Forensic drowning site inference employing mixed pyrosequencing profile of DNA barcode gene (rbcL)

  • Ting Fang
  • Shiping Liao
  • Xiaogang Chen
  • Yuancun Zhao
  • Qiang Zhu
  • Yueyan Cao
  • Qiuyue Wang
  • Shu Zhang
  • Zehua Gao
  • Yiwen Yang
  • Yufang WangEmail author
  • Ji ZhangEmail author
Original Article


The development of DNA barcoding method has given rise to a promising way of studying genetic taxonomy. Our previous study showed that pyrosequencing profile of 18S rDNA V7 hypervariable region can be used for identifying water sources without resolving the exact components of diatom colonies in water samples. In this continued study, we aimed to improve the established analysis method and to provide scientific evidence for forensic practices. A drowning animal model was set up by injecting mimic drowning fluid into the respiratory tract of the rabbit. In order to minimize the interference of animal DNA, the hypervariable region of chloroplast ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase large unit gene (rbcL) was used as the pyrosequencing target region for the consistency analysis of plankton populations in tissues and water samples. After decoding the pyrosequencing profile of the targeted rbcL gene with the AdvISER-M-PYRO algorithm, the plankton colony that was inhaled into drowning animal lung tissue could be successfully traced back to the source of drowning fluid. Our data suggest that this method could be a reliable tool assisting forensic drowning site inference.


Forensic science Drowning site inference Diatom Plankton DNA barcode rbcL Pyrosequencing 



We thank Dr. John J Xin (Tufts University School of Medicine) for assistance in manuscript revision, as well as Miss Yue Zhang and Mr. Derek Xu (Brown University) for language editing.

Funding information

This study was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81630054, 81571861).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

414_2019_2075_MOESM1_ESM.docx (4.5 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 4567 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.West China School of Basic Medical Sciences and Forensic MedicineSichuan UniversityChengduChina

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