Mitochondrial DNA in Sensitive Forensic Analysis

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Genetic profiling is commonly performed on the autosomes using multiple DNA markers. Although routine forensic DNA analysis is robust and based on reliable technologies, samples with degraded or limited amounts of DNA often fail. In these cases, the analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can be very valuable due to the high copy number per cell. This thesis describes evaluation and modifications of existing technologies that are useful in forensic DNA typing, mainly focusing on mtDNA.DNA quantities isolated from common evidence materials such as hairs, fingerprints and accessories were estimated using a real-time quantification assay. Knowledge of quantitative differences between materials can guide forensic scientists to perform the best analysis (Paper I).The current mtDNA analysis is based on hypervariable region (HVI/HVII) sequencing, which is the most rigorous and time-consuming forensic DNA analysis. Therefore, we evaluated the possibility to exclude individuals by screening for non-matching samples using the rapid and easy mtDNA Linear Array Assay (Paper II). The major disadvantage using mtDNA is the lower discrimination power compared to multiple nuclear DNA markers. In contrast to the nuclear genome, due to the uniparental (maternal) mode of inheritance, no individual has unique mtDNA. We investigated the possibility of increasing the discrimination power by using pyrosequencing technology to analyse parts of the coding region in addition to HVI/HVII (Paper III). Furthermore, the addition of coding mtDNA information was evaluated by comparing several recently published mtDNA coding region assays (Paper IV). Mixtures of DNA are common in forensic genetics due to contribution of DNA from several individuals, contamination or heteroplasmy. To resolve mixtures we have developed a pyrosequencing-based assay for the accurate quantification of the mtDNA mixture components (Paper V).In conclusion, this thesis describes several assays that are valuable in forensic genetics for DNA quantification, improved mtDNA analysis, and mtDNA mixture interpretation.