Springer Verlag, International Journal of Legal Medicine, 3(124), p. 217-226
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are non-protein coding molecules with important regulatory functions; many have tissue-specific expression patterns. Their very small size in principle makes them less prone to degradation processes, unlike messenger RNAs (mRNAs), which were previously proposed as molecular tools for forensic body fluid identification. To identify suitable miRNA markers for forensic body fluid identification, we first screened total RNA samples derived from saliva, semen, vaginal secretion, and venous and menstrual blood for the expression of 718 human miRNAs using a microarray platform. All body fluids could be easily distinguished from each other on the basis of complete array-based miRNA expression profiles. Results from quantitative reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR; TaqMan) assays for microarray candidate markers confirmed strong over-expression in the targeting body fluid of several miRNAs for venous blood and several others for semen. However, no candidate markers from array experiments for other body fluids such as saliva, vaginal secretion, or menstrual blood could be confirmed by RT-PCR. Time-wise degradation of venous blood and semen stains for at least 1 year under lab conditions did not significantly affect the detection sensitivity of the identified miRNA markers. The detection limit of the TaqMan assays tested for selected venous blood and semen miRNA markers required only subpicogram amounts of total RNA per single RT-PCR test, which is considerably less than usually needed for reliable mRNA RT-PCR detection. We therefore propose the application of several stable miRNA markers for the forensic identification of blood stains and several others for semen stain identification, using commercially available TaqMan assays. Additional work remains necessary in search for suitable miRNA markers for other forensically relevant body fluids.