BMC bioinformatics

A Markov blanket-based method for detecting causal SNPs in GWAS.

PMID 20438652


Detecting epistatic interactions associated with complex and common diseases can help to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of these diseases. With the development of genome-wide association studies (GWAS), designing powerful and robust computational method for identifying epistatic interactions associated with common diseases becomes a great challenge to bioinformatics society, because the study of epistatic interactions often deals with the large size of the genotyped data and the huge amount of combinations of all the possible genetic factors. Most existing computational detection methods are based on the classification capacity of SNP sets, which may fail to identify SNP sets that are strongly associated with the diseases and introduce a lot of false positives. In addition, most methods are not suitable for genome-wide scale studies due to their computational complexity. We propose a new Markov Blanket-based method, DASSO-MB (Detection of ASSOciations using Markov Blanket) to detect epistatic interactions in case-control GWAS. Markov blanket of a target variable T can completely shield T from all other variables. Thus, we can guarantee that the SNP set detected by DASSO-MB has a strong association with diseases and contains fewest false positives. Furthermore, DASSO-MB uses a heuristic search strategy by calculating the association between variables to avoid the time-consuming training process as in other machine-learning methods. We apply our algorithm to simulated datasets and a real case-control dataset. We compare DASSO-MB to other commonly-used methods and show that our method significantly outperforms other methods and is capable of finding SNPs strongly associated with diseases. Our study shows that DASSO-MB can identify a minimal set of causal SNPs associated with diseases, which contains less false positives compared to other existing methods. Given the huge size of genomic dataset produced by GWAS, this is critical in saving the potential costs of biological experiments and being an efficient guideline for pathogenesis research.