Molecular cloning of Ancient Egyptian mummy DNA


Artificial mummification was practised in Egypt from 2600 BC until the fourth century AD. Because of the dry Egyptian climate, however, there are also many natural mummies preserved from earlier as well as later times. To elucidate whether this unique source of ancient human remains can be used for molecular genetic analyses, 23 mummies were investigated for DNA content. One 2,400-yr-old mummy of a child was found to contain DNA that could be molecularly cloned in a plasmid vector. I report here that one such clone contains two members of the Alu family of human repetitive DNA sequences, as detected by DNA hybridizations and nucleotide sequencing. These analyses show that substantial pieces of mummy DNA (3.4 kilobases) can be cloned and that the DNA fragments seem to contain little or no modifications introduced postmortem.

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Pääbo, S. Molecular cloning of Ancient Egyptian mummy DNA. Nature 314, 644–645 (1985).

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