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J Dairy Sci. 2008 May;91(5):2106-17. doi: 10.3168/jds.2007-0553.

Extent of linkage disequilibrium in Holstein cattle in North America.

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Centre for Genetic Improvement of Livestock, Animal and Poultry Science Department, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1 Canada.


The success of fine-scale mapping and genomic selection depends mainly on the strength of linkage disequilibrium (LD) between markers and causal mutations. With Lewontin's measure of LD (known as D'), high levels of LD that extend over several million base pairs have been reported in livestock. However, this measure of LD can be strongly biased upward by small samples and by low allele frequencies. The aim of this study was to characterize the level and extent of LD in Holstein cattle in North America (Canada and the United States for purposes of this study) by using the squared correlation of the alleles at 2 loci (r(2)). The Affymetrix MegAllele GeneChip Bovine Mapping 10K single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array was used to genotype 821 bulls, from which 497 were used in the analysis of the extent of LD. A total of 5,564 SNP were used after filtering out SNP with more than 5% of Mendelian inconsistencies, with more than 20% missing genotypes, or with a minor allele frequency of less than 10%. Analysis of syntenic pairs revealed that useful LD (measured as r(2) > 0.3) occurred at distances shorter than 100 kb. Linkage disequilibrium decayed very rapidly, within a few hundred kilobase pairs. In addition, no substantial LD between unlinked loci was found. Using a sliding window analysis, we observed an irregular pattern of LD across the genome. These findings suggest that to capture useful LD, which is required for whole-genome fine mapping and genomic selection, a denser SNP map would be needed.

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