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PLOS Computational Biology


Given genomic variation data from multiple individuals, computing the likelihood of complex population genetic models is often infeasible. To circumvent this problem, we introduce a novel likelihood-free inference framework by applying deep learning, a powerful modern technique in machine learning. Deep learning makes use of multilayer neural networks to learn a feature-based function from the input (e.g., hundreds of correlated summary statis- tics of data) to the output (e.g., population genetic parameters of interest). We demonstrate that deep learning can be effectively employed for population genetic inference and learning informative features of data. As a concrete application, we focus on the challenging problem of jointly inferring natural selection and demography (in the form of a population size change history). Our method is able to separate the global nature of demography from the local nature of selection, without sequential steps for these two factors. Studying demography and selection jointly is motivated by Drosophila, where pervasive selection confounds demographic analysis. We apply our method to 197 African Drosophila melanogaster genomes from Zambia to infer both their overall demography, and regions of their genome under selection. We find many regions of the genome that have experienced hard sweeps, and fewer under selection on standing variation (soft sweep) or balancing selection. Inter- estingly, we find that soft sweeps and balancing selection occur more frequently closer to the centromere of each chromosome. In addition, our demographic inference suggests that previously estimated bottlenecks for African Drosophila melanogaster are too extreme.




© 2016 Sheehan, Song. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.