Field scale evaluation of bovine-specific DNA as an indicator of tissue degradation during cattle mortality composting

Bioresour Technol. 2011 Apr;102(7):4800-6. doi: 10.1016/j.biortech.2011.01.037. Epub 2011 Jan 22.


Currently, mortality compost is managed by temperature as extent of tissue degradation is difficult to assess. In the present study, field-scale mortality compost was constructed with composted brain tissue (Brain) and compost adjacent to brain tissue (CAB) sampled over 230 d. Following genomic DNA extraction, bovine-specific mitochondrial DNA (Mt-DNA) and bacterial 16S rDNA fragments were quantified using real-time PCR. Genomic DNA yield of Brain and CAB decreased rapidly (89-98%) and stabilized after 7 d. Compared to d 0, Brain Mt-DNA rapidly decreased (84-91% reduction on d 7). In CAB, Mt-DNA dramatically increased until d 28 (up to 34,500 times) thereafter decreasing by 77-93% on d 112. Quantification of bovine Mt-DNA indicates tissue degradation was initially characterized by rapid decomposition and release of cell contents into surrounding compost matrix followed by further degradation of Mt-DNA by flourishing microorganisms. Consequently, bovine Mt-DNA copies in compost matrix were reliable indicators of tissue degradation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Brain / microbiology*
  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Cadaver*
  • Cattle
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • DNA, Ribosomal