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The persistence of human DNA in soil following surface decomposition

The persistence of human DNA in soil following surface decomposition

Abstract
Though recent decades have seen a marked increase in research concerning the impact of human decomposition on the grave soil environment, the fate of human DNA in grave soil has been relatively understudied. With the purpose of supplementing the growing body of literature in forensic soil taphonomy, this study assessed the relative persistence of human DNA in soil over the course of decomposition. Endpoint PCR was used to assess the presence or absence of human nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, while qPCR was used to evaluate the quantity of human DNA recovered from the soil beneath four cadavers at the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility (ARF). Human nuclear DNA from the soil was largely unrecoverable, while human mitochondrial DNA was detectable in the soil throughout all decomposition stages. Mitochondrial DNA copy abundances were not significantly different between decomposition stages and were not significantly correlated to soil edaphic parameters tested. There was, however, a significant positive correlation between mitochondrial DNA copy abundances and the human associated bacteria, Bacteroides, as estimated by 16S rRNA gene abundances. These results show that human mitochondrial DNA can persist in grave soil and be consistently detected throughout decomposition.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S135503061730059X
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