Individual case analysis of postmortem interval time on brain tissue preservation

Jeffrey A. Blair, Chunyu Wang, Damarys Hernandez, Sandra L. Siedlak, Mark S. Rodgers, Rojan K. Achar, Lara M. Fahmy, Sandy L. Torres, Robert B. Petersen, Xiongwei Zhu, Gemma Casadesus, Hyoung Gon Lee

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At autopsy, the time that has elapsed since the time of death is routinely documented and noted as the postmortem interval (PMI). The PMI of human tissue samples is a parameter often reported in research studies and comparable PMI is preferred when comparing different populations, i.e., disease versus control patients. In theory, a short PMI may alleviate non-experimental protein denaturation, enzyme activity, and other chemical changes such as the pH, which could affect protein and nucleic acid integrity. Previous studies have compared PMI en masse by looking at many different individual cases each with one unique PMI, which may be affected by individual variance. To overcome this obstacle, in this study human hippocampal segments from the same individuals were sampled at different time points after autopsy creating a series of PMIs for each case. Frozen and fixed tissue was then examined by Western blot, RT-PCR, and immunohistochemistry to evaluate the effect of extended PMI on proteins, nucleic acids, and tissue morphology. In our results, immunostaining profiles for most proteins remained unchanged even after PMI of over 50 h, yet by Western blot distinctive degradation patterns were observed in different protein species. Finally, RNA integrity was lower after extended PMI; however, RNA preservation was variable among cases suggesting antemortem factors may play a larger role than PMI in protein and nucleic acid integrity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0151615
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2016


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