A new method for carbon isotopic analysis of protein

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Science  01 Feb 1991:
Vol. 251, Issue 4993, pp. 552-554
DOI: 10.1126/science.1990430


The reaction of ninhydrin with amino acids can be used in carbon isotopic studies of protein. The reaction can be applied to extract as carbon dioxide only peptide-bonded carbon in proteinaceous material, thus avoiding most, if not all, contaminants. Test radiocarbon dates on ancient bone indicate that the method provides reliable ages, and stable carbon isotopic data suggest that our understanding of isotopic dietary reconstruction needs detailed examination. The technique should also be useful in biochemical tracing experiments and in global carbon budget studies, and the underlying principle may be applicable to other isotopes and molecules.

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