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Low template STR typing: Effect of replicate number and consensus method on genotyping reliability and DNA database search results

Forensic Science International Genetics
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2010.06.006
  • Forensic Science
  • Low Template Dna
  • Low Copy Number
  • Consensus
  • Database Searches
  • Biology
  • Mathematics


Abstract To analyze DNA samples with very low DNA concentrations, various methods have been developed that sensitize short tandem repeat (STR) typing. Sensitized DNA typing is accompanied by stochastic amplification effects, such as allele drop-outs and drop-ins. Therefore low template (LT) DNA profiles are interpreted with care. One can either try to infer the genotype by a consensus method that uses alleles confirmed in replicate analyses, or one can use a statistical model to evaluate the strength of the evidence in a direct comparison with a known DNA profile. In this study we focused on the first strategy and we show that the procedure by which the consensus profile is assembled will affect genotyping reliability. In order to gain insight in the roles of replicate number and requested level of reproducibility, we generated six independent amplifications of samples of known donors. The LT methods included both increased cycling and enhanced capillary electrophoresis (CE) injection [1]. Consensus profiles were assembled from two to six of the replications using four methods: composite (include all alleles), n − 1 (include alleles detected in all but one replicate), n/2 (include alleles detected in at least half of the replicates) and 2× (include alleles detected twice). We compared the consensus DNA profiles with the DNA profile of the known donor, studied the stochastic amplification effects and examined the effect of the consensus procedure on DNA database search results. From all these analyses we conclude that the accuracy of LT DNA typing and the efficiency of database searching improve when the number of replicates is increased and the consensus method is n/2. The most functional number of replicates within this n/2 method is four (although a replicate number of three suffices for samples showing >25% of the alleles in standard STR typing). This approach was also the optimal strategy for the analysis of 2-person mixtures, although modified search strategies may be needed to retrieve the minor component in database searches. From the database searches follows the recommendation to specifically mark LT DNA profiles when entering them into the DNA database.

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