Investigating the Postmortem Molecular Biology of Cartilage and its Potential Forensic Applications

Bolton, S N and Whitehead, M P and Dudhia, J and Baldwin, T C and Sutton, R (2015) Investigating the Postmortem Molecular Biology of Cartilage and its Potential Forensic Applications. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 60 (4). pp. 1061-67.

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Abstract

This study investigated the postmortem molecular changes that articular cartilage undergoes following burial. Fresh pig trotters were interred in 30‐cm‐deep graves at two distinct locations exhibiting dissimilar soil environments for up to 42 days. Extracts of the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) and metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint cartilage from trotters disinterred weekly over 6 weeks were analyzed by Western blot against the monoclonal antibody 2‐B‐6 to assess aggrecan degradation. In both soil conditions, aggrecan degradation by‐products of decreasing molecular size and complexity were observed up to 21 days postmortem. Degradation products were undetected after this time and coincided with MCP/MTP joint exposure to the soil environment. These results show that cartilage proteoglycans undergo an ordered molecular breakdown, the analysis of which may have forensic applications. This model may prove useful for use as a human model and for forensic investigations concerning crimes against animals and the mortality of endangered species.