Maximum Likelihood Estimation (MLE)
MLE analysis of linkage data
If we have a sample in which the number of recombinants and non-
recombinants for two specific loci can be counted, then we can
estimate the recombination fraction between between those two loci.
The test for linkage is simply the test of whether the recombination
) is 0.5 (the null hypothesis of no linkage) or less than 0.5
(the alternative hypothesis of linkage).
You might have noticed a striking similarity to the coin-flipping
example here. The good news is that the analysis is virtually identical.
Note that, in real life, we would
not expect to observe fully informative gametes for all pedigrees,
and more complex methods have to fill in the gaps, but the principles
are much the same.
Suppose that we observe N fully informative gametes, of which
R are recombinants. How do we test for linkage and estimate
the recombination fraction,
Since each gamete has probability
of being recombinant and probability (1-
) of being non-recombinant, the likelihood function is
Note : strictly speaking, the likelihood is proportional to this
quantity rather than equal to it - notice that the constant part
of the binomial formula has been dropped.
The log-likelihood function is therefore
The null hypothesis of no linkage implies
=0.5, so the value of the log-likelihood function is
As we know that the maximum likelihood estimate for
is simply the proportion of recombinant gametes
when R<(n/2), otherwise
for biological reasons
Under the alternative of linkage, the maximum log-likelihood is
where R<(n/2) and
The likelihood ratio statistic
2(lnLA - lnL0)
provides a direct test for linkage.
Note: this likelihood ratio statistics is distributed
as a 50:50 mixture of chi-squared with one degree of
freedom and point probability mass of 0. In this way, a one-tailed
test of linkage is provided.
In linkage analysis, it is customary to take the common (base 10)
logarithm of the likelihood function, and then define the difference
between the log-likelihood at a certain value of
and the log-likelihood at
=0.5 to be the "lod-score" at that value of
. The maximum lod-score occurs at the MLE of
: its value is equal to the likelihood ratio statistic divided
by a factor of 2ln10 (approximately 4.6).
Suppose that between two loci we observe
What is the evidence for linkage?
The MLE estimate of the recombination fraction is therefore
- 27 recombinants
- from 139 fully informative gametes
27 / 139 = 0.1942
The log-likelihood at the MLE of the recombination fraction is
ln LA = 27 * ln(0.1942) + (139 - 27) * ln(1-0.1942)
whereas under the null of no linkage it is
ln L0 = 139 * ln(0.5)
This gives a value of
2(LA - L0) = 2 * -68.43 - (-96.35)
This is clearly highly significant, corresponding to a lod-score of
LOD = 55.84 / 4.6
We can plot the lod-score curve for different values of
From this we can draw up so-called support-intervals that
give an equivalent of a confidence interval around the point
maximum likelihood estimate of the recombination fraction. Typically,
one would drop down one lod score unit either side of the MLE - in
this case, this localises the linkage as approximately 0.13 - 0.27.
Return to front page
Site created by S.Purcell, last updated 20.05.2007