The analysis of short tandem repeats is a widely used method to estimate relatedness between closely related populations or individuals. The AmpFlSTR PCR Amplification Kit has 15 highly variable autosomal markers of tetranucleotide repeats and is principally made to identify individuals and first- or second-degree relatives. However, in many studies one is searching for individuals who are related through more than one generation. We wanted to test whether the amplification kit can also be used to identify more distantly related individuals. Therefore we compared 16 different methods that calculate genetic distance with regard to each method's ability to cluster more distantly related individuals from two test families. Among all the tested methods Nei et al.'s (1983) DA distance performed well in clustering family members within a group of unrelated individuals for a broad range of scenarios. However, second-degree relatives were difficult to cluster with any of the examined methods when other family members were absent. With a simulation we further estimated how many markers would actually be needed to detect a certain degree of relatedness. According to this simulation, one would need at least 123 independent microsatellite markers to detect third-degree relatives with 90% probability. In conclusion, the 15 STR markers in the amplification kit are suitable for detecting only very closely related individuals or entire families.
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Vol. 78 • No. 1