Cell death-associated ribosomal RNA cleavage in postmortem tissues and its forensic applications

Ji Yeon Kim, Yunmi Kim, Hyo Kyeong Cha, Hye Young Lim, Hyungsub Kim, Sooyoung Chung, Juck Joon Hwang, Seong Hwan Park, Gi Hoon Son

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Estimation of postmortem interval (PMI) is a key issue in the field of forensic pathology. With the availability of quantitative analysis of RNA levels in postmortem tissues, several studies have assessed the postmortem degradation of constitutively expressed RNA species to estimate PMI. However, conventional RNA quantification as well as biochemical and physiological changes employed thus far have limitations related to standardization or normalization. The present study focuses on an interesting feature of the subdomains of certain RNA species, in which they are site-specifically cleaved during apoptotic cell death. We found that the D8 divergent domain of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) bearing cell death-related cleavage sites was rapidly removed during postmortem RNA degradation. In contrast to the fragile domain, the 5′ terminal region of 28S rRNA was remarkably stable during the postmortem period. Importantly, the differences in the degradation rates between the two domains in mammalian 28S rRNA were highly proportional to increasing PMI with a significant linear correlation observed in mice as well as human autopsy tissues. In conclusion, we demonstrate that comparison of the degradation rates between domains of a single RNA species provides quantitative information on postmortem degradation states, which can be applied for the estimation of PMI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-417
Number of pages8
JournalMolecules and Cells
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

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© The Korean Society for Molecular and Cellular Biology. All rights reserved.


  • 28S ribosomal RNA (rRNA)
  • Cell death-associated RNA cleavage
  • Postmortem interval (PMI)
  • RNA degrada


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