Assessment of linkage disequilibrium patterns between structural variants and single nucleotide polymorphisms in three commercial chicken populations

Background Structural variants (SV) are causative for some prominent phenotypic traits of livestock as different comb types in chickens or color patterns in pigs. Their effects on production traits are also increasingly studied. Nevertheless, accurately calling SV remains challenging. It is therefore of interest, whether close-by single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are in strong linkage disequilibrium (LD) with SVs and can serve as markers. Literature comes to different conclusions on whether SVs are in LD to SNPs on the same level as SNPs to other SNPs. The present study aimed to generate a precise SV callset from whole-genome short-read sequencing (WGS) data for three commercial chicken populations and to evaluate LD patterns between the called SV and surrounding SNPs. Results The final callset consisted of 12,294,329 bivariate SNPs, 4,301 deletions (DEL), 224 duplications (DUP), 218 inversions (INV) and 117 translocation breakpoints (BND). While average LD between DELs and SNPs was at the same level as between SNPs and SNPs, LD between other SVs and SNPs was strongly reduced (DUP: 40 %, INV: 27 %, BND: 19 % of between-SNP LD). A main factor for the reduced LD was the presence of local minor allele frequency differences, which accounted for 50 % of the difference between SNP – SNP and DUP – SNP LD. This was potentially accompanied by lower genotyping accuracies for DUP, INV and BND compared with SNPs and DELs. An evaluation of the presence of tag SNPs (SNP in highest LD to the variant of interest) further revealed DELs to be slightly less tagged by WGS SNPs than WGS SNPs by other SNPs. This difference, however, was no longer present when reducing the pool of potential tag SNPs to SNPs located on four different chicken genotyping arrays. Conclusions The results imply that genomic variance due to DELs in the chicken populations studied can be captured by different SNP marker sets as good as variance from WGS SNPs, whereas separate SV calling might be advisable for DUP, INV, and BND effects.

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