Genomic dissection of maternal, additive and non-additive genetic effects for growth and carcass traits in Nile tilapia

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Rajesh Joshi, Theo H. E. Meuwissen, John A. Woolliams & Hans M. Gjøen

Genetics Selection Evolution, Volume 52, Article number: 1 (2020)



The availability of both pedigree and genomic sources of information for animal breeding and genetics has created new challenges in understanding how they can be best used and interpreted. This study estimated genetic variance components based on genomic information and compared these to the variance components estimated from pedigree alone in a population generated to estimate non-additive genetic variance. Furthermore, the study examined the impact of the assumptions of Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium (HWE) on estimates of genetic variance components. For the first time, the magnitude of inbreeding depression for important commercial traits in Nile tilapia was estimated by using genomic data.


The study estimated the non-additive genetic variance in a Nile tilapia population of full-sib families and, when present, it was almost entirely represented by additive-by-additive epistatic variance, although in pedigree studies this non-additive variance is commonly assumed to arise from dominance. For body depth (BD) and body weight at harvest (BWH), the proportion of additive-by-additive epistatic to phenotypic variance was estimated to be 0.15 and 0.17 using genomic data (P < 0.05). In addition, with genomic data, the maternal variance (P < 0.05) for BD, BWH, body length (BL) and fillet weight (FW) explained approximately 10% of the phenotypic variances, which was comparable to pedigree-based estimates. The study also showed the detrimental effects of inbreeding on commercial traits of tilapia, which was estimated to reduce trait values by 1.1, 0.9, 0.4 and 0.3% per 1% increase in the individual homozygosity for FW, BWH, BD and BL, respectively. The presence of inbreeding depression but lack of dominance variance was consistent with an infinitesimal dominance model for the traits.


The benefit of including non-additive genetic effects for genetic evaluations in tilapia breeding schemes is not evident from these findings, but the observed inbreeding depression points to a role for reciprocal recurrent selection. Commercially, this conclusion will depend on the scheme’s operational costs and resources. The creation of maternal lines in Tilapia breeding schemes may be a possibility if the variation associated with maternal effects is heritable.

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