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Heredity (Edinb). 2005 Oct;95(4):327-34.

Estimation of allele frequencies in polyploids under certain patterns of inheritance.

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The Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand Ltd (HortResearch), Mt Albert Research Centre, Private Bag 92169, Auckland, New Zealand.


Allele frequencies have long been studied by biologists interested in evolution and speciation. More recently, with the application of molecular markers in human DNA profiling we have also seen the need for reliable population allele frequency estimates for making probabilistic inferences. There is now interest in applying the same DNA profiling technology to identification of plant varieties. HortResearch maintains a large germplasm of horticultural plant species. It is becoming evident that accurate identification of these accessions through DNA fingerprinting is essential for effective utilisation and maintenance of this germplasm. Microsatellites are the markers of choice for this fingerprinting. However, such markers do not reveal the dosage of alleles in a polyploid. Polyploidy is common amongst horticultural plants. Estimating allele frequencies in a polyploid population is, therefore, complicated because of some marker genotypes being phenotypically indistinguishable. For example, in a tetraploid, with four alleles at a locus showing polysomic inheritance, although 35 genotypes are possible, these will fall into only 15 marker phenotypic classes. Furthermore 'null' individuals are rarely detected in polyploids. Furthermore, some polyploids can be cryptic exhibiting disomy, instead of the polysomic inheritance. We will discuss the implications of these factors and present an EM-type algorithm for estimating allele frequencies of a polyploid population under certain patterns of inheritance. The method will be demonstrated on simulated data. We also discuss the nature of some of the additional problems that may be encountered with estimating allele frequencies in polyploids for which other solutions still need to be developed.

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