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Schwarz, C, Debruyne R, Kuch M, McNally E, Schwarcz H, Aubrey AD, Bada J, Poinar H.  2009.  New insights from old bones: DNA preservation and degradation in permafrost preserved mammoth remains. Nucleic Acids Research. 37:3215-3229.   10.1093/nar/gkp159   AbstractWebsite

Despite being plagued by heavily degraded DNA in palaeontological remains, most studies addressing the state of DNA degradation have been limited to types of damage which do not pose a hindrance to Taq polymerase during PCR. Application of serial qPCR to the two fractions obtained during extraction (demineralization and protein digest) from six permafrost mammoth bones and one partially degraded modern elephant bone has enabled further insight into the changes which endogenous DNA is subjected to during diagenesis. We show here that both fractions exhibit individual qualities in terms of the prevailing type of DNA (i.e. mitochondrial versus nuclear DNA) as well as the extent of damage, and in addition observed a highly variable ratio of mitochondrial to nuclear DNA among the six mammoth samples. While there is evidence suggesting that mitochondrial DNA is better preserved than nuclear DNA in ancient permafrost samples, we find the initial DNA concentration in the bone tissue to be as relevant for the total accessible mitochondrial DNA as the extent of DNA degradation post-mortem. We also evaluate the general applicability of indirect measures of preservation such as amino-acid racemization, bone crystallinity index and thermal age to these exceptionally well-preserved samples.

Glavin, DP, Schubert M, Bada JL.  2002.  Direct isolation of purines and pyrimidines from nucleic acids using sublimation. Analytical Chemistry. 74:6408-6412.   10.1021/ac0259663   AbstractWebsite

A sublimation technique was developed to isolate purines and pyrimidines directly from lambda-deoxyribonucleic acid (lambda-DNA) and Escherichia coli cells. The sublimation of adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine from lambda-DNA was tested under reduced pressure (similar to 0.5 Torr) at temperatures of > 150 degreesC. With the exception of guanine, approximately 60-75% of each base was sublimed directly from the lambda-DNA and recovered on a coldfinger of the sublimation apparatus after heating to 450 T. Several nucleobases including adenine, cytosine, thymine, and uracil were also recovered from E. coli bacteria after heating the cells to the same temperature, although some thermal decomposition of the bases also occurred. These results demonstrate the feasibility of using sublimation to isolate purines and pyrimidines from native E. coli DNA and RNA without any chemical treatment of the cells.

Bada, JL.  1998.  Biogeochemistry of organic nitrogen compounds. Nitrogen-Containing Macromolecules in the Bio- and Geosphere. 707( Stankiewicz BA, VanBergen PF, Eds.).:64-73., Washington: Amer Chemical Soc Abstract

Nitrogen containing organic compounds represent the second most abundant reservoir of nitrogen on the surface of the Earth. However, the organic compounds that make up this global nitrogen pool are not well characterized. Although amino acids and the nitrogenous bases of nucleic acids make up only a few percent of the total organic nitrogen reservoir, the geochemical reactions of these compounds have been extensively studied. Because hydrolysis reactions are rapid on the geologic time scale, both proteins and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) are not preserved for more than 10(3) to 10(5) years in most environments. The racemization reaction of amino acids converts the L-amino acids present in the biosphere into a racemic mixture (D/L amino acid ratio = 1.0) in the geosphere in less than 10(6) years. Anhydrous conditions, such as those that may be associated with amber entombed insects, may retard both biopolymer hydrolysis and racemization. Condensation reactions between amino acids and sugars, including sugars at apurinic sites in nucleic acid fragments, likely result in the incorporation of these compounds into geopolymers such as humic acids. Although rearrangement reactions in geopolymers may scramble the original molecular structures, part of the global organic nitrogen inventory was originally derived from amino acids and nucleic acid bases.