Background: Unlike a pedigree initiated with two inbred lines, a full-sib family derived from two outbred parents frequently has many different segregation types of markers whose linkage phases are not known prior to linkage analysis. Results: We formulate a general model of simultaneously estimating linkage, parental diplotype and gene order through multi-point analysis in a full-sib family. Our model is based on a multinomial mixture model taking into account different diplotypes and gene orders, weighted by their corresponding occurring probabilities. The EM algorithm is implemented to provide the maximum likelihood estimates of the linkage, parental diplotype and gene order over any type of markers. Conclusions: Through simulation studies, this model is found to be more computationally efficient compared with existing models for linkage mapping. We discuss the extension of the model and its implications for genome mapping in outcrossing species.
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