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A linear mixed model approach to study multivariate gene-environment interactions

By Rachel Moore, Francesco Paolo Casale, Marc Jan Bonder, Danilo Horta, BIOS Consortium, Lude Franke, InĂªs Barroso, Oliver Stegle

Posted 25 Feb 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/270611 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41588-018-0271-0)

Different environmental factors, including diet, physical activity, or external conditions can contribute to genotype-environment interactions (GxE). Although high-dimensional environmental data are increasingly available, and multiple environments have been implicated with GxE at the same loci, multi-environment tests for GxE are not established. Such joint analyses can increase power to detect GxE and improve the interpretation of these effects. Here, we propose the structured linear mixed model (StructLMM), a computationally efficient method to test for and characterize loci that interact with multiple environments. After validating our model using simulations, we apply StructLMM to body mass index in UK Biobank, where our method detects previously known and novel GxE signals. Finally, in an application to a large blood eQTL dataset, we demonstrate that StructLMM can be used to study interactions with hundreds of environmental variables.

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