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Front Genet. 2011 Nov 28;2:83. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2011.00083. eCollection 2011.

Tests of selection in pooled case-control data: an empirical study.

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Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Graduate Program, University of California San Diego La Jolla, CA, USA.


For smaller organisms with faster breeding cycles, artificial selection can be used to create sub-populations with different phenotypic traits. Genetic tests can be employed to identify the causal markers for the phenotypes, as a precursor to engineering strains with a combination of traits. Traditional approaches involve analyzing crosses of inbred strains to test for co-segregation with genetic markers. Here we take advantage of cheaper next generation sequencing techniques to identify genetic signatures of adaptation to the selection constraints. Obtaining individual sequencing data is often unrealistic due to cost and sample issues, so we focus on pooled genomic data. We explore a series of statistical tests for selection using pooled case (under selection) and control populations. The tests generally capture skews in the scaled frequency spectrum of alleles in a region, which are indicative of a selective sweep. Extensive simulations are used to show that these approaches work well for a wide range of population divergence times and strong selective pressures. Control vs control simulations are used to determine an empirical False Positive Rate, and regions under selection are determined using a 1% FPR level. We show that pooling does not have a significant impact on statistical power. The tests are also robust to reasonable variations in several different parameters, including window size, base-calling error rate, and sequencing coverage. We then demonstrate the viability (and the challenges) of one of these methods in two independent Drosophila populations (Drosophila melanogaster) bred under selection for hypoxia and accelerated development, respectively. Testing for extreme hypoxia tolerance showed clear signals of selection, pointing to loci that are important for hypoxia adaptation. Overall, we outline a strategy for finding regions under selection using pooled sequences, then devise optimal tests for that strategy. The approaches show promise for detecting selection, even several generations after fixation of the beneficial allele has occurred.


case-control framework; sequence pooling; tests of selection

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