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Genes 2018, 9(12), 640;

Fragmented Nuclear DNA Is the Predominant Genetic Material in Human Hair Shafts

DNA Support Unit, FBI Laboratory, 2501 Investigation Parkway, Quantico, VA 22135, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Received: 1 November 2018 / Revised: 3 December 2018 / Accepted: 10 December 2018 / Published: 18 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Forensic Genomics)
PDF [1329 KB, uploaded 21 December 2018]


While shed hairs are one of the most commonly encountered evidence types, they are among the most limited in terms of DNA quantity and quality. As a result, nuclear DNA short tandem repeat (STR) profiling is generally unsuccessful and DNA testing of shed hair is instead performed by targeting the mitochondrial DNA control region. Although the high copy number of mitochondrial DNA relative to nuclear DNA routinely permits the recovery of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) data in these cases, mtDNA profiles do not offer the discriminatory power of nuclear DNA profiles. In order to better understand the total content and degradation state of DNA in single shed hairs and assess the feasibility of recovering highly discriminatory nuclear DNA data from this common evidence type, high throughput shotgun sequencing was performed on both recently collected and aged (approximately 50-year-old) hair samples. The data reflect trends that have been demonstrated previously with other technologies, namely that mtDNA quantity and quality decrease along the length of the hair shaft. In addition, the shotgun data reveal that nuclear DNA is present in shed hair and surprisingly abundant relative to mitochondrial DNA, even in the most distal fragments. Nuclear DNA comprised, at minimum, 88% of the total human reads in any given sample, and generally more than 95%. Here, we characterize both the nuclear and mitochondrial DNA content of shed hairs and discuss the implications of these data for forensic investigations. View Full-Text
Keywords: hair shaft; mitochondrial DNA; mtDNA; mtGenome; nuclear DNA; next-generation sequencing hair shaft; mitochondrial DNA; mtDNA; mtGenome; nuclear DNA; next-generation sequencing

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Brandhagen, M.D.; Loreille, O.; Irwin, J.A. Fragmented Nuclear DNA Is the Predominant Genetic Material in Human Hair Shafts. Genes 2018, 9, 640.

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