype data.
We present an extensible software model for the genotype and phenotype community, XGAP. Readers can download a standard XGAP ( or auto-generate a custom version using MOLGENIS with programming interfaces to R-software and web-services or user interfaces for biologists. XGAP has simple load formats for any type of genotype, epigenotype, transcript, protein, metabolite or other phenotype data. Current functionality includes tools ranging from eQTL analysis in mouse to genome-wide association studies in humans.
PMCID: PMC2864567  PMID: 20214801
11.  Semiparametric methods for genome-wide linkage analysis of human gene expression data 
BMC Proceedings  2007;1(Suppl 1):S83.
With the availability of high-throughput microarray technologies, investigators can simultaneously measure the expression levels of many thousands of genes in a short period. Although there are rich statistical methods for analyzing microarray data in the literature, limited work has been done in mapping expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) that influence the variation in levels of gene expression. Most existing eQTL mapping methods assume that the expression phenotypes follow a normal distribution and violation of the normality assumption may lead to inflated type I error and reduced power. QTL analysis of expression data involves the mapping of many expression phenotypes at thousands or hundreds of thousands of marker loci across the whole genome. An appropriate procedure to adjust for multiple testing is essential for guarding against an abundance of false positive results. In this study, we applied a semiparametric quantitative trait loci (SQTL) mapping method to human gene expression data. The SQTL mapping method is rank-based and therefore robust to non-normality and outliers. Furthermore, we apply an efficient Monte Carlo procedure to account for multiple testing and assess the genome-wide significance level. Particularly, we apply the SQTL mapping method and the Monte-Carlo approach to the gene expression data provided by Genetic Analysis Workshop 15.
PMCID: PMC2367566  PMID: 18466586
12.  Organ specificity and transcriptional control of metabolic routes revealed by expression QTL profiling of source--sink tissues in a segregating potato population 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:17.
With the completion of genome sequences belonging to some of the major crop plants, new challenges arise to utilize this data for crop improvement and increased food security. The field of genetical genomics has the potential to identify genes displaying heritable differential expression associated to important phenotypic traits. Here we describe the identification of expression QTLs (eQTLs) in two different potato tissues of a segregating potato population and query the potato genome sequence to differentiate between cis- and trans-acting eQTLs in relation to gene subfunctionalization.
Leaf and tuber samples were analysed and screened for the presence of conserved and tissue dependent eQTLs. Expression QTLs present in both tissues are predominantly cis-acting whilst for tissue specific QTLs, the percentage of trans-acting QTLs increases. Tissue dependent eQTLs were assigned to functional classes and visualized in metabolic pathways. We identified a potential regulatory network on chromosome 10 involving genes crucial for maintaining circadian rhythms and controlling clock output genes. In addition, we show that the type of genetic material screened and sampling strategy applied, can have a high impact on the output of genetical genomics studies.
Identification of tissue dependent regulatory networks based on mapped differential expression not only gives us insight in tissue dependent gene subfunctionalization but brings new insights into key biological processes and delivers targets for future haplotyping and genetic marker development.
PMCID: PMC3546430  PMID: 22313736
13.  Genetic regulation of catecholamine synthesis, storage and secretion in the spontaneously hypertensive rat 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(13):2567-2580.
Understanding catecholamine metabolism is crucial for elucidating the pathogenesis of hereditary hypertension. Here we integrated transcriptional and biochemical profiling with physiologic quantitative trait locus (eQTL and pQTL) mapping in adrenal glands of the HXB/BXH recombinant inbred (RI) strains, derived from the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) and normotensive Brown Norway (BN.Lx). We found simultaneous down-regulation of five heritable transcripts in the catecholaminergic pathway in young (6 weeks) SHRs. We identified cis-acting eQTLs for Dbh, Pnmt (catecholamine biosynthesis) and Vamp1 (catecholamine secretion); enzymatic activities of Dbh and Pnmt paralleled transcripts, with pQTLs for activities mirroring eQTLs. We also detected trans-regulated expression of Vmat1 and Chga (both involved in catecholamine storage), with co-localization of these trans-eQTLs to the Pnmt locus. Pnmt re-sequencing revealed promoter polymorphisms that result in decreased response of the transfected SHR promoter to glucocorticoid, compared with BN.Lx. Of physiological pertinence, Dbh activity negatively correlated with systolic blood pressure in RI strains, whereas Pnmt activity was negatively correlated with heart rate. The finding of such cis- and trans-QTLs at an age before the onset of frank hypertension suggests that these heritable changes in biosynthetic enzyme expression represent primary genetic mechanisms for regulation of catecholamine action and blood pressure control in this widely studied model of hypertension.
PMCID: PMC2883337  PMID: 20378607
14.  FastMap: Fast eQTL mapping in homozygous populations 
Bioinformatics  2008;25(4):482-489.
Motivation: Gene expression Quantitative Trait Locus (eQTL) mapping measures the association between transcript expression and genotype in order to find genomic locations likely to regulate transcript expression. The availability of both gene expression and high-density genotype data has improved our ability to perform eQTL mapping in inbred mouse and other homozygous populations. However, existing eQTL mapping software does not scale well when the number of transcripts and markers are on the order of 105 and 105–106, respectively.
Results: We propose a new method, FastMap, for fast and efficient eQTL mapping in homozygous inbred populations with binary allele calls. FastMap exploits the discrete nature and structure of the measured single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). In particular, SNPs are organized into a Hamming distance-based tree that minimizes the number of arithmetic operations required to calculate the association of a SNP by making use of the association of its parent SNP in the tree. FastMap's tree can be used to perform both single marker mapping and haplotype association mapping over an m-SNP window. These performance enhancements also permit permutation-based significance testing.
Availability: The FastMap program and source code are available at the website:
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC2642639  PMID: 19091771
15.  AnimalQTLdb: a livestock QTL database tool set for positional QTL information mining and beyond 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;35(Database issue):D604-D609.
The Animal Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) database (AnimalQTLdb) is designed to house all publicly available QTL data on livestock animal species from which researchers can easily locate and compare QTL within species. The database tools are also added to link the QTL data to other types of genomic information, such as radiation hybrid (RH) maps, finger printed contig (FPC) physical maps, linkage maps and comparative maps to the human genome, etc. Currently, this database contains data on 1287 pig, 630 cattle and 657 chicken QTL, which are dynamically linked to respective RH, FPC and human comparative maps. We plan to apply the tool to other animal species, and add more structural genome information for alignment, in an attempt to aid comparative structural genome studies ().
PMCID: PMC1781224  PMID: 17135205
16.  Mapping multiple QTL using linkage disequilibrium and linkage analysis information and multitrait data 
A multi-locus QTL mapping method is presented, which combines linkage and linkage disequilibrium (LD) information and uses multitrait data. The method assumed a putative QTL at the midpoint of each marker bracket. Whether the putative QTL had an effect or not was sampled using Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods. The method was tested in dairy cattle data on chromosome 14 where the DGAT1 gene was known to be segregating. The DGAT1 gene was mapped to a region of 0.04 cM, and the effects of the gene were accurately estimated. The fitting of multiple QTL gave a much sharper indication of the QTL position than a single QTL model using multitrait data, probably because the multi-locus QTL mapping reduced the carry over effect of the large DGAT1 gene to adjacent putative QTL positions. This suggests that the method could detect secondary QTL that would, in single point analyses, remain hidden under the broad peak of the dominant QTL. However, no indications for a second QTL affecting dairy traits were found on chromosome 14.
PMCID: PMC2697201  PMID: 15107266
QTL mapping; linkage analysis; linkage disequilibrium mapping; multitrait analysis; multi-locus mapping
17.  Expression quantitative trait loci detected in cell lines are often present in primary tissues 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(22):4296-4303.
Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) mapping is a powerful tool for identifying genetic regulatory variation. However, at present, most eQTLs in humans were identified using gene expression data from cell lines, and it remains unknown whether these eQTLs also have a regulatory function in other expression contexts, such as human primary tissues. Here we investigate this question using a targeted strategy. Specifically, we selected a subset of large-effect eQTLs identified in the HapMap lymphoblastoid cell lines, and examined the association of these eQTLs with gene expression levels across individuals in five human primary tissues (heart, kidney, liver, lung and testes). We show that genotypes at the eQTLs we selected are often predictive of variation in gene expression levels in one or more of the five primary tissues. The genotype effects in the primary tissues are consistently in the same direction as the effects inferred in the cell lines. Additionally, a number of the eQTLs we tested are found in more than one of the tissues. Our results indicate that functional studies in cell lines may uncover a substantial amount of genetic variation that affects gene expression levels in human primary tissues.
PMCID: PMC2766291  PMID: 19671653
18.  Matrix eQTL: ultra fast eQTL analysis via large matrix operations 
Bioinformatics  2012;28(10):1353-1358.
Motivation: Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analysis links variations in gene expression levels to genotypes. For modern datasets, eQTL analysis is a computationally intensive task as it involves testing for association of billions of transcript-SNP (single-nucleotide polymorphism) pair. The heavy computational burden makes eQTL analysis less popular and sometimes forces analysts to restrict their attention to just a small subset of transcript-SNP pairs. As more transcripts and SNPs get interrogated over a growing number of samples, the demand for faster tools for eQTL analysis grows stronger.
Results: We have developed a new software for computationally efficient eQTL analysis called Matrix eQTL. In tests on large datasets, it was 2–3 orders of magnitude faster than existing popular tools for QTL/eQTL analysis, while finding the same eQTLs. The fast performance is achieved by special preprocessing and expressing the most computationally intensive part of the algorithm in terms of large matrix operations. Matrix eQTL supports additive linear and ANOVA models with covariates, including models with correlated and heteroskedastic errors. The issue of multiple testing is addressed by calculating false discovery rate; this can be done separately for cis- and trans-eQTLs.
Availability: Matlab and R implementations are available for free at
PMCID: PMC3348564  PMID: 22492648
19.  SSWAP: A Simple Semantic Web Architecture and Protocol for semantic web services 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10:309.
SSWAP (Simple Semantic Web Architecture and Protocol; pronounced "swap") is an architecture, protocol, and platform for using reasoning to semantically integrate heterogeneous disparate data and services on the web. SSWAP was developed as a hybrid semantic web services technology to overcome limitations found in both pure web service technologies and pure semantic web technologies.
There are currently over 2400 resources published in SSWAP. Approximately two dozen are custom-written services for QTL (Quantitative Trait Loci) and mapping data for legumes and grasses (grains). The remaining are wrappers to Nucleic Acids Research Database and Web Server entries. As an architecture, SSWAP establishes how clients (users of data, services, and ontologies), providers (suppliers of data, services, and ontologies), and discovery servers (semantic search engines) interact to allow for the description, querying, discovery, invocation, and response of semantic web services. As a protocol, SSWAP provides the vocabulary and semantics to allow clients, providers, and discovery servers to engage in semantic web services. The protocol is based on the W3C-sanctioned first-order description logic language OWL DL. As an open source platform, a discovery server running at (as in to "swap info") uses the description logic reasoner Pellet to integrate semantic resources. The platform hosts an interactive guide to the protocol at , developer tools at , and a portal to third-party ontologies at (a "swap meet").
SSWAP addresses the three basic requirements of a semantic web services architecture (i.e., a common syntax, shared semantic, and semantic discovery) while addressing three technology limitations common in distributed service systems: i.e., i) the fatal mutability of traditional interfaces, ii) the rigidity and fragility of static subsumption hierarchies, and iii) the confounding of content, structure, and presentation. SSWAP is novel by establishing the concept of a canonical yet mutable OWL DL graph that allows data and service providers to describe their resources, to allow discovery servers to offer semantically rich search engines, to allow clients to discover and invoke those resources, and to allow providers to respond with semantically tagged data. SSWAP allows for a mix-and-match of terms from both new and legacy third-party ontologies in these graphs.
PMCID: PMC2761904  PMID: 19775460
20.  A Statistical Framework for Joint eQTL Analysis in Multiple Tissues 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(5):e1003486.
Mapping expression Quantitative Trait Loci (eQTLs) represents a powerful and widely adopted approach to identifying putative regulatory variants and linking them to specific genes. Up to now eQTL studies have been conducted in a relatively narrow range of tissues or cell types. However, understanding the biology of organismal phenotypes will involve understanding regulation in multiple tissues, and ongoing studies are collecting eQTL data in dozens of cell types. Here we present a statistical framework for powerfully detecting eQTLs in multiple tissues or cell types (or, more generally, multiple subgroups). The framework explicitly models the potential for each eQTL to be active in some tissues and inactive in others. By modeling the sharing of active eQTLs among tissues, this framework increases power to detect eQTLs that are present in more than one tissue compared with “tissue-by-tissue” analyses that examine each tissue separately. Conversely, by modeling the inactivity of eQTLs in some tissues, the framework allows the proportion of eQTLs shared across different tissues to be formally estimated as parameters of a model, addressing the difficulties of accounting for incomplete power when comparing overlaps of eQTLs identified by tissue-by-tissue analyses. Applying our framework to re-analyze data from transformed B cells, T cells, and fibroblasts, we find that it substantially increases power compared with tissue-by-tissue analysis, identifying 63% more genes with eQTLs (at FDR = 0.05). Further, the results suggest that, in contrast to previous analyses of the same data, the majority of eQTLs detectable in these data are shared among all three tissues.
Author Summary
Genetic variants that are associated with gene expression are known as expression Quantitative Trait Loci, or eQTLs. Many studies have been conducted to identify eQTLs, and they have proven an effective tool for identifying putative regulatory variants and linking them to specific genes. Up to now most studies have been conducted in a single tissue or cell type, but moving forward this is changing, and ongoing studies are collecting data aimed at mapping eQTLs in dozens of tissues. Current statistical methods are not able to fully exploit the richness of these kinds of data, taking account of both the sharing and differences in eQTLs among tissues. In this paper we develop a statistical framework to address this problem, to improve power to detect eQTLs when they are shared among multiple tissues, and to allow for differences among tissues to be estimated. Applying these methods to data from three tissues suggests that sharing of eQTLs among tissues may be substantially more common than it appeared in previous analyses of the same data.
PMCID: PMC3649995  PMID: 23671422
21.  Sequence Polymorphisms Cause Many False cis eQTLs 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(7):e622.
Many investigations have reported the successful mapping of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for gene expression phenotypes (eQTLs). Local eQTLs, where expression phenotypes map to the genes themselves, are of especially great interest, because they are direct candidates for previously mapped physiological QTLs. Here we show that many mapped local eQTLs in genetical genomics experiments do not reflect actual expression differences caused by sequence polymorphisms in cis-acting factors changing mRNA levels. Instead they indicate hybridization differences caused by sequence polymorphisms in the mRNA region that is targeted by the microarray probes. Many such polymorphisms can be detected by a sensitive and novel statistical approach that takes the individual probe signals into account. Applying this approach to recent mouse and human eQTL data, we demonstrate that indeed many local eQTLs are falsely reported as “cis-acting” or “cis” and can be successfully detected and eliminated with this approach.
PMCID: PMC1906859  PMID: 17637838
22.  Clusthaplo: a plug-in for MCQTL to enhance QTL detection using ancestral alleles in multi-cross design 
Key message
We enhance power and accuracy of QTL mapping in multiple related families, by clustering the founders of the families on their local genomic similarity.
MCQTL is a linkage mapping software application that allows the joint QTL mapping of multiple related families. In its current implementation, QTLs are modeled with one or two parameters for each parent that is a founder of the multi-cross design. The higher the number of parents, the higher the number of model parameters which can impact the power and the accuracy of the mapping. We propose to make use of the availability of denser and denser genotyping information on the founders to lessen the number of MCQTL parameters and thus boost the QTL discovery. We developed clusthaplo, an R package (, which aims to cluster haplotypes using a genomic similarity that reflects the probability of sharing the same ancestral allele. Computed in a sliding window along the genome and followed by a clustering method, the genomic similarity allows the local clustering of the parent haplotypes. Our assumption is that the haplotypes belonging to the same class transmit the same ancestral allele. So their putative QTL allelic effects can be modeled with the same parameter, leading to a parsimonious model, that is plugged in MCQTL. Intensive simulations using three maize data sets showed the significant gain in power and in accuracy of the QTL mapping with the ancestral allele model compared to the classical MCQTL model. MCQTL_LD (clusthaplo outputs plug in MCQTL) is a versatile and powerful tool for QTL mapping in multiple related families that makes use of linkage and linkage disequilibrium (web site
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00122-014-2267-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3964294  PMID: 24482114
23.  AnnotQTL: a new tool to gather functional and comparative information on a genomic region 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(Web Server issue):W328-W333.
AnnotQTL is a web tool designed to aggregate functional annotations from different prominent web sites by minimizing the redundancy of information. Although thousands of QTL regions have been identified in livestock species, most of them are large and contain many genes. This tool was therefore designed to assist the characterization of genes in a QTL interval region as a step towards selecting the best candidate genes. It localizes the gene to a specific region (using NCBI and Ensembl data) and adds the functional annotations available from other databases (Gene Ontology, Mammalian Phenotype, HGNC and Pubmed). Both human genome and mouse genome can be aligned with the studied region to detect synteny and segment conservation, which is useful for running inter-species comparisons of QTL locations. Finally, custom marker lists can be included in the results display to select the genes that are closest to your most significant markers. We use examples to demonstrate that in just a couple of hours, AnnotQTL is able to identify all the genes located in regions identified by a full genome scan, with some highlighted based on both location and function, thus considerably increasing the chances of finding good candidate genes. AnnotQTL is available at
PMCID: PMC3125768  PMID: 21596783
24.  QlicRice: a web interface for abiotic stress responsive QTL and loci interaction channels in rice 
The QlicRice database is designed to host publicly accessible, abiotic stress responsive quantitative trait loci (QTLs) in rice (Oryza sativa) and their corresponding sequenced gene loci. It provides a platform for the data mining of abiotic stress responsive QTLs, as well as browsing and annotating associated traits, their location on a sequenced genome, mapped expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and tissue and growth stage-specific expressions on the whole genome. Information on QTLs related to abiotic stresses and their corresponding loci from a genomic perspective has not yet been integrated on an accessible, user-friendly platform. QlicRice offers client-responsive architecture to retrieve meaningful biological information—integrated and named ‘Qlic Search’—embedded in a query phrase autocomplete feature, coupled with multiple search options that include trait names, genes and QTL IDs. A comprehensive physical and genetic map and vital statistics have been provided in a graphical manner for deciphering the position of QTLs on different chromosomes. A convenient and intuitive user interface have been designed to help users retrieve associations to agronomically important QTLs on abiotic stress response in rice.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC3184618  PMID: 21965557
25.  The mQTL hotspot on linkage group 16 for phenolic compounds in apple fruits is probably the result of a leucoanthocyanidin reductase gene at that locus 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:618.
Our previous study on ripe apples from a progeny of a cross between the apple cultivars ‘Prima’ and ‘Fiesta’ showed a hotspot of mQTLs for phenolic compounds at the top of LG16, both in peel and in flesh tissues. In order to find the underlying gene(s) of this mQTL hotspot, we investigated the expression profiles of structural and putative transcription factor genes of the phenylpropanoid and flavonoid pathways during different stages of fruit development in progeny genotypes.
Only the structural gene leucoanthocyanidin reductase (MdLAR1) showed a significant correlation between transcript abundance and content of metabolites that mapped on the mQTL hotspot. This gene is located on LG16 in the mQTL hotspot. Progeny that had inherited one or two copies of the dominant MdLAR1 alleles (Mm, MM) showed a 4.4- and 11.8-fold higher expression level of MdLAR1 respectively, compared to the progeny that had inherited the recessive alleles (mm). This higher expression was associated with a four-fold increase of procyanidin dimer II as one representative metabolite that mapped in the mQTL hotspot. Although expression level of several structural genes were correlated with expression of other structural genes and with some MYB and bHLH transcription factor genes, only expression of MdLAR1 was correlated with metabolites that mapped at the mQTL hotspot. MdLAR1 is the only candidate gene that can explain the mQTL for procyanidins and flavan-3-ols. However, mQTLs for other phenylpropanoids such as phenolic esters, dihydrochalcones and flavonols, that appear to map at the same locus, have so far not been considered to be dependent on LAR, as their biosynthesis does not involve LAR activity. An explanation for this phenomenon is discussed.
Transcript abundances and genomic positions indicate that the mQTL hotspot for phenolic compounds at the top of LG16 is controlled by the MdLAR1 gene. The dominant allele of the MdLAR1 gene, causing increased content of metabolites that are potentially health beneficial, could be used in marker assisted selection of current apple breeding programs and for cisgenesis.
PMCID: PMC3599437  PMID: 23121691
Phenylpropanoid pathway; Flavonoid pathway; Transcript abundance; Apple fruits; Phenolic compounds; Leucoanthocyanidin reductase gene

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