Limitations and recommendations for successful DNA extraction from forensic soil samples: A review

Jennifer M. Young, Nicolas J. Rawlence, Laura S. Weyrich, Alan Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

Soil is commonly used in forensic casework to provide discriminatory power to link a suspect to a crime scene. Standard analyses examine the intrinsic properties of soils, including mineralogy, geophysics, texture and colour; however, soils can also support a vast amount of organisms, which can be examined using DNA fingerprinting techniques. Many previous genetic analyses have relied on patterns of fragment length variation produced by amplification of unidentified taxa in the soil extract. In contrast, the development of advanced DNA sequencing technologies now provides the ability to generate a detailed picture of soil microbial communities and the taxa present, allowing for improved discrimination between samples. However, DNA must be efficiently extracted from the complex soil matrix to achieve accurate and reproducible DNA sequencing results, and extraction efficacy is highly dependent on the soil type and method used. As a result, a consideration of soil properties is important when estimating the likelihood of successful DNA extraction. This would include a basic understanding of soil components, their interactions with DNA molecules and the factors that affect such interactions. This review highlights some important considerations required prior to DNA extraction and discusses the use of common chemical reagents in soil DNA extraction protocols to achieve maximum efficacy. Together, the information presented here is designed to facilitate informed decisions about the most appropriate sampling and extraction methodology, relevant both to the soil type and the details of a specific forensic case, to ensure sufficient DNA yield and enable successful analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-244
Number of pages7
JournalScience and Justice
Volume54
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2014

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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