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Genetics. 2012 Feb;190(2):475-86. doi: 10.1534/genetics.111.132522.

Varying coefficient models for mapping quantitative trait loci using recombinant inbred intercrosses.

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Department of Biostatistics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.


There has been a great deal of interest in the development of methodologies to map quantitative trait loci (QTL) using experimental crosses in the last 2 decades. Experimental crosses in animal and plant sciences provide important data sources for mapping QTL through linkage analysis. The Collaborative Cross (CC) is a renewable mouse resource that is generated from eight genetically diverse founder strains to mimic the genetic diversity in humans. The recombinant inbred intercrosses (RIX) generated from CC recombinant inbred (RI) lines share similar genetic structures of F(2) individuals but with up to eight alleles segregating at any one locus. In contrast to F(2) mice, genotypes of RIX can be inferred from the genotypes of their RI parents and can be produced repeatedly. Also, RIX mice typically do not share the same degree of relatedness. This unbalanced genetic relatedness requires careful statistical modeling to avoid false-positive findings. Many quantitative traits are inherently complex with genetic effects varying with other covariates, such as age. For such complex traits, if phenotype data can be collected over a wide range of ages across study subjects, their dynamic genetic patterns can be investigated. Parametric functions, such as sigmoidal or logistic functions, have been used for such purpose. In this article, we propose a flexible nonparametric time-varying coefficient QTL mapping method for RIX data. Our method allows the QTL effects to evolve with time and naturally extends classical parametric QTL mapping methods. We model the varying genetic effects nonparametrically with the B-spline bases. Our model investigates gene-by-time interactions for RIX data in a very flexible nonparametric fashion. Simulation results indicate that the varying coefficient QTL mapping has higher power and mapping precision compared to parametric models when the assumption of constant genetic effects fails. We also apply a modified permutation procedure to control overall significance level.

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