The panels of 9-17 Y-chromosomal short tandem repeats (Y-STRs) currently used in forensic genetics have adequate resolution of different paternal lineages in many human populations, but have lower abilities to separate paternal lineages in populations expressing low Y-chromosome diversity. Moreover, current Y-STR sets usually fail to differentiate between related males who belong to the same paternal lineage and, as a consequence, conclusions cannot be drawn on the individual level as is desirable for forensic interpretations. Recently, we identified a new panel of rapidly mutating (RM) Y-STRs, composed of 13 markers with mutation rates above 1 × 10(-2), whereas most Y-STRs, including all currently used in forensics, have mutation rates in the order of 1 × 10(-3) or lower. In the present study, we demonstrate in 604 unrelated males sampled from 51 worldwide populations (HGDP-CEPH) that the RM Y-STRs provide substantially higher haplotype diversity and haplotype discrimination capacity (with only 3 haplotypes shared between 8 of the 604 worldwide males), than obtained with the largest set of 17 currently used Y-STRs (Yfiler) in the same samples (33 haplotypes shared between 85 males). Hence, RM Y-STRs yield high-resolution paternal lineage differentiation and provide a considerable improvement compared to Yfiler. We also find in this worldwide dataset substantially less genetic population substructure within and between geographic regions with RM Y-STRs than with Yfiler Y-STRs. Furthermore, with the present study we provide enhanced data evidence that the RM Y-STR panel is extremely successful in differentiating between closely and distantly related males. Among 305 male relatives, paternally connected by 1-20 meiotic transfers in 127 independent pedigrees, we show that 66% were separated by mutation events with the RM Y-STR panel whereas only 15% were with Yfiler; hence, RM Y-STRs provide a statistically significant 4.4-fold increase of average male relative differentiation relative to Yfiler. The RM Y-STR panel is powerful enough to separate closely related males; nearly 50% of the father and sons, and 60% of brothers could be distinguished with RM Y-STRs, whereas only 7.7% and 8%, respectively, with Yfiler. Thus, by introducing RM Y-STRs to the forensic genetic community we provide important solutions to several of the current limitations of Y chromosome analysis in forensic genetics.
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