Estimation of pairwise relatedness with molecular markers

Genetics. 1999 Aug;152(4):1753-66. doi: 10.1093/genetics/152.4.1753.


Applications of quantitative genetics and conservation genetics often require measures of pairwise relationships between individuals, which, in the absence of known pedigree structure, can be estimated only by use of molecular markers. Here we introduce methods for the joint estimation of the two-gene and four-gene coefficients of relationship from data on codominant molecular markers in randomly mating populations. In a comparison with other published estimators of pairwise relatedness, we find these new "regression" estimators to be computationally simpler and to yield similar or lower sampling variances, particularly when many loci are used or when loci are hypervariable. Two examples are given in which the new estimators are applied to natural populations, one that reveals isolation-by-distance in an annual plant and the other that suggests a genetic basis for a coat color polymorphism in bears.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Genetic Markers*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Genotype
  • Hair Color / genetics
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Plants / genetics
  • Regression Analysis
  • Ursidae / genetics


  • Genetic Markers