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Theor Popul Biol. 2016 Feb;107:26-30. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2015.08.005. Epub 2015 Sep 2.

Comparing estimates of genetic variance across different relationship models.

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INRA, UMR 1388 GenPhySE (Génétique, Physiologie et Systèmes d'Elevage), F-31326 Castanet-Tolosan, France. Electronic address:


Use of relationships between individuals to estimate genetic variances and heritabilities via mixed models is standard practice in human, plant and livestock genetics. Different models or information for relationships may give different estimates of genetic variances. However, comparing these estimates across different relationship models is not straightforward as the implied base populations differ between relationship models. In this work, I present a method to compare estimates of variance components across different relationship models. I suggest referring genetic variances obtained using different relationship models to the same reference population, usually a set of individuals in the population. Expected genetic variance of this population is the estimated variance component from the mixed model times a statistic, Dk, which is the average self-relationship minus the average (self- and across-) relationship. For most typical models of relationships, Dk is close to 1. However, this is not true for very deep pedigrees, for identity-by-state relationships, or for non-parametric kernels, which tend to overestimate the genetic variance and the heritability. Using mice data, I show that heritabilities from identity-by-state and kernel-based relationships are overestimated. Weighting these estimates by Dk scales them to a base comparable to genomic or pedigree relationships, avoiding wrong comparisons, for instance, "missing heritabilities".


Base population; Genetic variance; Heritability; Mixed models; Relationship

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