Background: In this work, we performed simulations to explore the potential of manipulating recombination rates to increase response to selection in livestock breeding programs.
Methods: We carried out ten replicates of several scenarios that followed a common overall structure but differed in the average rate of recombination along the genome (expressed as the length of a chromosome in Morgan), the genetic architecture of the trait under selection, and the selection intensity under truncation selection (expressed as the proportion of males selected). Recombination rates were defined by simulating nine different chromosome lengths: 0.10, 0.25, 0.50, 1, 2, 5, 10, 15 and 20 Morgan, respectively. One Morgan was considered to be the typical chromosome length for current livestock species. The genetic architecture was defined by the number of quantitative trait variants (QTV) that affected the trait under selection. Either a large (10,000) or a small (1000 or 500) number of QTV was simulated. Finally, the proportions of males selected under truncation selection as sires for the next generation were equal to 1.2, 2.4, 5, or 10 %.
Results: Increasing recombination rate increased the overall response to selection and decreased the loss of genetic variance. The difference in cumulative response between low and high recombination rates increased over generations. At low recombination rates, cumulative response to selection tended to asymptote sooner and the genetic variance was completely eroded. If the trait under selection was affected by few QTV, differences between low and high recombination rates still existed, but the selection limit was reached at all rates of recombination.
Conclusions: Higher recombination rates can enhance the efficiency of breeding programs to turn genetic variation into response to selection. However, to increase response to selection significantly, the recombination rate would need to be increased 10- or 20-fold. The biological feasibility and consequences of such large increases in recombination rates are unknown.