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Dissecting the genetic architecture of quantitative traits using genome-wide identity-by-descent sharing.

Molecular Ecology 2024 Februrary 22
Additive and dominance genetic variances underlying the expression of quantitative traits are important quantities for predicting short-term responses to selection, but they are notoriously challenging to estimate in most non-model wild populations. Specifically, large-sized or panmictic populations may be characterized by low variance in genetic relatedness among individuals which, in turn, can prevent accurate estimation of quantitative genetic parameters. We used estimates of genome-wide identity-by-descent (IBD) sharing from autosomal SNP loci to estimate quantitative genetic parameters for ecologically important traits in nine-spined sticklebacks (Pungitius pungitius) from a large, outbred population. Using empirical and simulated datasets, with varying sample sizes and pedigree complexity, we assessed the performance of different crossing schemes in estimating additive genetic variance and heritability for all traits. We found that low variance in relatedness characteristic of wild outbred populations with high migration rate can impair the estimation of quantitative genetic parameters and bias heritability estimates downwards. On the other hand, the use of a half-sib/full-sib design allowed precise estimation of genetic variance components and revealed significant additive variance and heritability for all measured traits, with negligible dominance contributions. Genome-partitioning and QTL mapping analyses revealed that most traits had a polygenic basis and were controlled by genes at multiple chromosomes. Furthermore, different QTL contributed to variation in the same traits in different populations suggesting heterogeneous underpinnings of parallel evolution at the phenotypic level. Our results provide important guidelines for future studies aimed at estimating adaptive potential in the wild, particularly for those conducted in outbred large-sized populations.

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