Am J Hum Genet, 75(6):1015-1031, 2004. Paper abstract bibtex
A powerful approach to mapping the genes for complex traits is to study isolated founder populations, in which genetic heterogeneity and environmental noise are likely to be reduced and in which extended genealogical data are often available. Using graph theory, we applied an approach that involved sampling from the large number of pairwise relationships present in an extended genealogy to reconstruct sets of subpedigrees that maximize the useful information for linkage mapping while minimizing calculation burden. We investigated, through simulation, the properties of the different sets in terms of bias in identity-by-descent (IBD) estimation and power decrease under various genetic models. We applied this approach to a small isolated population from Sardinia, the village of Talana, consisting of a unique large and complex pedigree, and performed a genomewide search through variance-components linkage analysis for serum lipid levels. We identified a region of significant linkage on chromosome 2 for total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Through higher-density mapping, we obtained an increased linkage for both traits on 2q21.2-q24.1, with a LOD score of 4.3 for total serum cholesterol and of 3.9 for LDL cholesterol. A replication study was performed in an independent and larger set from a genetically differentiated isolated population of the same region of Sardinia, the village of Perdasdefogu. We obtained consistent linkage to the region for total serum cholesterol (LOD score 1.4) and LDL cholesterol (LOD score 2.2), with a level of concordance uncommon for complex traits, and refined the location of the quantitative-trait locus. Interestingly, the 2q21.1-22 region has also been linked to premature coronary heart disease in Finns, and, in the adjacent 2q14 region, significant linkage with triglycerides has been reported in Hutterites.