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Off-target phenotypes in forensic DNA phenotyping and biogeographic ancestry inference: A resource

Published:October 15, 2018DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fsigen.2018.10.010

      Highlights

      • 27 of 1766 SNPs used in FDP and BGA reveal health-related information.
      • Effect sizes for a small subset of the SNPs are considerable.
      • Off-target phenotypes: disposition to develop cancer, alcohol dependence, asthma.
      • We provide a list of off-target associations of BGA and FDP SNPs as a resource.

      Abstract

      With recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies it has become feasible and cost effective to genotype larger marker sets for forensic purposes. Two technologies that make use of the larger marker sets have come into focus in forensic research and applications; inference of biogeographic ancestry (BGA) and forensic DNA phenotyping (FDP). These methods hold the promise to reveal information about a yet unknown perpetrator from a DNA sample. In contrast, DNA-profiling, that is a standard practice in case work, relies on matching DNA-profiles between crime scene material and suspects on a database of DNA-profiles. Markers for DNA-profiling were developed under the premise to reveal as little additional information about the human source of the profile as possible, the rationale being that personal privacy rights have to be balanced against the public interest in solving a crime. The same argument holds for markers used in BGA and FDP; these markers might also reveal information on off-target phenotypes (OTPs), that go beyond BGA and the phenotypes targeted in FDP. In particular, health related OTPs might shift the balance between privacy protection and public interest. However, to our knowledge, there is currently no convenient resource available to incorporate knowledge on OTPs in BGA and FDP assay design and application.
      In order to provide such a resource, we performed a systematic search for OTPs associated with a comprehensive set of markers (1766 SNPs) used or suggested to be used for BGA inference and FDP. In this set, we identified a relatively small number of 27 SNPs (1.53%) that convey information on diverse health related OTPs such as cancer risk, induced asthma, or risk of alcoholism. Some of these SNPs are commonly used for FDP and BGA across different marker sets. We conclude that the effects of SNP markers used in FDP and BGA on OTPs are currently limited, with few exceptions that should be considered in a balanced decision on assay design and application.

      Graphical abstract

      Keywords

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