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Detecting genotype-population interaction effects by ancestry principal components

By Chenglong Yu, Guiyan Ni, Julius van der Werf, Sang Hong Lee

Posted 30 Jul 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/719948

Heterogeneity in the phenotypic mean and variance across populations is often observed for complex traits. One way to understand heterogeneous phenotypes lies in uncovering heterogeneity in genetic effects. Previous studies on genetic heterogeneity across populations were typically based on discrete groups of population stratified by different countries or cohorts, which ignored the difference of population characteristics for the individuals within each group and resulted in loss of information. Here we introduce a novel concept of genotype-by-population (G×P) interaction where population is defined by the first and second ancestry principal components (PCs), which are less likely to be confounded with country/cohort-specific factors. We applied a reaction norm model fitting each of 70 complex traits with significant SNP-heritability and the PCs as covariates to examine G×P interactions across diverse populations including white British and other white Europeans from the UK Biobank (N = 22,229). Our results demonstrated a significant population genetic heterogeneity for behavioural traits such as age first had sexual intercourse and qualifications. Our approach may shed light on the latent genetic architecture of complex traits that underlies the modulation of genetic effects across different populations.

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