23.10.2017 - 21:06
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Palaeoproteomics

Proteomic research projects within the Department of Human Evolution focus on shotgun proteomics, primarily on hominin bone and dental samples, and ZooMS screening at archaeological sites of various ages.

ZooMS screening  (Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry) allows us to

1) identify the presence of particular species that would be of interest from chronological, dietary, ecological and/or behavioural perspectives,

2) investigate past faunal community composition by obtaining a complete view of taxa presence by including both morphologically-identified and ZooMS-identified species compositions. We are particularly interested in identifying hominin remains for Middle to Upper Palaeolithic “transitional” industries by large-scale ZooMS screening at key assemblages across Eurasia. Furthermore, our two-step extraction process (see Ancient protein extraction) provides us with additional insights into collagen preservation at temporal and spatial scales within sites and between sites.

Relevant papers on ZooMS applications by the Department of Human Evolution can be found at:

http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1605834113

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/20548923.2016.1258825

Ancient proteomes

We are interested in developing methods for the extraction and analysis of ancient hominin proteomes for phylogenetic and physiological purposes. We have placed particular emphasis on the explicit testing of de novo/error-tolerant bioinformatics algorithms to facilitate the accurate description of novel protein sequences. This has allowed us to provide the first biomolecular sequence data available for a group of extinct South American mammals, to build a collagen type I sequence database facilitating accurate ZooMS identifications, as well as the detection of protein sequence differences between modern humans and Neanderthals.

Working with ancient hominin proteomes requires careful consideration of modern human protein contamination within and outside the laboratory environment.
We actively seek ways to

1) minimize protein contamination during the laboratory work, and
2) to potentially differentiate between contaminating proteins/peptides and endogenous hominin proteins after bioinformatic analysis.

Relevant papers on hominin shotgun proteomics and de novo/error-tolerant ancient protein sequence analysis can be found at:

http://doi.org/10.1038/nature14249

http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1605834113

Partial ZooMS spectra of three different mammal species.