Well defined estimates of mutation rates are a prerequisite for the use of short tandem repeat (STR-) loci in relationship testing. We investigated 65 isolated genetic inconsistencies, which were observed within 50,796 allelic transfers at 23 STR-loci (ACTBP2 (SE33), CD4, CSF1PO, F13A1, F13B, FES, FGA, vWA, TH01, TPOX, D2S1338, D3S1358, D5S818, D7S820, D8S1132, D8S1179, D12S391, D13S317, D16S539, D17S976, D18S51, D19S433, D21S11) in Caucasoid families residing in Austria and Switzerland. Sequencing data of repeat and flanking regions and the median of all theoretically possible mutational steps showed valuable information to characterise the mutational events with regard to parental origin, change of repeat number (mutational step size) and direction of mutation (losses and gains of repeats). Apart from predominant single-step mutations including one case with a double genetic inconsistency, two double-step and two apparent four-step mutations could be identified. More losses than gains of repeats and more mutations originating from the paternal than the maternal lineage were observed (31 losses, 22 gains, 12 losses or gains and 47 paternal, 11 maternal mutations and 7 unclear of parental origin). The mutation in the paternal germline was 3.3 times higher than in the maternal germline. The results of our study show, that apart from the vast majority of single-step mutations rare multi-step mutations can be observed. Therefore, the interpretation of mutational events should not rigidly be restricted to the shortest possible mutational step, because rare but true multi-step mutations can easily be overlooked, if haplotype analysis is not possible.
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