Traces of Life’s Experiences: Epigenetics (DNA methylation) in Forensics

  • Meenu GhaiEmail author
  • Dyfed Lloyd Evans
  • Shailesh Joshi
Reference work entry


Since the development of methylation-based diagnostic biomarkers, the application of DNA methylation in forensic investigation is also rapidly gaining ground. DNA methylation patterns are established during early embryonic development and are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors like diet, age, stress, socioeconomic status, and habitat. Identification of differentially methylated regions (DMRs) which differ between tissues or phenotypes can be targeted for forensic applications. Tissue-specific methylation differences can be used for accurate identification of body fluid/ tissue source found at a crime scene. Age-specific methylation changes in repetitive genomic regions have been used to develop epigenetic clocks for age estimation. DNA methylation patterns differ even between monozygotic twins and can assist with the challenge of their identification. Recent development of whole genome methylation analysis platforms like Illumina whole genome methylation bead chips and single-cell reduced bisulfite sequencing has opened the doors for large-scale survey of methylation differences in both CpG islands and non-CpG regions. Future research could predict an individual’s social behavior and activities by applying DNA methylation indicators. Advancements in DNA methylation analysis for forensics will complement the current STR analysis and provide robust inferences for forensic evidence and human identification.


DNA methylation Forensics Differentially methylated regions (DMRs) Tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (tDMRs) Body fluid identification Monozygotic twins Forensic age estimation Behavioral epigenetics Population epigenetics 

List of Abbreviations




DNA methylation age measures


Differentially methylated regions


DNA methylation




Imprinting control regions


Long interspersed elements


Methylated DNA capture by affinity purification sequencing


Methylated DNA immunoprecipitation sequencing


Methylation-specific restriction enzyme polymerase chain reaction


Methylation-sensitive single-nucleotide primer extension




Signal joint TCR excision circles


Single-nucleotide polymorphism


Simple sequence repeat


Whole genome bisulfite sequencing


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meenu Ghai
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dyfed Lloyd Evans
    • 1
  • Shailesh Joshi
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-Natal,Westville CampusDurbanSouth Africa

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