Assessment of DNA degradation and the genotyping success of highly degraded samples

Sheree R. Hughes-Stamm, Kevin J. Ashton, Angela Van Daal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


DNA becomes progressively more fragmented as biological tissue degrades resulting in decreasing ability to gain a complete DNA profile. Successful identification of samples exhibiting very high levels of DNA degradation may be complicated by presenting in minute quantities. The industry standard method for human DNA identification utilising short tandem repeats (STR) may produce partial or no DNA profile with such samples. We report a comparative study of genotyping using STRs, mini-STRs and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with template at different levels of degradation in varying amounts. Two methods of assessing quantity and quality of a DNA sample prior to genotyping were investigated. The QIAxcel capillary gel electrophoresis system provided a rapid, cost effective screening method for assessing sample quality. A real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay was able to simultaneously quantify total human DNA, male DNA, DNA degradation and PCR inhibition. The extent of DNA degradation could be assessed with reasonable accuracy to 62.5 pg and genomic targets could be quantified to a lower limit of 15.6 pg. The qPCR assay was able to detect male DNA to a lower limit of 20 pg in a 1:1,000 background of female DNA. By considering the amount of DNA and the degradation ratio of a sample, a general prediction of genotyping success using AmpFlSTR® Profiler Plus®, MiniFiler™ kits and SNP analysis can be made. The results indicate mini-STRs and SNP markers are usually more successful in typing degraded samples and in cases of extreme DNA degradation (≤200 bp) and template amounts below 250 pg, mini-STR and SNP analysis yielded significantly more complete profiles and lower match probabilities than corresponding STR profiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-348
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


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