a clean result that shows the correct pattern for a particular hybridization, the result of the test hybridization should be discounted.
Sometimes, only a single band will be detected when two distinct alleles are present. That might occur because the second allele is so small that it has migrated off the end of the gel, because the second allele is similar in size to the first allele and thus is not resolved, or because the second allele is much larger, and larger fragments are preferentially lost in partially degraded samples.
When only a single band is found, the interpretation should always include the possibility that a second band has been missed—i.e., that the pattern is actually of a heterozygote, not a homozygote. (For statistical interpretation, the frequency of a single-band pattern should be taken to be the sum of the frequencies of all patterns containing this band. This is approximately twice the allele frequency of the band.) In some cases, it could be important to interpret the absence of a second larger fragment—e.g., when two samples match in a smaller band, but the questioned sample lacks a second larger band. That could arise either because the samples are from different persons or because the samples come from the same person but the questioned sample is partially degraded. Ideally, to distinguish these alternatives, one should determine whether a second larger band could have been detected in the questioned sample by hybridizing the membrane with a single-copy probe that detects an even larger monomorphic fragment—i.e., one that is constant in all humans. In contrast, it would not be sufficient simply to estimate the degree of degradation from the ethidium bromide staining pattern of the sample.
A sample might show more than two bands for various reasons. E.g., the hybridization conditions were improper and caused the probe to hybridize to incorrect fragments; the probe was contaminated with another sequence, which caused it to recognize other fragments; the membrane was incompletely stripped after a previous use, so a pattern seen on the previous hybridization is still being detected; the restriction digestion did not proceed to completion, so the region recognized by the probe is present in incompletely cut fragments of multiple sizes; or the sample actually contains a mixture of multiple DNAs. The last example is extremely important to recognize, because it can bear importantly on a case. Whenever extra bands are observed, their origin should be determined.
The following clues provide a partial decision tree: