Ethnic-affiliation estimation by use of population-specific DNA markers

Am J Hum Genet. 1997 Apr;60(4):957-64.


During the past 10 years, DNA analysis has revolutionized the determination of identity in a forensic context. Statements about the biological identity of two human DNA samples now can be made with complete confidence. Although DNA markers are very powerful for distinguishing among individuals, most offer little power to distinguish ethnicity or to support any statement about the physical characteristics of an individual. Through a search of the literature and of unpublished data on allele frequencies we have identified a panel of population-specific genetic markers that enable robust ethnic-affiliation estimation for major U.S. resident populations. In this report, we identify these loci and present their levels of allele-frequency differential between ethnically defined samples, and we demonstrate, using log-likelihood analysis, that this panel of markers provides significant statistical power for ethnic-affiliation estimation. In addition to their use in forensic ethnic-affiliation estimation, population-specific genetic markers are very useful in both population- and individual-level admixture estimation and in mapping genes by use of the linkage disequilibrium created when populations hybridize.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • African Continental Ancestry Group / genetics
  • Alleles
  • Continental Population Groups / genetics*
  • Ethnic Groups / genetics*
  • Europe / ethnology
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / genetics
  • Forensic Medicine / methods*
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Markers*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype
  • Hispanic Americans / genetics
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • United States


  • Genetic Markers