The survival of PCR-amplifiable DNA in cow leather

Annick Vuissoz, Michael Worobey, Nancy N Odegaard, Michael Bunce, Carlos A. Machado, Niels Lynnerup, Elizabeth E. Peacock, M. Thomas P Gilbert

32 Scopus citations


We have investigated the survival of PCR-amplifiable mitochondrial and nuclear DNA in a small number of modern and medieval bovine leather samples. The results of this preliminary investigation demonstrate that, while no nuclear DNA can be PCR-amplified from any of the specimens, mitochondrial DNA can be amplified from all samples. To investigate this contrasting pattern of DNA survival further, we have vegetable-tanned cow skin in our own laboratory, and directly assayed the survival of PCR-amplifiable mitochondrial and nuclear DNA at each step of the process. The results indicate that nuclear DNA is reduced to sub-amplifiable levels as a result of the tanning baths, whereas amplifiable mitochondrial DNA survives the complete process. Our results suggest that old and archaeological bovine leather may represent a useful source of genetic information, although this information will most likely be limited to that which can be gained from mitochondrial DNA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)823-829
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2007



  • Ancient DNA
  • Degradation
  • Leather
  • PCR
  • Tanning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Archaeology

Cite this

Vuissoz, A., Worobey, M., Odegaard, N. N., Bunce, M., Machado, C. A., Lynnerup, N., ... Gilbert, M. T. P. (2007). The survival of PCR-amplifiable DNA in cow leather. Journal of Archaeological Science, 34(5), 823-829.