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.