Construction and Functional Analysis of Human Genetic Interaction Networks with Genome-wide Association Data

Date of Submission: 
January 18, 2011
Report Number: 
Report PDF: 

Motivation: Genetic interaction measures how different genes collectively contribute to a phenotype, and can reveal functional compensation and buffering between pathways under genetic perturbations. Recently, genome-wide investigation for genetic interactions has revealed genetic interaction networks that provide novel insights both when analyzed independently and when integrated with other functional genomic datasets. For higher eukaryotes such as human, the above reverse-genetics approaches are not straightforward since the phenotypes of interest for higher eukaryotes such as disease onset or survival, are difficult to study in a cell based assay.

Results: In this paper, we propose a general framework for constructing and analyzing human genetic interaction networks from genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) datasets used for case-control studies on complex diseases. Specifically, we propose a general approach with three major steps: (1) estimating SNP-SNP genetic interactions, (2) identifying linkage disequilibrium (LD) blocks and mapping SNP-SNP interactions to LD block-block interactions, and (3) functional mapping for LD blocks. We performed two sets of functional analyses for each of the six case-control SNP datasets used in the paper, and demonstrated that (i) genes in LD blocks showing similar interaction profiles tend to be functionally related, and (ii) the network can be used to discover pairs of compensatory gene modules (between-pathway models) in their joint association with a disease phenotype. The proposed framework should provide novel insights beyond existing approaches that either ignore interactions between SNPs or model different SNP-SNP pairs with genetic interactions separately. Furthermore, our study provides evidence that some of the core properties of genetic interaction networks based on reverse genetics in model organisms like yeast are also present in genetic interactions revealed by natural variation in human populations.

Availability: Supplementary material