Cell Death-Associated Ribosomal RNA Cleavage in Postmortem Tissues and Its Forensic Applications

  • Kim, Ji Yeon (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Kim, Yunmi (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Cha, Hyo Kyeong (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Lim, Hye Young (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Kim, Hyungsub (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Chung, Sooyoung (Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Scranton College, Ewha Womans University) ;
  • Hwang, Juck-Joon (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Park, Seong Hwan (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Son, Gi Hoon (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University)
  • Received : 2017.03.16
  • Accepted : 2017.05.12
  • Published : 2017.06.30


Estimation of postmortem interval (PMI) is a key issue in the field of forensic pathology. With the availability of quantitative analysis of RNA levels in postmortem tissues, several studies have assessed the postmortem degradation of constitutively expressed RNA species to estimate PMI. However, conventional RNA quantification as well as biochemical and physiological changes employed thus far have limitations related to standardization or normalization. The present study focuses on an interesting feature of the subdomains of certain RNA species, in which they are site-specifically cleaved during apoptotic cell death. We found that the D8 divergent domain of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) bearing cell death-related cleavage sites was rapidly removed during postmortem RNA degradation. In contrast to the fragile domain, the 5' terminal region of 28S rRNA was remarkably stable during the postmortem period. Importantly, the differences in the degradation rates between the two domains in mammalian 28S rRNA were highly proportional to increasing PMI with a significant linear correlation observed in mice as well as human autopsy tissues. In conclusion, we demonstrate that comparison of the degradation rates between domains of a single RNA species provides quantitative information on postmortem degradation states, which can be applied for the estimation of PMI.


28S ribosomal RNA (rRNA);cell death-associated RNA cleavage;postmortem interval (PMI);RNA degradation


Supported by : National Research Foundation of Korea, Korea University


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