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Widespread Inter-Chromosomal Epistasis Regulates Glucose Homeostasis And Gene Expression

By Anlu Chen, Yang Liu, Scott M. Williams, Nathan Morris, David A. Buchner

Posted 01 May 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/132175 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007025)

The relative contributions of additive versus non-additive interactions in the regulation of complex traits remains controversial. This may be in part because large-scale epistasis has traditionally been difficult to detect in complex, multi-cellular organisms. We hypothesized that it would be easier to detect interactions using mouse chromosome substitution strains that simultaneously incorporate allelic variation in many genes on a controlled genetic background. Analyzing metabolic traits and gene expression levels in the offspring of a series of crosses between mouse chromosome substitution strains demonstrated that inter-chromosomal epistasis was a dominant feature of these complex traits. Epistasis typically accounted for a larger proportion of the heritable effects than those due solely to additive effects. These epistatic interactions typically resulted in trait values returning to the levels of the parental CSS host strain. Due to the large epistatic effects, analyses that did not account for interactions consistently underestimated the true effect sizes due to allelic variation or failed to detect the loci controlling trait variation. These studies demonstrate that epistatic interactions are a common feature of complex traits and thus identifying these interactions is key to understanding their genetic regulation.

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