Admixture and patterns of linkage disequilibrium in a free-living vertebrate population


Jon Slate, Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.
Tel.: +44 114 2220048; fax: +44 114 2220002;


Linkage disequilibrium (LD), a measure of nonrandom association of alleles at different loci, is of great interest to evolutionary geneticists as it can be used to help identify loci that explain phenotypic variation. Surveys of the extent of LD across genomes have been carried out in a number of systems, most notably humans and model organisms. However, studies of natural populations of vertebrates have rarely been performed. Here, we describe an investigation of LD in a free-living island population of red deer Cervus elaphus. Relatively high levels of LD extended several tens of centimorgans, and significant LD was frequently detected between unlinked markers. The magnitude of LD varied depending on how the population was sampled. It also varied across different chromosomes, and was shown to be a function of sample size, intermarker distance and marker heterozygosity. A recent admixture event in the population led to an ephemeral increase in LD. Association mapping may be possible in this population, although a high ‘baseline’ level of LD could lead to false positive associations between marker loci and a trait of interest.