Genetic analyses using museum specimens and ancient DNA from fossil samples are becoming increasingly important in phylogenetic and especially population genetic studies. Recent progress in ancient DNA sequencing technologies has substantially increased DNA sequence yields and, in combination with barcoding methods, has enabled large-scale studies using any type of DNA. Moreover, more and more studies now use nuclear DNA sequences in addition to mitochondrial ones. Unfortunately, nuclear DNA is, due to its much lower copy number in living cells compared to mitochondrial DNA, much more difficult to obtain from low-quality samples. Therefore, a DNA extraction method that optimizes DNA yields from low-quality samples and at the same time allows processing many samples within a short time frame is immediately required. In fact, the major bottleneck in the analysis process using samples containing low amounts of degraded DNA now lies in the extraction of samples, as column-based methods using commercial kits are fast but have proven to give very low yields, while more efficient methods are generally very time-consuming. Here, we present a method that combines the high DNA yield of batch-based silica extraction with the time-efficiency of column-based methods. Our results on Pleistocene cave bear samples show that DNA yields are quantitatively comparable, and in fact even slightly better than with silica batch extraction, while at the same time the number of samples that can conveniently be processed in parallel increases and both bench time and costs decrease using this method. Thus, this method is suited for harvesting the power of high-throughput sequencing using the DNA preserved in the millions of paleontological and museums specimens.
© 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.