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Genetics. 1991 May;128(1):175-82.

A maximum likelihood method for estimating genome length using genetic linkage data.

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  • 1Department of Human Genetics, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261.


The genetic length of a genome, in units of Morgans or centimorgans, is a fundamental characteristic of an organism. We propose a maximum likelihood method for estimating this quantity from counts of recombinants and nonrecombinants between marker locus pairs studied from a backcross linkage experiment, assuming no interference and equal chromosome lengths. This method allows the calculation of the standard deviation of the estimate and a confidence interval containing the estimate. Computer simulations have been performed to evaluate and compare the accuracy of the maximum likelihood method and a previously suggested method-of-moments estimator. Specifically, we have investigated the effects of the number of meioses, the number of marker loci, and variation in the genetic lengths of individual chromosomes on the estimate. The effect of missing data, obtained when the results of two separate linkage studies with a fraction of marker loci in common are pooled, is also investigated. The maximum likelihood estimator, in contrast to the method-of-moments estimator, is relatively insensitive to violation of the assumptions made during analysis and is the method of choice. The various methods are compared by application to partial linkage data from Xiphophorus.

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