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Microsatellite null alleles in parentage analysis


Highly polymorphic microsatellite markers are widely employed in population genetic analyses (eg, of biological parentage and mating systems), but one potential drawback is the presence of null alleles that fail to amplify to detected levels in the PCR assays. Here we examine 233 published articles in which authors reported the suspected presence of one or more microsatellite null alleles, and we review how these purported nulls were detected and handled in the data analyses. We also employ computer simulations and analytical treatments to determine how microsatellite null alleles might impact molecular parentage analyses. The results indicate that whereas null alleles in frequencies typically reported in the literature introduce rather inconsequential biases on average exclusion probabilities, they can introduce substantial errors into empirical assessments of specific mating events by leading to high frequencies of false parentage exclusions.

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