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Statistical Applications in Genetics and Molecular Biology

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Volume 17, Issue 3


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Bayesian inference of selection in the Wright-Fisher diffusion model

Jeffrey J. Gory / Radu Herbei / Laura S. Kubatko
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  • Departments of Statistics and Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
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Published Online: 2018-06-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sagmb-2017-0046


The increasing availability of population-level allele frequency data across one or more related populations necessitates the development of methods that can efficiently estimate population genetics parameters, such as the strength of selection acting on the population(s), from such data. Existing methods for this problem in the setting of the Wright-Fisher diffusion model are primarily likelihood-based, and rely on numerical approximation for likelihood computation and on bootstrapping for assessment of variability in the resulting estimates, requiring extensive computation. Recent work has provided a method for obtaining exact samples from general Wright-Fisher diffusion processes, enabling the development of methods for Bayesian estimation in this setting. We develop and implement a Bayesian method for estimating the strength of selection based on the Wright-Fisher diffusion for data sampled at a single time point. The method utilizes the latest algorithms for exact sampling to devise a Markov chain Monte Carlo procedure to draw samples from the joint posterior distribution of the selection coefficient and the allele frequencies. We demonstrate that when assumptions about the initial allele frequencies are accurate the method performs well for both simulated data and for an empirical data set on hypoxia in flies, where we find evidence for strong positive selection in a region of chromosome 2L previously identified. We discuss possible extensions of our method to the more general settings commonly encountered in practice, highlighting the advantages of Bayesian approaches to inference in this setting.

Keywords: diffusion model; selection; Wright-Fisher model


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-06-06

Funding Source: Division of Mathematical Sciences

Award identifier / Grant number: 1209142

Award identifier / Grant number: 1407604

Award identifier / Grant number: 1106706

This work was supported by National Science Foundation grants DMS-1209142 and DMS-1407604 (R.H.) and Funder Id: 10.13039/100000121, DMS-1106706 (L.S.K.).

Citation Information: Statistical Applications in Genetics and Molecular Biology, Volume 17, Issue 3, 20170046, ISSN (Online) 1544-6115, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sagmb-2017-0046.

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