BMC Bioinformatics

Data-driven encoding for quantitative genetic trait prediction

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Motivation: Given a set of biallelic molecular markers, such as SNPs, with genotype values on a collection of plant, animal or human samples, the goal of quantitative genetic trait prediction is to predict the quantitative trait values by simultaneously modeling all marker effects. Quantitative genetic trait prediction is usually represented as linear regression models which require quantitative encodings for the genotypes: the three distinct genotype values, corresponding to one heterozygous and two homozygous alleles, are usually coded as integers, and manipulated algebraically in the model. Further, epistasis between multiple markers is modeled as multiplication between the markers: it is unclear that the regression model continues to be effective under this. In this work we investigate the effects of encodings to the quantitative genetic trait prediction problem. Results: We first showed that different encodings lead to different prediction accuracies, in many test cases. We then proposed a data-driven encoding strategy, where we encode the genotypes according to their distribution in the phenotypes and we allow each marker to have different encodings. We show in our experiments that this encoding strategy is able to improve the performance of the genetic trait prediction method and it is more helpful for the oligogenic traits, whose values rely on a relatively small set of markers. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that discusses the effects of encodings to the genetic trait prediction problem.


18 Feb 2015


BMC Bioinformatics