Penetrance-based linkage analysis and variance component linkage analysis are two methods that are widely used to localize genes influencing quantitative traits. Using computer programs PAP and SOLAR as representative software implementations, we have conducted an empirical comparison of both methods' power to map quantitative trait loci in extended, randomly ascertained pedigrees, using simulated data. Two-point linkage analyses were conducted on several quantitative traits of different genetic and environmental etiology using both programs, and the lod scores were compared. The two methods appear to have similar power when the underlying quantitative trait locus is diallelic, with one or the other method being slightly more powerful depending on the characteristics of the quantitative trait and the quantitative trait locus. In the case of a multiallelic quantitative trait locus, however, the variance component approach has much greater power. These findings suggest that one should give careful thought to the likely allelic architecture of the quantitative trait to be analyzed when choosing between these two analytical approaches. It may be the case in general that linkage methods which explicitly or implicitly rely on the assumption of a diallelic trait locus fare poorly when this assumption is incorrect.
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