Rapidly mutating Y chromosomal short tandem repeat markers (RM Y-STRs) –characterized by at least one mutation per 100 generations– are suitable for differentiating both related and unrelated males. The recently introduced multiplex method RMplex allows for the efficient analysis of 30 Y-STRs with increased mutation rates, including all 26 currently known RM Y-STRs. While currently available RM Y-STR mutation rates were established mostly from European individuals, here we applied RMplex to DNA samples of 178 genetically confirmed father-son pairs from East Asia. For several Y-STRs, we found significantly higher mutation rates in Japanese compared to previous estimates. The consequent father-son differentiation rate based on RMplex was significantly higher (52%) in Japanese than previously reported for Europeans (42%), and much higher than with Yfiler Plus in both sample sets (14% and 13%, respectively). Further analysis suggests that the higher mutation and relative differentiation rates in Japanese can in part be explained by on average longer Y-STR alleles relative to Europeans. Moreover, we show that the most striking difference, which was found in DYS712, could be linked to a Y-SNP haplogroup (O1b2-P49) that is common in Japanese and rare in other populations. We encourage the forensic Y-STR community to generate more RMplex data from more population samples of sufficiently large sample size in combination with Y-SNP data to further investigate population effects on mutation and relative differentiation rates. Until more RMplex data from more populations become available, caution shall be placed when applying RM Y-STR mutation rate estimates established in one population, such as Europeans, to forensic casework involving male suspects of paternal origin from other populations, such as non-Europeans.
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