The Hardy–Weinberg law is shown to be transitive in the sense that a multi-allelic polymorphism that is in equilibrium will retain its equilibrium status if any allele together with its corresponding genotypes is deleted from the population. Similarly, the transitivity principle also applies if alleles are joined, which leads to the summation of allele frequencies and their corresponding genotype frequencies.
These basic polymorphism properties are intuitive, but they have apparently not been formalized or investigated. This article provides a straightforward proof of the transitivity principle, and its usefulness in genetic data analysis is explored, using high-quality autosomal microsatellite databases from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology. We address the reduction of multi-allelic polymorphisms to variants with fewer alleles, two in the limit. Equilibrium test results obtained with the original and reduced polymorphisms are generally observed to be coherent, in particular when results obtained with length-based and sequence-based microsatellites are compared. We exploit the transitivity principle in order to identify disequilibrium-related alleles, and show its usefulness for detecting population substructure and genotyping problems that relate to null alleles and allele imbalance. (Publisher Abstract Provided)