Trace DNA and its persistence on various surfaces: A long term study investigating the influence of surface type and environmental conditions - Part one, metals

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It is imperative for proper evidence triage that forensic biologists understand what kind of results to expect from certain evidence types submitted for DNA analysis. The persistence of trace DNA has been insufficiently investigated and there is little data available pertaining to the persistence of DNA in different environmental conditions and on different materials. The goal of this study is to increase the available data on this topic which would, in turn, help forensic biologists manage expectations when submitting specific evidence types for DNA testing. The work presented herein is a large-scale persistence project aimed to identify trends in the persistence of trace DNA and indicate how different environmental storage conditions and target surface characteristics influence the persistence of cellular and cell free DNA (cfDNA) over time. To eliminate variation within the experiment we used a proxy DNA deposit consisting of a synthetic fingerprint solution, cellular DNA, and/or cfDNA. Samples were collected and analysed from 7 metals over the course of 1 year (27 time points) under 3 different environmental storage conditions. The results of this experiment show that metal type greatly influences DNA persistence. For instance, copper exhibited an expected poor DNA persistence (up to 4 h) which a purification step did not help increase the DNA yield. Alternatively, DNA can persist for up to a year on lead at levels potentially high enough to allow for forensic DNA testing. Additionally, this study showed that the sample storage environment had no impact on DNA persistence in most cases. When considering DNA type, cfDNA was shown to persist for longer than cellular DNA and persistence as a whole appears to be better when DNA is deposited as mixtures over when deposited alone. Unsurprisingly, it can be expected that DNA recovery rates from trace deposits will decrease over time. However, DNA decay is highly dependent on the metal surface and extremely variable at short time points but slightly less variable as time since deposition increases. This data is intended to add to our understanding of DNA persistence and the factors which affect it.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103011
Number of pages20
JournalForensic Science International: Genetics
Early online date29 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • Trace DNA
  • Persistence
  • Synthetic Fingerprint Solution
  • Cellular DNA
  • Cell free DNA
  • Environmental Factors
  • Time
  • Synthetic fingerprint solution
  • Environmental factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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