Next-generation analysis of cataracts: determining knowledge driven gene-gene interactions using biofilter, and gene-environment interactions using the Phenx Toolkit*

Sarah A. Pendergrass, Shefali S. Verma, Molly A. Hall, Emily R. Holzinger, Carrie B. Moore, John R. Wallace, Scott M. Dudek, Wayne Huggins, Terrie Kitchner, Carol Waudby, Richard Berg, Catherine A. Mccarty, Marylyn D. Ritchie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Investigating the association between biobank derived genomic data and the information of linked electronic health records (EHRs) is an emerging area of research for dissecting the architecture of complex human traits, where cases and controls for study are defined through the use of electronic phenotyping algorithms deployed in large EHR systems. For our study, cataract cases and controls were identified within the Marshfield Personalized Medicine Research Project (PMRP) biobank and linked EHR, which is a member of the NHGRI-funded electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) Network. Our goal was to explore potential gene-gene and gene-environment interactions within these data for 527,953 and 527,936 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for gene-gene and gene-environment analyses, respectively, with minor allele frequency > 1%, in order to explore higher level associations with cataract risk beyond investigations of single SNP-phenotype associations. To build our SNP-SNP interaction models we utilized a prior-knowledge driven filtering method called Biofilter to minimize the multiple testing burden of exploring the vast array of interaction models possible from our extensive number of SNPs. Using Biofilter, we developed 57,376 prior-knowledge directed SNP-SNP models to test for association with cataract status. We selected models that required 6 sources of external domain knowledge. We identified 13 statistically significant SNP-SNP models with an interaction with p-value < 1 × 10(-4), as well as an overall model with p-value < 0.01 associated with cataract status. We also conducted gene-environment interaction analyses for all GWAS SNPs and a set of environmental factors from the PhenX Toolkit: smoking, UV exposure, and alcohol use;these environmental factors have been previously associated with the formation of cataracts. We found a total of 782 gene-environment models that exhibit an interaction with a p-value < 1 × 10(-4) associatedwith cataract status. Our results show these approaches enable advanced searches for epistasis and gene-environment interactions beyond GWAS, and that the EHR based approach provides an additional source of data for seeking these advanced explanatory models of the etiology of complex disease/outcome such as cataracts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)495-505
Number of pages11
JournalPacific Symposium on Biocomputing. Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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