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

Bolton, S N; Whitehead, M P; Dudhia, J; Baldwin, T C; Sutton, R


S N Bolton

M P Whitehead

J Dudhia

T C Baldwin

R Sutton


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.


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

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 13, 2014
Publication Date Mar 31, 2015
Deposit Date Aug 12, 2015
Publicly Available Date Aug 12, 2015
Journal Journal of Forensic Sciences
Print ISSN 0022-1198
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 60
Issue 4
Pages 1061-67
Public URL


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