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An Empirical Bayes Method for Estimating Epistatic Effects of Quantitative Trait Loci

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The genetic variance of a quantitative trait is often controlled by the segregation of multiple interacting loci. Linear model regression analysis is usually applied to estimating and testing effects of these quantitative trait loci (QTL). Including all the main effects and the effects of interaction (epistatic effects), the dimension of the linear model can be extremely high. Variable selection via stepwise regression or stochastic search variable selection (SSVS) is the common procedure for epistatic effect QTL analysis. These methods are computationally intensive, yet they may not be optimal. The LASSO (least absolute shrinkage and selection operator) method is computationally more efficient than the above methods. As a result, it has been widely used in regression analysis for large models. However, LASSO has never been applied to genetic mapping for epistatic QTL, where the number of model effects is typically many times larger than the sample size. In this study, we developed an empirical Bayes method (E-BAYES) to map epistatic QTL under the mixed model framework. We also tested the feasibility of using LASSO to estimate epistatic effects, examined the fully Bayesian SSVS, and reevaluated the penalized likelihood (PENAL) methods in mapping epistatic QTL. Simulation studies showed that all the above methods performed satisfactorily well. However, E-BAYES appears to outperform all other methods in terms of minimizing the mean-squared error (MSE) with relatively short computing time. Application of the new method to real data was demonstrated using a barley dataset.

Keywords: LASSO; Maximum likelihood; Mixed model; QTL mapping; Shrinkage

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California, Riverside, Riverside, California 92521, U.S.A., Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2007


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