Epigenome and Paleogenome>> Pushing back the limits and improving reliability of palaeogenetic analyses
1. Contamination prevention and decontamination : contaminomics
Ancient DNA is highly degraded and its research is therefore characterized by extreme technical difficulties. In order to analyze efficiently and reliably the few and very short DNA molecules that are preserved in ancient samples, one needs to overcome the problems due to the contamination with modern environmental DNA. We have developed an expertise in the establishment of genuine procedures for the study of ancient DNA to prevent and eliminate contaminations, minimise PCR inhibition and reduce amplification errors.
2. Molecular Taphonomy
We study the chemical processes that preserve DNA in calcified tissues of fossil mammals via the systematical characterization of molecular transformations affecting biomolecules during fossilisation. The aim is the methodological development of ancient DNA analysis in order to push back the current limits in time and space. One part of this research is conducted in collaboration with chemists specializing in natural organic matter from the Helmholtz Center in Munich, Germany through high resolution spectrometry analysis (FTICR, 12 Tesla) of ancient bone samples, which we have characterized genetically prior to the chemical analysis. Presently we establish the correlations between the various environmental factors and DNA preservation.
3. Impact of the post-excavation treatment of bones on DNA preservation
Prior to the research of chemical transformations in bones, we could show that DNA can be quickly degraded after exhumation if the conditions are not adequate (Pruvost et al., 2007).