TreeMap: A structured approach to fine mapping of eQTL variants

Li Liu, Pramod Chandrashekar, Biao Zeng, Maxwell D. Sanderford, Sudhir Kumar, Greg Gibson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Motivation: Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) harbor genetic variants modulating gene transcription. Fine mapping of regulatory variants at these loci is a daunting task due to the juxtaposition of causal and linked variants at a locus as well as the likelihood of interactions among multiple variants. This problem is exacerbated in genes with multiple cis-acting eQTL, where superimposed effects of adjacent loci further distort the association signals. Results: We developed a novel algorithm, TreeMap, that identifies putative causal variants in cis-eQTL accounting for multisite effects and genetic linkage at a locus. Guided by the hierarchical structure of linkage disequilibrium, TreeMap performs an organized search for individual and multiple causal variants. Via extensive simulations, we show that TreeMap detects co-regulating variants more accurately than current methods. Furthermore, its high computational efficiency enables genome-wide analysis of long-range eQTL. We applied TreeMap to GTEx data of brain hippocampus samples and transverse colon samples to search for eQTL in gene bodies and in 4 Mbps gene-flanking regions, discovering numerous distal eQTL. Furthermore, we found concordant distal eQTL that were present in both brain and colon samples, implying long-range regulation of gene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1125-1134
Number of pages10
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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