Digenic Analysis Finds Highly Interactive Genetic Variants Underlying Polygenic Traits

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Gao Wang, PhD Jurg Ott, PhD


We briefly review our recently published approach to mining digenic genotype patterns, which consist of two genotypes each originating in a different DNA variant. We do this for a genetic case-control study by evaluating all possible pairs of genotypes, distributing the workload over numerous CPUs (threads) in a high-performance computing environment and apply our methods to two known datasets, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and Parkinson Disease (PD). Based on a list of (e.g., 100,000) genotype pairs with largest genotype pair frequency differences between cases and controls, we determine the number Nu of unique variants occurring in this list. For each unique variant, we find the number of genotype pairs it participates in, which identifies a set of variants “connected” with the given unique variant. Among the total of variants “connected” with all unique variants, only a subset of variants is unique. The ratio of all connected variants divided by that subset of variants is a measure for the overall density or connectedness of variants interacting with each other. We find that variants for the AMD data are much more interconnected than those for PD, at least based on the 100,000 genotype pairs with largest chi-square we investigated. Further, for each of the Nu unique variants, we use the number of variants connected with it as a test statistic, weighted by the inverse of the rank at which the unique variant first occurred in the original list of genotype patterns. This weighing scheme ties the number of connections to the genetics of the trait and allows us to obtain, for each of the Nu unique variants, an empirical significance level by permuting ranks. We find 12 and 8 significant, highly connected variants for AMD and PD, respectively, some of which have previously been identified by other machine learning methods, thus providing credence to our approach. Among the 100,000 genotype pairs investigated for each of AMD and PD, significant variants showed connections with up to 7,093 and 3,777 other variants, respectively. Our approach has been implemented in a freely available piece of software, the Digenic Network Test. Thus, our statistical genetics method can provide important information on the genetic architecture of polygenic traits.

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WANG, Gao; OTT, Jurg. Digenic Analysis Finds Highly Interactive Genetic Variants Underlying Polygenic Traits. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 11, n. 10, oct. 2023. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <https://esmed.org/MRA/mra/article/view/4604>. Date accessed: 11 dec. 2023. doi: https://doi.org/10.18103/mra.v11i10.4604.
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