Heterozygote deficiency, population substructure and their implications in DNA fingerprinting

Ranajit Chakraborty, Li Jin

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Substructured populations exhibit an overall deficiency of heterozygosity whose proportional magnitude depends on the nature of substructuring, i.e., the number of subpopulations (s), their time of divergence (t) from the ancestral population, and the rate of gene flow amongst them (m). Since apparent heterozygote deficiency could be caused by many factors other than population substructuring, one must examine the nature of substructuring that could produce the observed extent of heterozygote deficiency, in order to infer the substructuring from an observed heterozygote deficiency. Using the equivalence of proportional heterozygote deficiency and the coefficient of gene differentiation (GST), we can generate isolines of GST as functions of s, t (in units of 2Ne generations, Ne being the effective population size) and m. Analytical results suggest that large GST values cannot be reached by substructuring alone, unless the number of subpopulations are large and they remain isolated over a long period of time. Application of the theory to population data on six variable number of tandem repeats (VNTR) loci in US Caucasians and US Blacks demonstrates that the observed heterozygote deficiencies at these loci cannot be explained by substructuring within these populations alone. This is so because such large values of GST (3%-10%) would require an absence of gene exchange between the subpopulations and a divergence time from each other of at least 25000 years ago, neither of which is compatible with the demography and ethnohistory of US Caucasians and Blacks. In contrast, the inability to detect extreme-sized alleles and/or incomplete resolution of nearly similar-sized alleles following Southern gel electrophoresis could easily explain the observed heterozygote deficiencies. The implications of these results are discussed in the context of the forensic use of DNA-typing data, and justify the employment of population genetic principles in forensic genetics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-272
Number of pages6
JournalHuman Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1992


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