Open Access Research article

Improving stability and understandability of genotype-phenotype mapping in Saccharomyces using regularized variable selection in L-PLS regression

Tahir Mehmood1*, Jonas Warringer23, Lars Snipen1 and Solve Sæbø1

Author affiliations

1 Biostatistics, Department of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway

2 Department of Animal and Aquaculture, Centre of Integrative Genetics (CIGENE), Ås, Norway

3 Department of Cell- and Molecular Biology, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

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Citation and License

BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13:327  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-327

Published: 8 December 2012



Multivariate approaches have been successfully applied to genome wide association studies. Recently, a Partial Least Squares (PLS) based approach was introduced for mapping yeast genotype-phenotype relations, where background information such as gene function classification, gene dispensability, recent or ancient gene copy number variations and the presence of premature stop codons or frameshift mutations in reading frames, were used post hoc to explain selected genes. One of the latest advancement in PLS named L-Partial Least Squares (L-PLS), where ‘L’ presents the used data structure, enables the use of background information at the modeling level. Here, a modification of L-PLS with variable importance on projection (VIP) was implemented using a stepwise regularized procedure for gene and background information selection. Results were compared to PLS-based procedures, where no background information was used.


Applying the proposed methodology to yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae data, we found the relationship between genotype-phenotype to have improved understandability. Phenotypic variations were explained by the variations of relatively stable genes and stable background variations. The suggested procedure provides an automatic way for genotype-phenotype mapping. The selected phenotype influencing genes were evolving 29% faster than non-influential genes, and the current results are supported by a recently conducted study. Further power analysis on simulated data verified that the proposed methodology selects relevant variables.


A modification of L-PLS with VIP in a stepwise regularized elimination procedure can improve the understandability and stability of selected genes and background information. The approach is recommended for genome wide association studies where background information is available.