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Mol Ecol Resour. 2012 Sep;12(5):873-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-0998.2012.03156.x. Epub 2012 May 28.

The effect of close relatives on unsupervised Bayesian clustering algorithms in population genetic structure analysis.

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Departamento de Bioquímica, Genética e Inmunología, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Vigo, 36310 Vigo, Spain.


The inference of population genetic structures is essential in many research areas in population genetics, conservation biology and evolutionary biology. Recently, unsupervised Bayesian clustering algorithms have been developed to detect a hidden population structure from genotypic data, assuming among others that individuals taken from the population are unrelated. Under this assumption, markers in a sample taken from a subpopulation can be considered to be in Hardy-Weinberg and linkage equilibrium. However, close relatives might be sampled from the same subpopulation, and consequently, might cause Hardy-Weinberg and linkage disequilibrium and thus bias a population genetic structure analysis. In this study, we used simulated and real data to investigate the impact of close relatives in a sample on Bayesian population structure analysis. We also showed that, when close relatives were identified by a pedigree reconstruction approach and removed, the accuracy of a population genetic structure analysis can be greatly improved. The results indicate that unsupervised Bayesian clustering algorithms cannot be used blindly to detect genetic structure in a sample with closely related individuals. Rather, when closely related individuals are suspected to be frequent in a sample, these individuals should be first identified and removed before conducting a population structure analysis.

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