Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can be used for matrilineal biogeographic ancestry prediction and can thus provide investigative leads towards identifying unknown suspects, when conventional autosomal short tandem repeat (STR) profiling fails to provide a match. Recently, six multiplex genotyping assays targeting 62 ancestry-informative mitochondrial single nucleotide polymorphisms (mt-SNPs) were developed. This hierarchical system of assays allows detection of the major haplogroups present in Africa, America, Western Eurasia, Eastern Eurasia, Australia and Oceania, thus revealing the broad geographic region of matrilineal origin of a DNA donor. Here, we provide a forensic developmental validation study of five multiplex assays targeting all the 62 ancestry-informative mt-SNPs following the Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods (SWGDAM) guidelines. We demonstrate that the assays are highly sensitive; being able to produce full profiles at input DNA amounts of as little as 1 pg. The assays were shown to be highly robust and efficient in providing information from degraded samples and from simulated casework samples of different substrates such as blood, semen, hair, saliva and trace DNA samples. Reproducible results were successfully achieved from concordance testing across three independent laboratories depicting the ease and reliability of these assays. Overall, our results demonstrate the suitability of these five mt-SNP assays for application to forensic casework and other purposes aiming to establish an individual's matrilineal genetic ancestry. With this validated tool, it is now possible to determine the matrilineal biogeographic origin of unknown individuals on the level of continental resolution from forensic DNA samples to provide investigative leads in criminal and missing person cases where autosomal STR profiling is uninformative.

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Keywords Biogeographic origin, Developmental validation, Genetic ancestry, Haplogroups, Matrilineal ancestry, mtDNA
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Journal Forensic Science International: Genetics
Chaitanya, L.C, van Oven, M, Weiler, J.M, Harteveld, J, Wirken, L, Sijen, T, … Kayser, M.H. (2014). Developmental validation of mitochondrial DNA genotyping assays for adept matrilineal inference of biogeographic ancestry at a continental level. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 11(1), 39–51. doi:10.1016/j.fsigen.2014.02.010