Biological sexing of a 4000-year-old Egyptian mummy head to assess the potential of nuclear DNA recovery from the most damaged and limited forensic specimens
journal contributionposted on 27.08.2020, 15:33 by Odile Loreille, Shashikala Ratnayake, Adam L Bazinet, Timothy B Stockwell, Daniel D Sommer, Nadin Rohland, Swapan Mallick, Philip LF Johnson, Pontus Skoglund, Anthony J Onorato, Nicholas H Bergman, David Reich, Jodi A Irwin
High throughput sequencing (HTS) has been used for a number of years in the field of paleogenomics to facilitate the recovery of small DNA fragments from ancient specimens. Recently, these techniques have also been applied in forensics, where they have been used for the recovery of mitochondrial DNA sequences from samples where traditional PCR-based assays fail because of the very short length of endogenous DNA molecules. Here, we describe the biological sexing of a ~4000-year-old Egyptian mummy using shotgun sequencing and two established methods of biological sex determination (RX and RY), by way of mitochondrial genome analysis as a means of sequence data authentication. This particular case of historical interest increases the potential utility of HTS techniques for forensic purposes by demonstrating that data from the more discriminatory nuclear genome can be recovered from the most damaged specimens, even in cases where mitochondrial DNA cannot be recovered with current PCR-based forensic technologies. Although additional work remains to be done before nuclear DNA recovered via these methods can be used routinely in operational casework for individual identification purposes, these results indicate substantial promise for the retrieval of probative individually identifying DNA data from the most limited and degraded forensic specimens.