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Epistasis detectably alters correlations between genomic sites in a narrow parameter window

TitleEpistasis detectably alters correlations between genomic sites in a narrow parameter window
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsPedruzzi, G, Rouzine, IM
Date Published05

Different genomic sites evolve inter-dependently due to the combined action of epistasis, defined as a non-multiplicative contribution of alleles at different loci to genome fitness, and the physical linkage of different loci in genome. Both epistasis and linkage, partially compensated by recombination, cause correlations between allele frequencies at the loci (linkage disequilibrium, LD). The interaction and competition between epistasis and linkage are not fully understood, nor is their relative sensitivity to recombination. Modeling an adapting population in the presence of random mutation, natural selection, pairwise epistasis, and random genetic drift, we compare the contributions of epistasis and linkage. For this end, we use a panel of haplotype-based measures of LD and their various combinations calculated for epistatic and non-epistatic pairs separately. We compute the optimal percentages of detected and false positive pairs in a one-time sample of a population of moderate size. We demonstrate that true interacting pairs can be told apart in a sufficiently short genome within a narrow window of time and parameters. Outside of this parameter region, unless the population is extremely large, shared ancestry of individual sequences generates pervasive stochastic LD for non-interacting pairs masking true epistatic associations. In the presence of sufficiently strong recombination, linkage effects decrease faster than those of epistasis, and the detection of epistasis improves. We demonstrate that the epistasis component of locus association can be isolated, at a single time point, by averaging haplotype frequencies over multiple independent populations. These results demonstrate the existence of fundamental restrictions on the protocols for detecting true interactions in DNA sequence sets.


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