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The WZA: A window-based method for characterizing genotype-environment association
  • Tom Booker,
  • Sam Yeaman,
  • Michael Whitlock
Tom Booker
The University of British Columbia
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Sam Yeaman
University of Calgary
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Michael Whitlock
The University of British Columbia
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Abstract

Genotype environment association (GEA) studies have the potential to elucidate the genetic basis of local adaptation in natural populations. Specifically, GEA approaches look for a correlation between allele frequencies and putatively selective features of the environment. Genetic markers with extreme evidence of correlation with the environment are presumed to be tagging the location of alleles that contribute to local adaptation. In this study, we propose a new method for GEA studies called the weighted-Z analysis (WZA) that combines information from closely linked sites into analysis windows in a way that was inspired by methods for calculating FST. We analyze simulations modelling local adaptation to heterogeneous environments either using a GEA method that controls for population structure or an uncorrected approach. In the majority of cases we tested, the WZA either outperformed single-SNP based approaches or performed similarly. The WZA outperformed individual SNP approaches when the measured environment is not perfectly correlated with the true selection pressure or when a small number of individuals or demes was sampled. We apply the WZA to previously published data from lodgepole pine and identified candidate loci that were not found in the original study.