Degradation of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA after γ-irradiation and its effect on forensic genotyping

Corey Goodwin, Andrew Wotherspoon, Michelle E. Gahan, Dennis McNevin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Forensic genotyping can be impeded by gamma-irradiation of biological evidence in the event of radiological crime; that is, criminal activity involving radioactive material. Oxidative effects within the mitochondria of living cells elicits greater damage to mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) than nuclear DNA (nuDNA) at low doses. This study presents a novel approach for the assessment of nuDNA versus mtDNA damage from a comparison of genotype and quantity data, while exploring likely mechanisms for differential damage after high doses of gamma-irradiation. Liquid (hydrated) and dried (dehydrated) whole blood samples were exposed to high doses of gamma-radiation (1-50 kilogray, kGy). The GlobalFiler PCR Amplification Kit was used to evaluate short tandem repeat (STR) genotyping efficacy and nuDNA degradation; a comparison was made to mtDNA degradation measured using real-time PCR assays. Each assay was normalized before comparison by calculation of integrity indices relative to unirradiated controls. Full STR profiles were attainable up to the highest dose, although DNA degradation was noticeable after 10 and 25 kGy for hydrated and dehydrated blood, respectively. This was manifested by heterozygote imbalance more than allele dropout. Degradation was greater for mtDNA than nuDNA, as well as for hydrated than dehydrated cells, after equivalent doses. Oxidative effects due to water radiolysis and mitochondrial function are dominant mechanisms of differential damage to nuDNA versus mtDNA after high-dose gamma-irradiation. While differential DNA damage was reduced by cell desiccation, its persistence after drying indicates innate differences between nuDNA and mtDNA radioresistance and/or continued oxidative effects within the mitochondria.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-405
Number of pages11
JournalForensic Science Medicine and Pathology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


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