Here, we describe the results from the first variance heterogeneity Genome Wide Association Study (VGWAS) on yeast expression data. Using this forward genetics approach, we show that the genetic regulation of gene-expression in the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, includes mechanisms that can lead to variance heterogeneity in the expression between genotypes. Additionally, we performed a mean effect association study (GWAS). Comparing the mean and variance heterogeneity analyses, we find that the mean expression level is under genetic regulation from a larger absolute number of loci but that a higher proportion of the variance controlling loci were trans-regulated. Both mean and variance regulating loci cluster in regulatory hotspots that affect a large number of phenotypes; a single variance-controlling locus, mapping close to DIA2, was found to be involved in more than 10% of the significant associations. It has been suggested in the literature that variance-heterogeneity between the genotypes might be due to genetic interactions. We therefore screened the multi-locus genotype-phenotype maps for several traits where multiple associations were found, for indications of epistasis. Several examples of two and three locus genetic interactions were found to involve variance-controlling loci, with reports from the literature corroborating the functional connections between the loci. By using a new analytical approach to re-analyze a powerful existing dataset, we are thus able to both provide novel insights to the genetic mechanisms involved in the regulation of gene-expression in budding yeast and experimentally validate epistasis as an important mechanism underlying genetic variance-heterogeneity between genotypes.
2013. Vol. 8, no 11