Variance in estimated pairwise genetic distance under high versus low coverage sequencing: The contribution of linkage disequilibrium. Academic Article uri icon


  • The mean pairwise genetic distance among haplotypes is an estimator of the population mutation rate and a standard measure of variation in a population. With the advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS) methods, this and other population parameters can be estimated under different modes of sampling. One approach is to sequence individual genomes with high coverage, and to calculate genetic distance over all sample pairs. The second approach, typically used for microbial samples or for tumor cells, is sequencing a large number of pooled genomes with very low individual coverage. With low coverage, pairwise genetic distances are calculated across independently sampled sites rather than across individual genomes. In this study, we show that the variance in genetic distance estimates is reduced with low coverage sampling if the mean pairwise linkage disequilibrium weighted by allele frequencies is positive. Practically, this means that if on average the most frequent alleles over pairs of loci are in positive linkage disequilibrium, low coverage sequencing results in improved estimates of , assuming similar per-site read depths. We show that this result holds under the expected distribution of allele frequencies and linkage disequilibria for an infinite sites model at mutation-drift equilibrium. From simulations, we find that the conditions for reduced variance only fail to hold in cases where variant alleles are few and at very low frequency. These results are applied to haplotype frequencies from a lung cancer tumor to compute the weighted linkage disequilibria and the expected error in estimated genetic distance using high versus low coverage.

published proceedings

  • Theor Popul Biol

altmetric score

  • 1.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Shpak, M., Ni, Y., Lu, J., & Mller, P.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Shpak, Max||Ni, Yang||Lu, Jie||Müller, Peter

publication date

  • January 2017