M.A. Theses: Krista McGrath, 2010

The Effects of High Temperature on the Quantity and Quality of Mitochondrial and Nuclear DNA in Non-Human Skeletal Remains  

A good understanding of DNA preservation is critical for authenticating ancient DNA.  However, such knowledge is difficult to obtain from empirical data as every site represents a unique burial environment, often resulting in unpredictable DNA recovery rates.

This study established an artificial DNA degradation model to examine patterns of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA degradation in non-human bone, using time and temperature as controllable degradation factors.  The results indicate that DNA degradation increases significantly when temperature is raised from 50°C to 70°C, with a rapid initial reduction in DNA copy number followed by a more gradual period of degradation.  It appears that mitochondrial and nuclear DNA undergo similar degradation rates.  It is expected that future research will provide more detailed information on DNA degradation patterns, which will be extremely useful for assessing the quality and quantity of retrievable DNA from different recovery contexts, both archaeological and forensic in nature.