A denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) assay was used to detect mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence heteroplasmy in 160 hairs from each of three individuals. The HV1 and HV2 heteroplasmic positions were then identified by sequencing. In several hairs, the heteroplasmic position was not evident by sequencing and dHPLC separation of the homoduplex/heteroduplex species was carried out with subsequent reamplification and sequencing to identify the site. The overall detection frequency of sequence heteroplasmy in these hairs was 5.8% (28/480) with DGGE and 4.4% (21/280) with sequencing. Sequence heteroplasmy of hair was observed even when the reference blood sample of the individual was homoplasmic. The heteroplasmic positions were not necessarily observed at sites where high rates of substitution have been reported. In two hairs, a complete single base change from the reference blood sample was observed with sequencing, while the heteroplasmic condition at that site in the hair was observed using DGGE. The DGGE results in such samples would serve as an aid in considering the possibility of match significance. In a forensic case, this situation would lead to the possibility of a failure to exclude rather than to be inconclusive.
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