Quantitative analyses of postmortem heat shock protein mrna profiles in the occipital lobes of human cerebral cortices: Implications in cause of death

Ukhee Chung, Joong Seok Seo, Yu Hoon Kim, Gi Hoon Son, Juck Joon Hwang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Quantitative RNA analyses of autopsy materials to diagnose the cause and mechanism of death are challenging tasks in the field of forensic molecular pathology. Alterations in mRNA profiles can be induced by cellular stress responses during supravital reactions as well as by lethal insults at the time of death. Here, we demonstrate that several gene transcripts encoding heat shock proteins (HSPs), a g ene f amily p rimarily r esponsible f or cellular stress responses, can be differentially expressed in the occipital region of postmortem human cerebral cortices with regard to the cause of death. HSPA2 mRNA levels were higher in subjects who died due to mechanical asphyxiation (ASP), compared with those who died by traumatic injury (TI). By contrast, HSPA7 and A13 gene transcripts were much higher in the TI group than in the ASP and sudden cardiac death (SCD) groups. More importantly, relative abundances between such HSP mRNA species exhibit a stronger correlation to, and thus provide more discriminative information on, the death process than does routine normalization to a housekeeping gene. Therefore, the present study proposes alterations in HSP mRNA composition in the occipital lobe as potential forensic biological markers, which may implicate the cause and process of death.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-480
Number of pages8
JournalMolecules and Cells
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Nov 1



  • Cause of death
  • Heat shock protein (HSP)
  • Molecular pathology
  • MRNA
  • Postmortem brain tissue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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