Mapping eQTL networks with mixed graphical Markov models

Mapping eQTL networks with mixed graphical Markov models

Inma Tur, Alberto Roverato, Robert Castelo
(Submitted on 19 Feb 2014 (v1), last revised 29 Oct 2014 (this version, v5))

Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) mapping constitutes a challenging problem due to, among other reasons, the high-dimensional multivariate nature of gene-expression traits. Next to the expression heterogeneity produced by confounding factors and other sources of unwanted variation, indirect effects spread throughout genes as a result of genetic, molecular and environmental perturbations. From a multivariate perspective one would like to adjust for the effect of all of these factors to end up with a network of direct associations connecting the path from genotype to phenotype. In this paper we approach this challenge with mixed graphical Markov models, higher-order conditional independences and q-order correlation graphs. These models show that additive genetic effects propagate through the network as function of gene-gene correlations. Our estimation of the eQTL network underlying a well-studied yeast data set leads to a sparse structure with more direct genetic and regulatory associations that enable a straightforward comparison of the genetic control of gene expression across chromosomes. Interestingly, it also reveals that eQTLs explain most of the expression variability of network hub genes.

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