Fluorescent SSCP of overlapping fragments (FSSCP-OF): a highly sensitive method for the screening of mitochondrial DNA variation

Forensic Sci Int. 2001 Dec 27;124(2-3):97-103. doi: 10.1016/s0379-0738(01)00574-6.


The mtDNA analysis (mtDNA) is increasingly being demanded for forensic purposes due to the fact that many times the use of standard nuclear marker fails to analyze degraded samples (such as bones) and specially for the analysis of hair shafts (a common sample in the crime scene). However, analysis of mtDNA sequencing implies a great lab effort when a high number of samples must be analyzed. The present work introduces a novel and reliable method for the screening of mtDNA variation in the first and second hypervariables (HV1 and HV2) regions which we have denominated fluorescent single strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) of overlapping fragments (FSSCP-OF). FSSCP-OF is based on the basic theory of SSCP analysis and combines two complementary strategies: the use of PCR amplified overlapping fragments and fluorescent detection technology. The overlap region contains a high percentage (50%) of the d-loop mtDNA variation and for this reason, the probability to detect a polymorphic position by SSCP analysis is clearly increased in comparison to conventional SSCP methods due to the fact that the same polymorphic position is usually placed in a different "relative" position in the two overlapped fragments. The use of multicolor fluorescent technology allows also the multiplex amplification of overlapping fragment and its subsequent analysis in an automatic sequencer. We have analyzed 50 samples of unrelated individuals through the FSSCP-OF technique and we have found that using this methodology the probability to distinguish two samples with different sequences is close to 100%. FSSCP-OF has other important advantages with respect to previous screening methods, such as the automation and standardization of the protocols, which is of special interest for the forensic routine.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Fragmentation
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Forensic Medicine / methods*
  • Hair
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Polymorphism, Single-Stranded Conformational*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial