Measuring departures from Hardy-Weinberg: a Markov chain Monte Carlo method for estimating the inbreeding coefficient

Heredity (Edinb). 1998 Jun;80 ( Pt 6):769-77. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2540.1998.00360.x.


Many well-established statistical methods in genetics were developed in a climate of severe constraints on computational power. Recent advances in simulation methodology now bring modern, flexible statistical methods within the reach of scientists having access to a desktop workstation. We illustrate the potential advantages now available by considering the problem of assessing departures from Hardy-Weinberg (HW) equilibrium. Several hypothesis tests of HW have been established, as well as a variety of point estimation methods for the parameter which measures departures from HW under the inbreeding model. We propose a computational, Bayesian method for assessing departures from HW, which has a number of important advantages over existing approaches. The method incorporates the effects-of uncertainty about the nuisance parameters--the allele frequencies--as well as the boundary constraints on f (which are functions of the nuisance parameters). Results are naturally presented visually, exploiting the graphics capabilities of modern computer environments to allow straightforward interpretation. Perhaps most importantly, the method is founded on a flexible, likelihood-based modelling framework, which can incorporate the inbreeding model if appropriate, but also allows the assumptions of the model to he investigated and, if necessary, relaxed. Under appropriate conditions, information can be shared across loci and, possibly, across populations, leading to more precise estimation. The advantages of the method are illustrated by application both to simulated data and to data analysed by alternative methods in the recent literature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Consanguinity*
  • Humans
  • Inbreeding*
  • Markov Chains
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • New Zealand
  • Samoa / ethnology