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Front Genet. 2011 Feb 24;2:4. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2011.00004. eCollection 2011.

A primer on high-throughput computing for genomic selection.

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Department of Dairy Science, University of Wisconsin Madison, WI, USA.


High-throughput computing (HTC) uses computer clusters to solve advanced computational problems, with the goal of accomplishing high-throughput over relatively long periods of time. In genomic selection, for example, a set of markers covering the entire genome is used to train a model based on known data, and the resulting model is used to predict the genetic merit of selection candidates. Sophisticated models are very computationally demanding and, with several traits to be evaluated sequentially, computing time is long, and output is low. In this paper, we present scenarios and basic principles of how HTC can be used in genomic selection, implemented using various techniques from simple batch processing to pipelining in distributed computer clusters. Various scripting languages, such as shell scripting, Perl, and R, are also very useful to devise pipelines. By pipelining, we can reduce total computing time and consequently increase throughput. In comparison to the traditional data processing pipeline residing on the central processors, performing general-purpose computation on a graphics processing unit provide a new-generation approach to massive parallel computing in genomic selection. While the concept of HTC may still be new to many researchers in animal breeding, plant breeding, and genetics, HTC infrastructures have already been built in many institutions, such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which can be leveraged for genomic selection, in terms of central processing unit capacity, network connectivity, storage availability, and middleware connectivity. Exploring existing HTC infrastructures as well as general-purpose computing environments will further expand our capability to meet increasing computing demands posed by unprecedented genomic data that we have today. We anticipate that HTC will impact genomic selection via better statistical models, faster solutions, and more competitive products (e.g., from design of marker panels to realized genetic gain). Eventually, HTC may change our view of data analysis as well as decision-making in the post-genomic era of selection programs in animals and plants, or in the study of complex diseases in humans.


Bayesian models; general-purpose computing; genomic selection; high-throughput computing; parallel programming; pipelining

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