Human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is a convenient marker for tracing matrilineal bio-geographic ancestry and is widely applied in forensic, genealogical and anthropological studies. In forensic applications, DNA-based ancestry inference can be useful for finding unknown suspects by concentrating police investigations in cases where autosomal STR profiling was unable to provide a match, or can help provide clues in missing person identification. Although multiplexed mtDNA single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) assays to infer matrilineal ancestry at a (near) continental level are already available, such tools are lacking for the Oceania region. Here, we have developed a hierarchical system of three SNaPshot multiplexes for genotyping 26 SNPs defining all major mtDNA haplogroups for Oceania (including Australia, Near Oceania and Remote Oceania). With this system, it was possible to conclusively assign 74% of Oceanian individuals to their Oceanian matrilineal ancestry in an established literature database (after correcting for obvious external admixture). Furthermore, in a set of 161 genotyped individuals collected in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, 87.6% were conclusively assigned an Oceanian matrilineal origin. For the remaining 12.4% of the genotyped samples either a Eurasian origin was detected indicating likely European admixture (1.9%), the identified haplogroups are shared between Oceania and S/SE-Asia (5%), or the SNPs applied did not allow a geographic inference to be assigned (5.6%). Sub-regional assignment within Oceania was possible for 32.9% of the individuals genotyped: 49.5% of Australians were assigned an Australian origin and 13.7% of the Papua New Guineans were assigned a Near Oceanian origin, although none of the Fijians could be assigned a specific Remote Oceanian origin. The low assignment rates of Near and Remote Oceania are explained by recent migrations from Asia via Near Oceania into Remote Oceania. Combining the mtDNA multiplexes for Oceania introduced here with those we developed earlier for all other continental regions, global matrilineal bio-geographic ancestry assignment from DNA is now achievable in a highly efficient way that is also suitable for applications with limited material such as forensic case work.

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Forensic Science International: Genetics
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Ballantyne, K., van Oven, M., Ralf, A., Stoneking, M., Mitchell, R. J., van Oorschot, R., & Kayser, M. (2012). MtDNA SNP multiplexes for efficient inference of matrilineal genetic ancestry within Oceania. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 6(4), 425–436. doi:10.1016/j.fsigen.2011.08.010