HIIT scientists make a breakthrough in genome-wide epistasis analysis

Epistatic interactions between polymorphisms in DNA are recognized as important drivers of evolution in numerous organisms. Study of epistasis in bacteria has been hampered by the lack of densely sampled population genomic data, suitable statistical models and inference algorithms sufficiently powered for extremely high-dimensional parameter spaces. In an article published in PloS Genetics, a HIIT team introduced the first model-based method for genome-wide epistasis analysis and use two of the largest available bacterial population genome data sets on Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus) and Streptococcus pyogenes (group A Streptococcus) to demonstrate its potential for biological discovery. Our approach reveals interacting networks of resistance, virulence and core machinery genes in the pneumococcus, which highlights putative candidates for novel drug targets. We also discover a number of plausible targets of co-selection in S. pyogenes linked to RNA pseudouridine synthases. Our method significantly enhances the future potential of epistasis analysis for systems biology, and can complement genome-wide association studies as a means of formulating hypotheses for targeted experimental work.

Further details can be found at: http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1006508

See also the media report by the Faculty of Science (in Finnish): https://www.helsinki.fi/fi/uutiset/tasmalaakkeita-bakteeri-infektioihin

Contact person: Jukka Corander