Gene expression patterns may help determine time of death

February 13, 2018

International team of scientists led by Roderic Guigó at the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona showed that changes in gene expression in different tissues triggered by death can be used to predict the time of death of an individual. As reported in a paper published in Nature Communications this week, researchers suggest that by analysing a few readily available tissues (for example lung or skin tissue), the post-mortem interval (time elapsed since death) can be determined with considerable accuracy and may have implications for forensic analyses.

It all started with the GTEx project, which aimed at creating a reference database and tissue bank for scientists to study how genomic variants affect gene activity and disease susceptibility. GTEx was designed to sample as many tissues as possible from a large number of individuals in order to understand the causal effects of genes and variants, and which tissues contribute to predisposition to disease. "GTEx data allow us to ask questions about genetic variation and its effects on gene expression both in one tissue and across many tissues. Since the samples we are using all come from deceased donors, we need to find out if there were changes in gene expression related to the death or the time of death, so we could better model our predictions of variation between tissues or in disease," explains Roderic Guigó, lead author of this study and coordinator of the Bioinformatics and Genomics Programme at the CRG.

To understand the tissue-specific changes to gene expression following the death of a person, Roderic Guigó and his colleagues studied RNA-sequencing data of over 7,000 samples from 36 different tissues obtained from 540 donor within the GTEx project. They show that the time since death has an effect on gene expression and that this effect varies from tissue to tissue. The authors developed models for the prediction of the post-mortem interval based on these tissue-specific gene expression changes using high-throughput sequencing of the cell.

"We found that many genes change expression over relatively short post-mortem intervals, in a largely tissue specific manner. This information helps us to better understand variation and also it allows us to identify the transcriptional events triggered by death in an organism," adds Pedro G. Ferreira, CRG Alumnus currently at the Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology, University of Porto in Portugal.

Researchers have studied the effect of different covariates on biological analysis. The model could be further improved to make it applicable to a forensics scenario and to devise a protocol for the potential implementation in forensic pathology.
-end-


Center for Genomic Regulation

Related Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

CLCN6 identified as disease gene for a severe form of lysosomal neurodegenerative disease
A mutation in the CLCN6 gene is associated with a novel, particularly severe neurodegenerative disorder.

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

Potential link for Alzheimer's disease and common brain disease that mimics its symptoms
A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital uncovered a group of closely related genes that may capture molecular links between Alzheimer's disease and Limbic-predominant Age-related TDP-43 Encephalopathy, or LATE, a recently recognized common brain disorder that can mimic Alzheimer's symptoms.

Antioxidant agent may prevent chronic kidney disease and Parkinson's disease
Researchers from Osaka University developed a novel dietary silicon-based antioxidant agent with renoprotective and neuroprotective effects.

Tools used to study human disease reveal coral disease risk factors
In a study published in Scientific Reports, a team of international researchers led by University of Hawai'i (UH) at Mānoa postdoctoral fellow Jamie Caldwell used a statistical technique typically employed in human epidemiology to determine the ecological risk factors affecting the prevalence of two coral diseases--growth anomalies, abnormalities like coral tumors, and white syndromes, infectious diseases similar to flesh eating bacteria.

Disease-aggravating mutation found in a mouse model of neonatal mitochondrial disease
The new mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variant drastically speeds up the disease progression in a mouse model of GRACILE syndrome.

Human longevity largest study of its kind shows early detection of disease & disease risks
Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI) announced the publication of a ground-breaking study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

30-year study identifies need of disease-modifying therapies for maple syrup urine disease
A new study analyzes 30 years of patient data and details the clinical course of 184 individuals with genetically diverse forms of Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD), which is among the most volatile and dangerous inherited metabolic disorders.

Long-dormant disease becomes most dominant foliar disease in New York onion crops
Until recently, Stemphylium leaf blight has been considered a minor foliar disease as it has not done much damage in New York since the early 1990s.

Read More: Disease News and Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.