Identification of body fluid-specific DNA methylation markers for use in forensic science

Forensic Sci Int Genet. 2014 Nov:13:147-53. doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2014.07.011. Epub 2014 Jul 27.


DNA methylation, which occurs at the 5'-position of the cytosine in CpG dinucleotides, has great potential for forensic identification of body fluids, because tissue-specific patterns of DNA methylation have been demonstrated, and DNA is less prone to degradation than proteins or RNA. Previous studies have reported several body fluid-specific DNA methylation markers, but DNA methylation differences are sometimes low in saliva and vaginal secretions. Moreover, specific DNA methylation markers in four types of body fluids (blood, saliva, semen, and vaginal secretions) have not been investigated with genome-wide profiling. Here, we investigated novel DNA methylation markers for identification of body fluids for use in forensic science using the Illumina HumanMethylation 450K bead array, which contains over 450,000 CpG sites. Using methylome data from 16 samples of blood, saliva, semen, and vaginal secretions, we first selected 2986 hypermethylated or hypomethylated regions that were specific for each type of body fluid. We then selected eight CpG sites as novel, forensically relevant DNA methylation markers: cg06379435 and cg08792630 for blood, cg26107890 and cg20691722 for saliva, cg23521140 and cg17610929 for semen, and cg01774894 and cg14991487 for vaginal secretions. These eight selected markers were evaluated in 80 body fluid samples using pyrosequencing, and all showed high sensitivity and specificity for identification of the target body fluid. We suggest that these eight DNA methylation markers may be good candidates for developing an effective molecular assay for identification of body fluids in forensic science.

Keywords: Aging; Body fluid identification; DNA methylation; Epigenetics; Forensic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Chemical Analysis*
  • Cervix Mucus / chemistry*
  • DNA Fingerprinting / methods
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Female
  • Genetic Markers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • Semen / chemistry*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods


  • Genetic Markers