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Heredity (Edinb). 2015 Jun;114(6):552-63. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2014.123. Epub 2015 Jan 14.

Joint-multiple family linkage analysis predicts within-family variation better than single-family analysis of the maize nested association mapping population.

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Department of Crop Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA.
US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Research Unit, Ithaca, NY, USA.
1] Department of Crop Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA [2] US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Plant Science Research Unit, Raleigh, NC, USA.


Quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping has been used to dissect the genetic architecture of complex traits and predict phenotypes for marker-assisted selection. Many QTL mapping studies in plants have been limited to one biparental family population. Joint analysis of multiple biparental families offers an alternative approach to QTL mapping with a wider scope of inference. Joint-multiple population analysis should have higher power to detect QTL shared among multiple families, but may have lower power to detect rare QTL. We compared prediction ability of single-family and joint-family QTL analysis methods with fivefold cross-validation for 6 diverse traits using the maize nested association mapping population, which comprises 25 biparental recombinant inbred families. Joint-family QTL analysis had higher mean prediction abilities than single-family QTL analysis for all traits at most significance thresholds, and was always better at more stringent significance thresholds. Most robust QTL (detected in >50% of data samples) were restricted to one family and were often not detected at high frequency by joint-family analysis, implying substantial genetic heterogeneity among families for complex traits in maize. The superior predictive ability of joint-family QTL models despite important genetic differences among families suggests that joint-family models capture sufficient smaller effect QTL that are shared across families to compensate for missing some rare large-effect QTL.

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