DNA typing from single hairs

Nature. 1988 Apr 7;332(6164):543-6. doi: 10.1038/332543a0.


The characterization of genetic variation at the DNA level has generated significant advances in gene and disease mapping, and in the forensic identification of individuals. The most common method of DNA analysis, that of restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP), requires microgram amounts of relatively undegraded DNA for multi-locus typing, and hundreds of nanograms for single-locus comparisons. Such DNA frequently cannot be obtained from forensic samples such as single hairs and blood stains, or from anthropological, genetic or zoological samples collected in the field. To detect polymorphic DNA sequences from single human hairs, we have used the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), in which specific short regions of a gene can be greatly amplified in vitro from as little as a single molecule of DNA. We have detected genetically variable mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences from the root region of shed, as well as freshly-plucked, single hairs; mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences have been detected in a sample from a single hair shaft. We have used three different means of DNA typing on these samples: the determination of amplified DNA fragment length differences, hybridization with allele-specific oligonucleotide probes, and direct DNA sequencing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • DNA Polymerase I
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / analysis*
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Techniques*
  • HLA-DQ Antigens / genetics
  • Hair / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • HLA-DQ Antigens
  • DNA Polymerase I