Research Article

Ancient DNA in historical parchments - identifying a procedure for extraction and amplification of genetic material

Published: May 06, 2016
Genet. Mol. Res. 15(2): gmr8661 DOI: 10.4238/gmr.15028661

Abstract

Historical parchments in the form of documents, manuscripts, books, or letters, make up a large portion of cultural heritage collections. Their priceless historical value is associated with not only their content, but also the information hidden in the DNA deposited on them. Analyses of ancient DNA (aDNA) retrieved from parchments can be used in various investigations, including, but not limited to, studying their authentication, tracing the development of the culture, diplomacy, and technology, as well as obtaining information on the usage and domestication of animals. This article proposes and verifies a procedure for aDNA recovery from historical parchments and its appropriate preparation for further analyses. This study involved experimental selection of an aDNA extraction method with the highest efficiency and quality of extracted genetic material, from among the multi-stage phenol-chloroform extraction methods, and the modern, column-based techniques that use selective DNA-binding membranes. Moreover, current techniques to amplify entire genetic material were questioned, and the possibility of using mitochondrial DNA for species identification was analyzed. The usefulness of the proposed procedure was successfully confirmed in identification tests of historical parchments dating back to the 13-16th century AD.

Historical parchments in the form of documents, manuscripts, books, or letters, make up a large portion of cultural heritage collections. Their priceless historical value is associated with not only their content, but also the information hidden in the DNA deposited on them. Analyses of ancient DNA (aDNA) retrieved from parchments can be used in various investigations, including, but not limited to, studying their authentication, tracing the development of the culture, diplomacy, and technology, as well as obtaining information on the usage and domestication of animals. This article proposes and verifies a procedure for aDNA recovery from historical parchments and its appropriate preparation for further analyses. This study involved experimental selection of an aDNA extraction method with the highest efficiency and quality of extracted genetic material, from among the multi-stage phenol-chloroform extraction methods, and the modern, column-based techniques that use selective DNA-binding membranes. Moreover, current techniques to amplify entire genetic material were questioned, and the possibility of using mitochondrial DNA for species identification was analyzed. The usefulness of the proposed procedure was successfully confirmed in identification tests of historical parchments dating back to the 13-16th century AD.

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