Incorporation of Biological Knowledge Into the Study of Gene-Environment Interactions

Am J Epidemiol. 2017 Oct 1;186(7):771-777. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwx229.


A growing knowledge base of genetic and environmental information has greatly enabled the study of disease risk factors. However, the computational complexity and statistical burden of testing all variants by all environments has required novel study designs and hypothesis-driven approaches. We discuss how incorporating biological knowledge from model organisms, functional genomics, and integrative approaches can empower the discovery of novel gene-environment interactions and discuss specific methodological considerations with each approach. We consider specific examples where the application of these approaches has uncovered effects of gene-environment interactions relevant to drug response and immunity, and we highlight how such improvements enable a greater understanding of the pathogenesis of disease and the realization of precision medicine.

Keywords: data integration; functional genomics; gene-environment interaction; model organisms.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease / etiology*
  • Disease / genetics
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods*
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Models, Animal
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA