Genetic diversity analysis of elite European maize (Zea mays L.) inbred lines using AFLP, SSR, and SNP markers reveals ascertainment bias for a subset of SNPs

Theor Appl Genet. 2013 Jan;126(1):133-41. doi: 10.1007/s00122-012-1968-6. Epub 2012 Sep 4.


Recent advances in high-throughput sequencing technologies have triggered a shift toward single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. A systematic bias can be introduced if SNPs are ascertained in a small panel of genotypes and then used for characterizing a larger population (ascertainment bias). With the objective of evaluating a potential ascertainment bias of the Illumina MaizeSNP50 array with respect to elite European maize dent and flint inbred lines, we compared the genetic diversity among these materials based on 731 amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs), 186 simple sequence repeats (SSRs), 41,434 SNPs of the MaizeSNP50 array (SNP-A), and two subsets of it, i.e., 30,068 Panzea (SNP-P) and 11,366 Syngenta markers (SNP-S). We evaluated the bias effects on major allele frequency, allele number, gene diversity, modified Roger's distance (MRD), and on molecular variance (AMOVA). We revealed ascertainment bias in SNP-A, compared to AFLPs and SSRs. It affected especially European flint lines analyzed with markers (SNP-S) specifically developed to maximize differences among North American dent germplasm. The bias affected all genetic parameters, but did not substantially alter the relative distances between inbred lines within groups. For these reasons, we conclude that the SNP markers of the MaizeSNP50 array can be employed for breeding purposes in the investigated material. However, attention should be paid in case of comparisons between genotypes belonging to different heterotic groups. In this case, it is advisable to prefer a marker subset with potentially low ascertainment bias, like in our case the SNP-P marker set.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism Analysis
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Europe
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genotype
  • Hybrid Vigor
  • Models, Statistical
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Zea mays / genetics*


  • Genetic Markers