Mitochondrial DNA sequence analysis of human skeletal remains: Identification of remains from the Vietnam War

M. M. Holland, D. L. Fisher, L. G. Mitchell, W. C. Rodriguez, J. J. Canik, C. R. Merril, V. W. Weedn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

251 Scopus citations


Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequence analysis of the control region of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genome was used to identify human skeletal remains returned to the United States government by the Vietnamese government in 1984. The postmortem interval was thought to be 24 years at the time of testing, and the remains presumed to be an American service member. DNA typing methods using nuclear genomic DNA, HLA-DQ alpha [1] and the variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) locus D1S80 [2], were unsuccessful using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) [3]. Amplification of a portion of the mtDNA control region was performed, and the resulting PCR product subjected to DNA sequence analysis. The DNA sequence generated from the skeletal remains was identical to the maternal reference sequence, as well as the sequence generated from two siblings (sisters). The sequence was unique when compared to more than 650 DNA sequences found both in the literature and provided by personal communications. The individual sequence polymorphisms were present in only 23 of the more than 1300 nucleotide positions analyzed. These results support the observation [4] that in cases where conventional DNA typing is unavailable, mtDNA sequencing can be used for human remains identification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)542-553
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Genetics


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