FW: [ANTHRO-L] MtDNA Database Errors
Message-----Original Message-----Those interested in traceing MtDNA Eve should be interested in an article published in the February 20, 2003 issue of 'Nature' pages 773 and 774.
From: Jerry Warren [mailto:Theghofm@...]
Sent: Monday, March 10, 2003 3:36 PM
Subject: [ANTHRO-L] MtDNA Database Errors
Error Reports Threaten To Unravel Databases Of Mitochondrial DNA
by Carina Dennis
More than half of all published studies of human mitochondrisl DNA (mtDNA) sequences contain mistakes, according to a geneticist at the University of Cambridge.
To the occasional chagrin of his peers, Peter Forster has repeatedly pointed out errors in published mtDNA sequences, the genetic material from cells mitochondria, which are inherited from the mother. But his commmentary in the latest issue of 'Annals of Human Genetics' argues that the problem is far bigger than researchers had imagined.
The mistakes may be so extensive that geneticists could be drawing incorrect conclusions in studies of human populations and evolution, says Forster. They may also confuse forensic analyses that rely on the published squences, he adds.
Published mtDNA sequences are popular tools for investigating the evolution and demography of human populations. Forster has been compiling a database of corrected mitochondrial sequences published since 1981, when the complete sequence of human mtDNA - known as the 'Cambridge reference sequence' - was published. His coleagues' responses when he informs them of errors are varied. "Antagonism would be an understatement in some cases," he says.
Perhaps the gravest concern surrounds forensic investigations. Because large numbers of mitochondria are present in cells, they are often used to identify degraded samples from which nuclear DNA cannot be obtained. But the region of mtDNA typicaly used in forensics - the 'control region' - is highly variable, says geneticist Douglas Wallace of the University of Californis, Irvine. "People don't appreciate the fact that the control region can undergo different mutations in different cells," he says. For instance, there might be differences between mtDNA from someone's blood and from the same person's hair follicle.
Forster notes that nuclear DNA sequences in public databases are also plagued by errors, and that this may be an even greater problem, as such mistakes are more difficult to detect.
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