A new era of 'DNA intelligence' is arriving in forensic biology, due to the impending ability to predict externally visible characteristics (EVCs) from biological material such as those found at crime scenes. EVC prediction from forensic samples, or from body parts, is expected to help concentrate police investigations towards finding unknown individuals, at times when conventional DNA profiling fails to provide informative leads. Here we present a robust and sensitive tool, termed IrisPlex, for the accurate prediction of blue and brown eye colour from DNA in future forensic applications. We used the six currently most eye colour-informative single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that previously revealed prevalence-adjusted prediction accuracies of over 90% for blue and brown eye colour in 6168 Dutch Europeans. The single multiplex assay, based on SNaPshot chemistry and capillary electrophoresis, both widely used in forensic laboratories, displays high levels of genotyping sensitivity with complete profiles generated from as little as 31pg of DNA, approximately six human diploid cell equivalents. We also present a prediction model to correctly classify an individual's eye colour, via probability estimation solely based on DNA data, and illustrate the accuracy of the developed prediction test on 40 individuals from various geographic origins. Moreover, we obtained insights into the worldwide allele distribution of these six SNPs using the HGDP-CEPH samples of 51 populations. Eye colour prediction analyses from HGDP-CEPH samples provide evidence that the test and model presented here perform reliably without prior ancestry information, although future worldwide genotype and phenotype data shall confirm this notion. As our IrisPlex eye colour prediction test is capable of immediate implementation in forensic casework, it represents one of the first steps forward in the creation of a fully individualised EVC prediction system for future use in forensic DNA intelligence.
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