The apoptotic thanatotranscriptome associated with the liver of cadavers


Gene expression investigations are well-established components of ante mortem studies with broad applications ranging from elucidating basic mechanisms responsible for normal physiological processes to discovering therapeutic targets in pathophysiological conditions. However, gene expression studies and their application in the medico-legal field are still in their infancy. Therefore, the present study focuses on RNA using PCR array in the analysis of gene expression associated with tissues taken from actual criminal cases. RNA was extracted from the liver tissues of bodies with PMIs between 6 and 48 h. The results demonstrated that mRNA was stable up to 48 h postmortem. Further, as cell death is an indispensable and necessary part of the biological life cycle, apoptotic gene expression profiles were investigated. The gene expression related to the programmed cell death found in body tissues after death is defined as the apoptotic thanatotranscriptome (thanatos-, Greek for death). On comparison of control and decaying tissues, the results show that with time, pro-apoptotic genes such as caspases are up-regulated and the expression of genes responsible for anti-apoptosis such as BCL2 and BAG3 were down-regulated. Thus, this current work gives a unique perspective of the apoptotic thanatotranscriptome that is affected after death. Up to the present time, gene expression in bodies from criminal cases has not been reported in literature using PCR array techniques. Thus, this thanatotranscriptome study provides insight into postmortem gene activity with potential applications in medico-legal investigations.

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This work was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant HRD 1401075. The authors would like to thank Cuneyt Bademcioglu for his intellectual contribution and proofreading.

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Correspondence to Gulnaz T. Javan.

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Gulnaz T. Javan and Ismail Can have contributed equally to this work.

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Javan, G.T., Can, I., Finley, S.J. et al. The apoptotic thanatotranscriptome associated with the liver of cadavers. Forensic Sci Med Pathol 11, 509–516 (2015).

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  • Thanatotranscriptome
  • Gene expression
  • Cadaver liver
  • PCR array