Genotypic Context and Epistasis in Individuals and Populations

Cell. 2016 Jul 14;166(2):279-287. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.06.047.


Genes encode components of coevolved and interconnected networks. The effect of genotype on phenotype therefore depends on genotypic context through gene interactions known as epistasis. Epistasis is important in predicting phenotype from genotype for an individual. It is also examined in population studies to identify genetic risk factors in complex traits and to predict evolution under selection. Paradoxically, the effects of genotypic context in individuals and populations are distinct and sometimes contradictory. We argue that predicting genotype from phenotype for individuals based on population studies is difficult and, especially in human genetics, likely to result in underestimating the effects of genotypic context.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epistasis, Genetic*
  • Genetics, Medical
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genotype*
  • Humans
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable