Postmortem mRNA Profiling: Possibilities and Limitations

Marielle Heinrich, Antje Koppelkamm
University of Freiburg, Germany

Molecular investigations gain increasing interest in forensic medicine. Examination of gene expression levels at the time point of death might shed further light into the cause and circumstances of death. This includes pathophysiological conditions of disease and injury as well as the duration of agony. Additionally, recent developments in forensic genetics revealed that tissue specific mRNAs can be used to determine the type of body fluid present in a crime scene stain. Although RNA is known to be rather instable, we were able to extract RNA in adequate quality from tissue samples collected during medico-legal autopsy. Nevertheless, working with human post-mortem tissue means to deal with highly variable RNA integrities. The aim of the present study was to identify parameters that have to be considered during quantitative gene expression analysis. Therefore, we analysed the RNA qualities of human autopsy samples and investigated the influence of RNA integrity on RT-qPCR results. Additionally, we aimed to identify pre- and post mortem parameters, which might influence the RNA integrity. Consequences for the informative value of quantitative gene expression data will be discussed.

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