Multipoint linkage analysis is a powerful tool to localize susceptibility genes for complex diseases. However, the conventional lod score method relies critically on the correct specification of mode of inheritance for accurate estimation of gene position. On the other hand, allele-sharing methods, as currently practiced, are designed to test the null hypothesis of no linkage rather than estimate the location of the susceptibility gene(s). In this paper, we propose an identity-by-descent (IBD)-based procedure to estimate the location of an unobserved susceptibility gene within a chromosomal region framed by multiple markers. Here we deal with the practical situation where some of the markers might not be fully informative. Rather the IBD statistic at an arbitrary within the region is imputed using the multipoint marker information. The method is robust in that no assumption about the genetic mechanism is required other than that the region contains no more than one susceptibility gene. In particular, this approach builds upon a simple representation for the expected IBD at any arbitrary locus within the region using data from affected sib pairs. With this representation, one can carry out a parametric inference procedure to locate an unobserved susceptibility gene. In addition, here we derive a sample size formula for the number of affected sib pairs needed to detect linkage with multiple markers. Throughout, the proposed method is illustrated through simulated data. We have implemented this method including exploratory and formal model-fitting procedures to locate susceptibility genes, plus sample size and power calculations in a program, GENEFINDER, which will be made available shortly.

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