Send to

Choose Destination
Genet Sel Evol. 2012 May 8;44:16. doi: 10.1186/1297-9686-44-16.

Estimation of heritability from limited family data using genome-wide identity-by-descent sharing.

Author information

Nofima, P.O. Box 210, NO-1431 Ås, Norway.



In classical pedigree-based analysis, additive genetic variance is estimated from between-family variation, which requires the existence of larger phenotyped and pedigreed populations involving numerous families (parents). However, estimation is often complicated by confounding of genetic and environmental family effects, with the latter typically occurring among full-sibs. For this reason, genetic variance is often inferred based on covariance among more distant relatives, which reduces the power of the analysis. This simulation study shows that genome-wide identity-by-descent sharing among close relatives can be used to quantify additive genetic variance solely from within-family variation using data on extremely small family samples.


Identity-by-descent relationships among full-sibs were simulated assuming a genome size similar to that of humans (effective number of loci ~80). Genetic variance was estimated from phenotypic data assuming that genomic identity-by-descent relationships could be accurately re-created using information from genome-wide markers. The results were compared with standard pedigree-based genetic analysis.


For a polygenic trait and a given number of phenotypes, the most accurate estimates of genetic variance were based on data from a single large full-sib family only. Compared with classical pedigree-based analysis, the proposed method is more robust to selection among parents and for confounding of environmental and genetic effects. Furthermore, in some cases, satisfactory results can be achieved even with less ideal data structures, i.e., for selectively genotyped data and for traits for which the genetic variance is largely under the control of a few major genes.


Estimation of genetic variance using genomic identity-by-descent relationships is especially useful for studies aiming at estimating additive genetic variance of highly fecund species, using data from small populations with limited pedigree information and/or few available parents, i.e., parents originating from non-pedigreed or even wild populations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center