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Epistasis, or gene-gene interaction, is a ubiquitous phenomenon that is inadequately addressed in human genetic studies. There are few tools that can accurately identify high-order epistatic interactions, and there is a lack of general understanding as to how epistatic interactions fit into genetic architecture. Here we approach both problems through the lens of genetic programming (GP). It has recently been proposed that increasing open-endedness of GP will result in more complex solutions that better acknowledge the complexity of human genetic datasets. Moreover, the solutions evolved in open-ended GP can serve as model organisms in which to study general effects of epistasis on phenotype. Here we introduce a prototype computational evolution system that implements an open-ended GP and generates organisms that display epistatic interactions. These interactions are significantly more prevalent and have a greater effect on fitness than epistatic interactions in organisms generated in the absence of selection.
Date of Conference: 18-21 May 2009