Open Access Research article

Information content in genome-wide scans: concordance between patterns of genetic differentiation and linkage mapping associations

Pamela Wiener1*, Mohammad A Edriss2, John L Williams3, David Waddington1, Andrew Law1, John A Woolliams1 and Beatriz Gutiérrez-Gil4

Author Affiliations

1 The Roslin Institute and R(D)SVS, University of Edinburgh, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9PS, UK

2 Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture, Isfahan University of Technology, Isfahan 8415683111, Iran

3 Parco Tecnologico Padano, Via Einstein, Polo Universitario, Lodi 26900, Italy

4 Departamento de Producción Animal, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de León, 24071 León, Spain

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:65  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-65

Published: 26 January 2011



Scanning the genome with high density SNP markers has become a standard approach for identifying regions of the genome showing substantial between-population genetic differentiation, and thus evidence of diversifying selection. Such regions may contain genes of large phenotypic effect. However, few studies have attempted to address the power or efficacy of such an approach.


In this study, the patterns of allele frequency differences between two cattle breeds based on the Bovine HapMap study were compared with statistical evidence for QTL based on a linkage mapping study of an experimental population formed by a cross between the same breeds. Concordance between the two datasets was seen for chromosomes carrying QTL with strong statistical support, such as BTA5 and BTA18, which carry genes associated with coat color. For these chromosomes, there was a correspondence between the strength of the QTL signal along the chromosome and the degree of genetic differentiation between breeds. However, such an association was not seen in a broader comparison that also included chromosomes carrying QTL with lower significance levels. In addition, other chromosomal regions with substantial QTL effects did not include markers showing extreme between-breed genetic differentiation. Furthermore, the overall consistency between the two studies was weak, with low genome-wide correlation between the statistical values obtained in the linkage mapping study and between-breed genetic differentiation from the HapMap study.


These results suggest that genomic diversity scans are capable of detecting regions associated with qualitative traits but may be limited in their power to detect regions associated with quantitative phenotypic differences between populations, which may depend on the marker resolution of the study and the level of LD in the populations under investigation.