Managing genomic diversity in the course of selection
Howard, David Mark
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The management of genomic diversity is important within breeding programs and is primarily achieved through controlling the rate of inbreeding. A failure to adequately manage the rate of inbreeding will result in an increased risk of the expression of lethal recessive mutations, inbreeding depression and losses in genetic variance, thereby restricting long-term genetic progress. Each research chapter within this thesis used real data collected from a commercial pig breeding operation to examine a key area of research regarding the management of genomic diversity. The first research chapter examined the selection outcomes from the practical application of Optimal Contributions (OC). These outcomes were examined to determine their alignment with the current theories regarding selection, particularly as to the extent by which selection decisions were influenced by estimated Mendelian sampling terms. This assessment was conducted for the initial selection of individuals as parents, which parents went on to provide a long-term contribution and the magnitude of these contributions. OC was shown to have shifted breeding decisions more closely in alignment with the estimated Mendelian sampling terms. The second research chapter used genomic data to assess the adequacy of the pedigree-based approach for managing diversity during selection. This approach assumes the infinitesimal model with all loci neutral and no impact from selection per se on heterozygosity. Using genomic information, the observed loss of heterozygosity at each marker was compared to the loss of heterozygosity expected from the pedigree-based relationships. Regional disparities between the observed and expected losses in heterozygosity were detected, which were potentially attributable to selection. Runs of homozygosity and the pairwise linkage disequilibrium between markers were also examined within these regions. Regions showing disparity were found to contain well validated quantitative trait loci for important traits. The third research chapter sought to provide a genomic solution to the shortcomings of the pedigree-based approach for quantifying relatedness, identified above. A methodology was devised for tracing identity by descent (IBD) at each allelic position over five ancestral generations, following phasing and imputation of the genomic data. A comparison was made between the inbreeding expected from the pedigree relationships and that observed from the identity by descent of genomic information. In the population studied it was not currently feasible to derive a relationship matrix based exclusively on observed IBD. The fourth research chapter used imputed genomic information to identify haplotypes which had a putative lethal recessive effect. Haplotypes which were never observed in the homozygous form, either in the population or in the offspring produced between carriers, were classified as candidate haplotypes. The top candidates on each chromosome were then examined for a reduction in the total number born when two carriers were mated together. A total of six putative lethal recessive haplotypes were detected relating to at least four putative lethal recessive mutations, where one homozygote was absent and the size of the reduction in litter size matched that expected for a lethal recessive effect. The research chapters contained within this thesis demonstrate the important role that genomics can have in managing inbreeding in addition to generating genetic gain. Genomics is able to provide a more accurate prediction of the Mendelian sampling term, better quantify the relatedness between individuals and detect lethal recessive effects.