Make new methods but keep the old: Exploring the use of DNA analysis to study stress in past populations

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University of New Brunswick


The main aim of this project is to develop and adapt a method currently used in clinical research, DNA methylation analysis of a gene target, to assess stress in past human populations using ancient DNA (aDNA). Specifically, this work will focus on three goals: a) extracting and purifying aDNA from an archaeological source, b) developing a method to amplify and sequence the NR3C1 gene (which encodes the glucocorticoid receptor), including the design and testing of primers that successfully target the gene and optimizing a PCR protocol for use with the primers, and c) applying this method to aDNA extracted from archaeological sources. This preliminary work will allow future researchers to assess differences in methylation levels of NR3C1 and to ascertain whether methylation of that locus can be used to gain additional information on stress in past populations (González Ramírez et al., 2020; Liu & Nusslock, 2017; McGowan et al., 2009).