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Open Access Methodology article

A quantitative genetic and epigenetic model of complex traits

Zhong Wang12, Zuoheng Wang3, Jianxin Wang4, Yihan Sui4, Jian Zhang1, Duanping Liao2 and Rongling Wu2*

Author Affiliations

1 Siyang Science and Technology Station, Yuanpeng Institute of Genome, Nantong, Jiangsu, 226019, China

2 Department of Public Health Sciences, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA

3 Division of Biostatistics, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 06510, USA

4 Center for Computational Biology, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing, 100083, China

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BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13:274  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-274

Published: 26 October 2012



Despite our increasing recognition of the mechanisms that specify and propagate epigenetic states of gene expression, the pattern of how epigenetic modifications contribute to the overall genetic variation of a phenotypic trait remains largely elusive.


We construct a quantitative model to explore the effect of epigenetic modifications that occur at specific rates on the genome. This model, derived from, but beyond, the traditional quantitative genetic theory that is founded on Mendel’s laws, allows questions concerning the prevalence and importance of epigenetic variation to be incorporated and addressed.


It provides a new avenue for bringing chromatin inheritance into the realm of complex traits, facilitating our understanding of the means by which phenotypic variation is generated.