It is generally accepted within the forensic trace evidence community that a postmortem root band (PMRB) can appear in the root of hairs attached to remains during decomposition. Presently, the specific sequences of events and/or exact molecular signals that lead to the formation of a PMRB are not well understood. The published literature addressing the abiotic and biotic factors that correlate with the formation of PMRBs is reviewed and a conceptual model for the formation of PMRBs is proposed.
A postmortem root band (PMRB) is a distinct microscopic feature that is postulated to occur in hair remaining in the follicle during the postmortem interval  (Petraco et al., 1998). The scientific validity of this premise has been highlighted in two recent high-profile criminal cases involving PMRBs [2,3] (State of Florida v. Casey Marie Anthony, 2008; People v. Kogut, 2005). To better understand the fundamental aspects of postmortem root banding, the microscopical properties of known PMRBs(1) were characterized by light microscopy, and scanning electron microscope (SEM) imaging of microtomed sections of hairs showing root banding. The results from this study show that the appearance of the PMRB may be due to the degradation of the chemically labile, non-keratin intermacrofibrillar matrix (IMM) in the pre-keratin/keratogenous region of anagen hairs. In addition, this degradation is confined to the cortex of the hair, with no apparent damage to the layers of the cuticle. These results could provide valuable information for determining the mechanism of band formation, as well as identify a set of microscopic features that could be used to distinguish hairs with known PMRBs from similarly looking environmentally degraded hairs.
Preserving DNA is important for validation of prospective and retrospective analyses, requiring many expensive types of equipment (e.g., freezers and back-up generators) and energy. While freezing is the most common method for storing extracted DNA evidence or well-characterized DNA samples for validation studies, DNAstable (Biomatrica), a commercially available medium for room temperature storage of DNA extracts was evaluated in this study. Two groups of samples consisting of different DNA quantities were investigated, one ranging from 20 to 400 ng (group 1) and the other one ranging from 1.4 to 20 ng (group 2). The DNA samples with and without DNAstable were stored at four different temperatures [∼25 °C (room temperature), -20 °C, 37 °C or 50 °C]. DNA degradation over several months was monitored by SYBR Green-based qPCR assays and by PCR amplification of the core CODIS STR markers for group 1 and 2 DNA samples, respectively. For the time points tested in this study (up to 365 days), the findings indicate that the -20 °C controls and the DNAstable protected samples at room temperature provided similar DNA recoveries that were higher compared to the unprotected controls kept at RT, 37 °C or 50 °C. These results suggest that DNAstable can protect DNA samples with effectiveness similar to that of the traditional -20 °C freezing method. In addition, extrapolations from accelerated aging experiments conducted at high temperatures support that DNAstable is an effective technology for preserving purified DNA at room temperature with a larger protective impact on DNA samples of low quantity (<20 ng).
Nuclear receptors (NRs) are ligand-activated transcription factors that regulate the expression of genes involved in biologically important processes. The human vitamin D receptor (hVDR) is a member of the NR superfamily and is responsible for maintaining calcium and phosphate homeostasis. This receptor is activated by its natural ligand, 1α, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) (1α, 25(OH)(2)D(3)), as well as bile acids such as lithocholic acid (LCA). Disruption of molecular interactions between the hVDR and its natural ligand result in adverse diseases, such as rickets, making this receptor a good target for drug discovery. Previous mutational analyses of the hVDR have mainly focused on residues lining the receptor's ligand binding pocket (LBP) and techniques such as alanine scanning mutagenesis and site-directed mutagenesis. In this work, a rationally designed hVDR library using randomized codons at selected positions provides insight into the role of residue C410, particularly on activation of the receptor by various ligands. A variant, C410Y, was engineered to bind LCA with increased sensitivity (EC(50) value of 3 μM and a 34-fold activation) in mammalian cell culture assays. Furthermore, this variant displayed activation with a novel small molecule, cholecalciferol (chole) which does not activate the wild-type receptor, with an EC(50) value of 4 μM and a 25-fold activation. The presence of a bulky residue at this position, such as a tyrosine or phenylalanine, may contribute towards molecular interactions that allow for the enhanced activation with LCA and novel activation with chole. Additional bulk at the same end of the pocket, such as in the case of the variant H305F; C410Y enhances the receptor's sensitivity for these ligands further, perhaps due to the filling of a cavity. The effects of residue C410 on specificity and activation with the different ligands studied were unforeseen, as this residue does not line the hVDR's LBP. Further investigating of the structure-function relationships between the hVDR and its ligands, including the mutational tolerance of residues within as well as outside the LBP, is needed for a comprehensive understanding of the functionality and interactions of the receptor with these ligands and for development of new small molecules as potential therapeutic drugs.
The human vitamin D receptor (hVDR) is a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily, involved in calcium and phosphate homeostasis; hence implicated in a number of diseases, such as Rickets and Osteoporosis. This receptor binds 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) (also referred to as 1,25(OH)(2)D(3)) and other known ligands, such as lithocholic acid. Specific interactions between the receptor and ligand are crucial for the function and activation of this receptor, as implied by the single point mutation, H305Q, causing symptoms of Type II Rickets. In this work, further understanding of the significant and essential interactions between the ligand and the receptor was deciphered, through a combination of rational and random mutagenesis. A hVDR mutant, H305F, was engineered with increased sensitivity towards lithocholic acid, with an EC(50) value of 10 μM and 40±14 fold activation in mammalian cell assays, while maintaining wild-type activity with 1,25(OH)(2)D(3). Furthermore, via random mutagenesis, a hVDR mutant, H305F/H397Y, was discovered to bind a novel small molecule, cholecalciferol, a precursor in the 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) biosynthetic pathway, which does not activate wild-type hVDR. This variant, H305F/H397Y, binds and activates in response to cholecalciferol concentrations as low as 100 nM, with an EC(50) value of 300 nM and 70±11 fold activation in mammalian cell assays. In silico docking analysis of the variant displays a dramatic conformational shift of cholecalciferol in the ligand binding pocket in comparison to the docked analysis of cholecalciferol with wild-type hVDR. This shift is hypothesized to be due to the introduction of two bulkier residues, suggesting that the addition of these bulkier residues introduces molecular interactions between the ligand and receptor, leading to activation with cholecalciferol.
The LM:MC conformational search method was used to identify the low energy structures on the OPLS-AA/GBSA(water) and AMBER*/GBSA(water) surfaces for a diastereomeric series of cyclic urea molecules that have been shown to be potent inhibitors of the HIV-1 protease enzyme. The lowest energy structures from each search were then subjected to geometry optimization and frequency analysis using the HF/6-311G** method in conjunction with the self-consistent reaction field (SCRF) treatment for water. A comparison of the diastereomeric energies and structures indicates that the OPLSAA/GBSA(water) surface is in good agreement with the HF/6-311G**/SCRF(water) surface.