Estimating the relationships between individuals is one of the fundamental challenges in many fields. In particular, relationship estimation could provide valuable information for missing persons cases.
The recently developed investigative genetic genealogy approach uses high-density single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to determine close and more distant relationships, in which hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of SNPs are generated either by microarray genotyping or whole-genome sequencing. The current studies usually assume the SNP profiles were generated with minimum errors. However, in the missing person cases, the DNA samples can be highly degraded, and the SNP profiles generated from these samples usually contain lots of errors. In this study, a machine learning approach was developed for estimating the relationships with high error SNP profiles. In this approach, a hierarchical classification strategy was employed first to classify the relationships by degree and then the relationship types within each degree separately. As for each classification, feature selection was implemented to gain better performance. Both simulated and real data sets with various genotyping error rates were utilized in evaluating this approach, and the accuracies of this approach were higher than individual measures; namely, this approach was more accurate and robust than the individual measures for SNP profiles with genotyping errors. In addition, the highest accuracy could be obtained by providing the same genotyping error rates in train and test sets, and thus estimating genotyping errors of the SNP profiles is critical to obtaining high accuracy of relationship estimation. (Publisher abstract provided)
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