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The importance of identity-by-state information for the accuracy of genomic selection

Tu Luan1*, John A Woolliams12, Jørgen Ødegård13, Marlies Dolezal4, Sergio I Roman-Ponce45, Alessandro Bagnato4 and Theo HE Meuwissen1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Animal and Aquacultural Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, N-1432, Norway

2 The Roslin Institute (Edinburgh), Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Roslin, Midlothian, EH25 9PS, UK

3 Nofima, Ås, N-1432, Norway

4 Università degli Studi di Milano, Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Veterinarie per la Sicurezza Alimentare, Via Celoria 10, Milano, 20133, Italy

5 Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales Agrícolas y Pecuarias. C.E. Valles Centrales - CIRPAS, Melchor Ocampo 7, Etla, Oaxaca, 68200, México

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Genetics Selection Evolution 2012, 44:28  doi:10.1186/1297-9686-44-28

Published: 31 August 2012



It is commonly assumed that prediction of genome-wide breeding values in genomic selection is achieved by capitalizing on linkage disequilibrium between markers and QTL but also on genetic relationships. Here, we investigated the reliability of predicting genome-wide breeding values based on population-wide linkage disequilibrium information, based on identity-by-descent relationships within the known pedigree, and to what extent linkage disequilibrium information improves predictions based on identity-by-descent genomic relationship information.


The study was performed on milk, fat, and protein yield, using genotype data on 35 706 SNP and deregressed proofs of 1086 Italian Brown Swiss bulls. Genome-wide breeding values were predicted using a genomic identity-by-state relationship matrix and a genomic identity-by-descent relationship matrix (averaged over all marker loci). The identity-by-descent matrix was calculated by linkage analysis using one to five generations of pedigree data.


We showed that genome-wide breeding values prediction based only on identity-by-descent genomic relationships within the known pedigree was as or more reliable than that based on identity-by-state, which implicitly also accounts for genomic relationships that occurred before the known pedigree. Furthermore, combining the two matrices did not improve the prediction compared to using identity-by-descent alone. Including different numbers of generations in the pedigree showed that most of the information in genome-wide breeding values prediction comes from animals with known common ancestors less than four generations back in the pedigree.


Our results show that, in pedigreed breeding populations, the accuracy of genome-wide breeding values obtained by identity-by-descent relationships was not improved by identity-by-state information. Although, in principle, genomic selection based on identity-by-state does not require pedigree data, it does use the available pedigree structure. Our findings may explain why the prediction equations derived for one breed may not predict accurate genome-wide breeding values when applied to other breeds, since family structures differ among breeds.