Extended specificity studies of mRNA assays used to infer human organ tissues and body fluids

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  • Published: Sep 20, 2017
  • Author: Margreet den Berge, Titia Sijen


Messenger RNA (mRNA) profiling is a technique increasingly applied for the forensic identification of body fluids and skin. More recently, an mRNA‐based organ typing assay was developed which allows for the inference of brain, lung, liver, skeletal muscle, heart, kidney, and skin tissue. When applying this organ typing system in forensic casework for the presence of animal, rather than human, tissue is an alternative scenario to be proposed, for instance that bullets carry cell material from a hunting event. Even though mRNA profiling systems are commonly in silico designed to be primate specific, physical testing against other animal species is generally limited. In this study, human specificity of the organ tissue inferring system was assessed against organ tissue RNAs of various animals. Results confirm human specificity of the system, especially when utilizing interpretation rules considering multiple markers per cell type. Besides, we cross‐tested our organ and body fluid mRNA assays against the target types covered by the other assay. Marker expression in the nontarget organ tissues and body fluids was observed to a limited extent, which emphasizes the importance of involving the case‐specific context of the forensic samples in deciding which mRNA profiling assay to use and when for interpreting results.

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