What is the biology behind SNP based PCA analysis to study population structure? I am reading some articles where they used PCA analysis to compare isolates of drosophila that is collected from a different location. AND by PCA they found that SNP is different between all populations. What does that mean? (what it tell you about population structure/genetics?)
First of all, PCA is a technique for dimension reduction. Basically, the goal is to compare tens of thousands of SNPs in Drosophila. Now if you only have 2 SNPs, you can plot them on a 2D scatter plot. If you have 3 SNPs, you may try a 3D plot. But now imagine you have 30,000 SNPs, but you CANNOT plot a 30000-dimensional plot. To visualize this high dimensional data, what we can do is to perform dimensional reduction like PCA. PCA tries to find a set of orthogonal coordinations that explains most of the variation in the data (if there no variation, there is no information contained in the data, which essentially means there is no data). The idea is that PC1 carries most variation can be explained, and PC2 carries the second most... For lower PCs like PC50 or PC60, they probably only carry noise in the data. Therefore, the higher PCs (PC1, PC2 and so on) effectively summarizes the useful information in the data. So you can visualize the "structure" of the data in a 2D PCA plot.
By looking at the distance between points on a PCA plot, you can tell how similar the two data points are. But if you see two populations that are perfectly separated on PCA plot, it does not mean that the 2 population differ completely at every SNP, because PCA is a summarization of all SNP included.