Heritability is a central element in quantitative genetics. New molecular markers to assess genetic variance and heritability are continually under development. The availability of molecular single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers can be applied for estimation of variance components and heritability on population, where relationship information is unknown. In this study, we evaluated the capabilities of two Bayesian genomic models to estimate heritability in simulated populations. The populations comprised different family structures of either no or a limited number of relatives, a single quantitative trait, and with one of two densities of SNP markers. All individuals were both genotyped and phenotyped. Results illustrated that the two models were capable of estimating heritability, when true heritability was 0.15 or higher and populations had a sample size of 400 or higher. For heritabilities of 0.05, all models had difficulties in estimating the true heritability. The two Bayesian models were compared with a restricted maximum likelihood (REML) approach using a genomic relationship matrix. The comparison showed that the Bayesian approaches performed equally well as the REML approach. Differences in family structure were in general not found to influence the estimation of the heritability. For the sample sizes used in this study, a 10-fold increase of SNP density did not improve precision estimates compared with set-ups with a less dense distribution of SNPs. The methods used in this study showed that it was possible to estimate heritabilities on the basis of SNPs in animals with direct measurements. This conclusion is valuable in cases when quantitative traits are either difficult or expensive to measure.
Animal, 2013, Vol 7, Issue 4, p. 531-539
Bayesian prediction; heritability; SNP markers; simulation study