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Novel Methods for Epistasis Detection in Genome-Wide Association Studies

Lotfi Slim
Clément Chatelain
Chloé-Agathe Azencott
Jean-Philippe Vert
PLoS ONE, vol. 15(11) (2020), e0242927


More and more genome-wide association studies are being designed to uncover the full genetic basis of common diseases. Nonetheless, the resulting loci are often insufficient to fully recover the observed heritability. Epistasis, or gene-gene interaction, is one of many hypotheses put forward to explain this missing heritability. In the present work, we propose epiGWAS, a new approach for epistasis detection that identifies interactions between a target SNP and the rest of the genome. This contrasts with the classical strategy of epistasis detection through exhaustive pairwise SNP testing. We draw inspiration from causal inference in randomized clinical trials, which allows us to take into account linkage disequilibrium. EpiGWAS encompasses several methods, which we compare to state-of-the-art techniques for epistasis detection on simulated and real data. The promising results demonstrate empirically the benefits of EpiGWAS to identify pairwise interactions.