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Parallel and serial computing tools for testing single-locus and epistatic SNP effects of quantitative traits in genome-wide association studies

Li Ma1, H Birali Runesha2, Daniel Dvorkin1, John R Garbe1 and Yang Da1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Animal Science, University of Minnesota, USA

2 Supercomputer Institute, University of Minnesota, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2008, 9:315  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-315

Published: 21 July 2008



Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers provide opportunities to detect epistatic SNPs associated with quantitative traits and to detect the exact mode of an epistasis effect. Computational difficulty is the main bottleneck for epistasis testing in large scale GWAS.


The EPISNPmpi and EPISNP computer programs were developed for testing single-locus and epistatic SNP effects on quantitative traits in GWAS, including tests of three single-locus effects for each SNP (SNP genotypic effect, additive and dominance effects) and five epistasis effects for each pair of SNPs (two-locus interaction, additive × additive, additive × dominance, dominance × additive, and dominance × dominance) based on the extended Kempthorne model. EPISNPmpi is the parallel computing program for epistasis testing in large scale GWAS and achieved excellent scalability for large scale analysis and portability for various parallel computing platforms. EPISNP is the serial computing program based on the EPISNPmpi code for epistasis testing in small scale GWAS using commonly available operating systems and computer hardware. Three serial computing utility programs were developed for graphical viewing of test results and epistasis networks, and for estimating CPU time and disk space requirements.


The EPISNPmpi parallel computing program provides an effective computing tool for epistasis testing in large scale GWAS, and the epiSNP serial computing programs are convenient tools for epistasis analysis in small scale GWAS using commonly available computer hardware.