3-Methoxytyramine in the putamen as a gauge of the postmortem interval

D. L. Sparks, J. T. Slevin, J. C. Hunsaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The armamentarium of the forensic thanatologist includes the examiner's subjective assessment of bodily changes together with comprehensive evaluation of environmental and associated factors to estimate the postmortem interval (PMI). Of the various objective means, postmortem accumulation of potassium in vitreous humor is a widely used gauge. In view of the considerable variability inherent in these techniques, an additional marker with greater accuracy would be a welcome supplement to these indices. We have developed a method of estimating PMI from the level of 3-methoxytyramine (3-MT) in the dorsal putamen of the brain. The supernatent of a sample of putamen, sonicated in 6 volumes (weight/volume) of 0.1 M perchloric acid and centrifuged at 51,000 times gravity for 10 min, was analyzed for 3-MT using high-pressure liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection. The change of 3-MT in the putamen is linearly related to the PMI (range: 5.5 to 60 h), irrespective of patient age (1 to 84 years). This observation is attributable to several factors, including high substrate (dopamine) concentration, preservation of catechol-O-methyl transferase activity, and an inactivation of monoamine oxidase activity, as a result of a decrease in tissue pO2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)962-971
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Genetics


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