Genome-wide association and genomic selection in animal breeding

Genome. 2010 Nov;53(11):876-83. doi: 10.1139/G10-076.


Results from genome-wide association studies in livestock, and humans, has lead to the conclusion that the effect of individual quantitative trait loci (QTL) on complex traits, such as yield, are likely to be small; therefore, a large number of QTL are necessary to explain genetic variation in these traits. Given this genetic architecture, gains from marker-assisted selection (MAS) programs using only a small number of DNA markers to trace a limited number of QTL is likely to be small. This has lead to the development of alternative technology for using the available dense single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) information, called genomic selection. Genomic selection uses a genome-wide panel of dense markers so that all QTL are likely to be in linkage disequilibrium with at least one SNP. The genomic breeding values are predicted to be the sum of the effect of these SNPs across the entire genome. In dairy cattle breeding, the accuracy of genomic estimated breeding values (GEBV) that can be achieved and the fact that these are available early in life have lead to rapid adoption of the technology. Here, we discuss the design of experiments necessary to achieve accurate prediction of GEBV in future generations in terms of the number of markers necessary and the size of the reference population where marker effects are estimated. We also present a simple method for implementing genomic selection using a genomic relationship matrix. Future challenges discussed include using whole genome sequence data to improve the accuracy of genomic selection and management of inbreeding through genomic relationships.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breeding*
  • Genome*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Genotype
  • Linkage Disequilibrium
  • Livestock / genetics*
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Selection, Genetic / genetics*