Motivation: Phenotypic data collected in breeding programs and marker-trait association studies are often analyzed by means of linear mixed models. In these models, the covariance between the genetic background effects of all genotypes under study is modeled by means of pairwise coefficients of coancestry. Several marker-based coancestry estimation procedures allow to estimate this covariance matrix, but generally introduce a certain amount of bias when the examined genotypes are part of a breeding program. CoCoa implements the most commonly used marker-based coancestry estimation procedures and as such, allows to select the best fitting covariance structure for the phenotypic data at hand. This better model fit translates into an increased power and improved type I error control in association studies and an improved accuracy in phenotypic prediction studies. The presented software package also provides an implementation of the new Weighted Alikeness in State (WAIS) estimator for use in hybrid breeding programs. Besides several matrix manipulation tools, CoCoa implements two different bending heuristics, in case the inverse of an ill-conditioned coancestry matrix estimate is needed.
Availability and implementation: The software package CoCoa is freely available at http://webs.hogent.be/cocoa. Source code, manual, binaries for 32 and 64-bit Linux systems and an installer for Microsoft Windows are provided. The core components of CoCoa are written in C++, while the graphical user interface is written in Java.