Inferring multilayer interactome networks shaping phenotypic plasticity and evolution

Dengcheng Yang, Yi Jin, Xiaoqing He, Ang Dong, Jing Wang, Rongling Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Phenotypic plasticity represents a capacity by which the organism changes its phenotypes in response to environmental stimuli. Despite its pivotal role in adaptive evolution, how phenotypic plasticity is genetically controlled remains elusive. Here, we develop a unified framework for coalescing all single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) into a quantitative graph. This framework integrates functional genetic mapping, evolutionary game theory, and predator-prey theory to decompose the net genetic effect of each SNP into its independent and dependent components. The independent effect arises from the intrinsic capacity of a SNP, only expressed when it is in isolation, whereas the dependent effect results from the extrinsic influence of other SNPs. The dependent effect is conceptually beyond the traditional definition of epistasis by not only characterizing the strength of epistasis but also capturing the bi-causality of epistasis and the sign of the causality. We implement functional clustering and variable selection to infer multilayer, sparse, and multiplex interactome networks from any dimension of genetic data. We design and conduct two GWAS experiments using Staphylococcus aureus, aimed to test the genetic mechanisms underlying the phenotypic plasticity of this species to vancomycin exposure and Escherichia coli coexistence. We reconstruct the two most comprehensive genetic networks for abiotic and biotic phenotypic plasticity. Pathway analysis shows that SNP-SNP epistasis for phenotypic plasticity can be annotated to protein-protein interactions through coding genes. Our model can unveil the regulatory mechanisms of significant loci and excavate missing heritability from some insignificant loci. Our multilayer genetic networks provide a systems tool for dissecting environment-induced evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5304
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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