Background: When estimating marker effects in genomic selection, estimates of marker effects may simply act as a proxy for pedigree, i.e. their effect may partially be attributed to their association with superior parents and not be linked to any causative QTL. Hence, these markers mainly explain polygenic effects rather than QTL effects. However, if a polygenic effect is included in a Bayesian model, it is expected that the estimated effect of these markers will be more persistent over generations without having to re-estimate the marker effects every generation and will result in increased accuracy and reduced bias.
Methods: Genomic selection using the Bayesian method, 'BayesB' was evaluated for different marker densities when a polygenic effect is included (GWpEBV) and not included (GWEBV) in the model. Linkage disequilibrium and a mutation drift balance were obtained by simulating a population with a Ne of 100 over 1,000 generations.
Results: Accuracy of selection was slightly higher for the model including a polygenic effect than for the model not including a polygenic effect whatever the marker density. The accuracy decreased in later generations, and this reduction was stronger for lower marker densities. However, no significant difference in accuracy was observed between the two models. The linear regression of TBV on GWEBV and GWpEBV was used as a measure of bias. The regression coefficient was more stable over generations when a polygenic effect was included in the model, and was always between 0.98 and 1.00 for the highest marker density. The regression coefficient decreased more quickly with decreasing marker density.
Conclusions: Including a polygenic effect had no impact on the selection accuracy, but showed reduced bias, which is especially important when estimates of genome-wide markers are used to estimate breeding values over more than one generation.