Transfer learning for genotype–phenotype prediction using deep learning models

Muhammad Muneeb, Samuel Feng, Andreas Henschel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: For some understudied populations, genotype data is minimal for genotype-phenotype prediction. However, we can use the data of some other large populations to learn about the disease-causing SNPs and use that knowledge for the genotype-phenotype prediction of small populations. This manuscript illustrated that transfer learning is applicable for genotype data and genotype-phenotype prediction. Results: Using HAPGEN2 and PhenotypeSimulator, we generated eight phenotypes for 500 cases/500 controls (CEU, large population) and 100 cases/100 controls (YRI, small populations). We considered 5 (4 phenotypes) and 10 (4 phenotypes) different risk SNPs for each phenotype to evaluate the proposed method. The improved accuracy with transfer learning for eight different phenotypes was between 2 and 14.2 percent. The two-tailed p-value between the classification accuracies for all phenotypes without transfer learning and with transfer learning was 0.0306 for five risk SNPs phenotypes and 0.0478 for ten risk SNPs phenotypes. Conclusion: The proposed pipeline is used to transfer knowledge for the case/control classification of the small population. In addition, we argue that this method can also be used in the realm of endangered species and personalized medicine. If the large population data is extensive compared to small population data, expect transfer learning results to improve significantly. We show that Transfer learning is capable to create powerful models for genotype-phenotype predictions in large, well-studied populations and fine-tune these models to populations were data is sparse.

Original languageBritish English
Article number511
JournalBMC Bioinformatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Bioinformatics
  • Deep learning
  • Genetics
  • Genotype-phenotype
  • Transfer learning


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