My First Mother

This 2.5 day course offers participants detailed practical and theoretical insights into modern molecular biology and its importance for the investigation of European humankind and their evolution.


Mitochondria are organelles in eukaryotic cells. Since they generate most chemical energy they are described as "cellular power plants". Mitochondria carry their own genetic material (mtDNA) in form of a circular DNA molecule, which is exclusively passed on along the female line. The mtDNA of each person is thus identical to its mother’s, grandmother's and great-grandmother's.

Two short mtDNA segments are known today to be highly variable. All of the variations found in more than 95% of recent Europeans can be grouped into only 7 types. It is assumed that these 7 types go back to 7 women, the 7 'first mothers' of Europe, also known as the '7 daughters of Eve' , who got their respective types by mutations 10000 - 45000 years ago and have passed it on unchanged in a maternal line. 

In this course participants will have the chance to trace back their own mtDNA-type to one of these 7 mothers. DNA will be extracted, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) will be carried out, PCR products will be analyzed by restriction and DNA-sequencing. The results of the sequencing will then be computationally edited and compared (aligned) to the reference sequence from the scientific online-database. Furthermore, the computer will be introduced as the currently most important tool for in silico molecular analysis.


The following techniques will be applied:

Extraction of DNA
Restriction analysis of DNA
Agarose gel electrophoresis
Polymerase chain reaction
Purification of PCR fragments for DNA sequencing
In silico DNA sequence analysis


Duration: 2 ½ days
Number of participants: Max. 20