Estimating Quantitative Genetic Parameters Using Sibships Reconstructed From Marker Data
Stuart C. Thomas, William G. Hill


Previous techniques for estimating quantitative genetic parameters, such as heritability in populations where exact relationships are unknown but are instead inferred from marker genotypes, have used data from individuals on a pairwise level only. At this level, families are weighted according to the number of pairs within which each family appears, hence by size rather than information content, and information from multiple relationships is lost. Estimates of parameters are therefore not the most efficient achievable. Here, Markov chain Monte Carlo techniques have been used to partition the population into complete sibships, including, if known, prior knowledge of the distribution of family sizes. These pedigrees have then been used with restricted maximum likelihood under an animal model to estimate quantitative genetic parameters. Simulations to compare the properties of parameter estimates with those of existing techniques indicate that the use of sibship reconstruction is superior to earlier methods, having lower mean square errors and showing nonsignificant downward bias. In addition, sibship reconstruction allows the estimation of population allele frequencies that account for the relationships within the sample, so prior knowledge of allele frequencies need not be assumed. Extensions to these techniques allow reconstruction of half sibships when some or all of the maternal genotypes are known.

  • Received February 10, 2000.
  • Accepted April 13, 2000.
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