Development of a multiplex assay for detection of autosomal and Y-chromosomal STRs, assessment of the degradation state of mitochondrial DNA and presence of mitochondrial length heteroplasmies

Published:September 13, 2022DOI:


      • Simultaneous analysis of autosomal and Y-chromosomal STRs as well as mitochondrial targets.
      • Useful screening tool particularly for low template samples.
      • Assistance with decision for downstream analysis.
      • Conservation of valuable sample extract.


      The current focus in most routine forensic casework is detection of autosomal or gonosomal Short Tandem Repeats (STRs). With increasing degradation, STR analysis tends to be less successful up to complete failure. For challenging samples such as telogen hair roots and shafts, touch DNA samples or skeletal remains, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis provides a powerful tool. Determination of DNA quantity is an important part in the casework workflow. Several ready-to-use kits are commercially available for nuclear DNA targets. However, quantification of mtDNA targets requires the establishment of an in-house method. Some assays even contain assessment of degradation, which alleviates the choice of target enrichment for sequencing through medium or small amplicons. As Sanger-type Sequencing (STS) still remains the golden standard in many laboratories, identification of heteroplasmies in C-tract regions prior to the sequencing reaction is advantageous. Firstly, primer selection can be expanded with primers binding near the C-tract and secondly, determination of the dominant variant is straightforward. All those quantity (nuclear and mtDNA) and quality (degradation and length heteroplasmies) evaluations usually require at least two separate reactions. Therefore, the aim of this project was the combination of all these targets in one multiplex assay using capillary electrophoresis to spare valuable sample extract. Amplification of representative autosomal and Y-chromosomal STRs allows estimate of success of (Y-)STR analysis. Simultaneously, five length heteroplasmies in the mitochondrial control region are targeted as well as three conservative regions of differing fragment lengths for assessment of the mitochondrial degradation state. Based on the outcome of this assay, forensic examiners can decide if STR analysis may be suitable. In case of absent STR peaks, appropriate proceeding of mtDNA sequencing can be determined.


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