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A Unified Characterization of Population Structure and Relatedness.
Many population genetic activities, ranging from evolutionary studies to association mapping, to forensic identification, rely on appropriate estimates of population structure or relatedness. All applications require recognition that quantities with an underlying meaning of allelic dependence are not defined in an absolute sense, but instead are made "relative to" some set of alleles other than the target set. The 1984 Weir and Cockerham [Formula: see text] estimate made explicit that the reference set of alleles was across populations, whereas standard kinship estimates do not make the reference explicit. Weir and Cockerham stated that their [Formula: see text] estimates were for independent populations, and standard kinship estimates have an implicit assumption that pairs of individuals in a study sample, other than the target pair, are unrelated or are not inbred. However, populations lose independence when there is migration between them, and dependencies between pairs of individuals in a population exist for more than one target pair. We have therefore recast our treatments of population structure, relatedness, and inbreeding to make explicit that the parameters of interest involve the differences in degrees of allelic dependence between the target and the reference sets of alleles, and so can be negative. We take the reference set to be the population from which study individuals have been sampled. We provide simple moment estimates of these parameters, phrased in terms of allelic matching within and between individuals for relatedness and inbreeding, or within and between populations for population structure. A multi-level hierarchy of alleles within individuals, alleles between individuals within populations, and alleles between populations, allows a unified treatment of relatedness and population structure. We expect our new measures to have a wide range of applications, but we note that their estimates are sensitive to rare or private variants: some population-characterization applications suggest exploiting those sensitivities, whereas estimation of relatedness may best use all genetic markers without filtering on minor allele frequency.
FST, allele matching, correlation of alleles, identity by descent, rare variants
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