Identifying methylation patterns in dental pulp aging: Application to age-at-death estimation in forensic anthropology

Sara C. Zapico, Quentin Gauthier, Aleksandra Antevska, Bruce R. McCord

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Age-at-death estimation constitutes one of the key parameters for identification of human remains in forensic investigations. However, for applications in forensic anthropology, many current methods are not sufficiently accurate for adult individuals, leading to chronological age estimates erring by ±10 years. Based on recent trends in aging studies, DNA methylation has great potential as a solution to this problem. However, there are only a few studies that have been published utilizing DNA methylation to determine age from human remains. The aim of the present study was to expand the range of this work by analyzing DNA methylation in dental pulp from adult individuals. Healthy erupted third molars were extracted from individuals aged 22–70. DNA from pulp was isolated and bisulfite converted. Pyrosequencing was the chosen technique to assess DNA methylation. As noted in previous studies, we found that ELOVL2 and FHL2 CpGs played a role in age estimation. In addition, three new markers were evaluated—NPTX2, KLF14, and SCGN. A set of CpGs from these five loci was used in four different multivariate regression models, providing a Mean Absolute Error (MAE) between predicted and chronological age of 1.5–2.13 years. The findings from this research can improve age estimation, increasing the accuracy of identification in forensic anthropology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3717
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


  • Adults
  • Age-at-death estimation
  • DNA methylation
  • ELOVL2
  • FHL2
  • KLF14
  • NPTX2
  • Pulp
  • SCGN
  • Teeth


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