Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Transfus Med Hemother. 2012 Jun;39(3):202-210. Epub 2012 May 12.

SNPs as Supplements in Simple Kinship Analysis or as Core Markers in Distant Pairwise Relationship Tests: When Do SNPs Add Value or Replace Well-Established and Powerful STR Tests?

Author information

  • 1Forensic Genetics Unit, Institute of Legal Medicine, University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Galicia, Spain.



Genetic tests for kinship testing routinely reach likelihoods that provide virtual proof of the claimed relationship by typing microsatellites-commonly consisting of 12-15 standard forensic short tandem repeats (STRs). Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have also been applied to kinship testing but these binary markers are required in greater numbers than multiple-allele STRs. However SNPs offer certain advantageous characteristics not found in STRs, including, much higher mutational stability, good performance typing highly degraded DNA, and the ability to be readily up-scaled to very high marker numbers reaching over a million loci. This article outlines kinship testing applications where SNPs markedly improve the genetic data obtained. In particular we explore the minimum number of SNPs that will be required to confirm pairwise relationship claims in deficient pedigrees that typify missing persons' identification or war grave investigations where commonly few surviving relatives are available for comparison and the DNA is highly degraded.


We describe the application of SNPs alongside STRs when incomplete profiles or allelic instability in STRs create ambiguous results, we review the use of high density SNP arrays when the relationship claim is very distant, and we outline simulations of kinship analyses with STRs supplemented with SNPs in order to estimate the practical limit of pairwise relationships that can be differentiated from random unrelated pairs from the same population.


The minimum number of SNPs for robust statistical inference of parent-offspring relationships through to those of second cousins (S-3-3) is estimated for both simple, single multiplex SNP sets and for subsets of million-SNP arrays.


There is considerable scope for resolving ambiguous STR results and for improving the statistical power of kinship analysis by adding small-scale SNP sets but where the pedigree is deficient the pairwise relationships must be relatively close. For more distant relationships it is possible to reduce chip-based SNP arrays from the million+ markers down to ∼7,000. However, such numbers indicate that current genotyping approaches will not be able to deliver sufficient data to resolve distant pairwise relationships from the limited DNA typical of the most challenging identification cases.

Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for S. Karger AG, Basel, Switzerland Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk