Aim To use parallel array pyrosequencing to deconvolute mixtures of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence and provide high resolution analysis of mtDNA heteroplasmy. Methods The hypervariable segment 1 (HV1) of the mtDNA control region was analyzed from 30 individuals using the 454 GS Junior instrument. Mock mixtures were used to evaluate the system's ability to deconvolute mixtures and to reliably detect heteroplasmy, including heteroplasmic differences between 5 family members of the same maternal lineage. Amplicon sequencing was performed on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) products generated with primers that included multiplex identifiers (MID) and adaptors for pyrosequencing. Data analysis was performed using NextGENe® software. The analysis of an autosomal short tandem repeat (STR) locus (D18S51) and a Y-STR locus (DYS389 I/II) was performed simultaneously with a portion of HV1 to illustrate that multiplexing can encompass different markers of forensic interest. Results Mixtures, including heteroplasmic variants, can be detected routinely down to a component ratio of 1:250 (20 minor variant copies with a coverage rate of 5000 sequences) and can be readily detected down to 1:1000 (0.1%) with expanded coverage. Amplicon sequences from D18S51, DYS389 I/II, and the second half of HV1 were successfully partitioned and analyzed. Conclusions The ability to routinely deconvolute mtDNA mixtures down to a level of 1:250 allows for high resolution analysis of mtDNA heteroplasmy, and for differentiation of individuals from the same maternal lineage. The pyrosequencing approach results in poor resolution of homopolymeric sequences, and PCR/sequencing artifacts require a filtering mechanism similar to that for STR stutter and spectral bleed through. In addition, chimeric sequences from jumping PCR must be addressed to make the method operational.
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