Unlocking Ancient Protein Palimpsests

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Science  21 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6177, pp. 1320-1322
DOI: 10.1126/science.1249274

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Over the past 30 years, ancient DNA studies have grown from a scientific curiosity into a powerful research tool with applications in molecular evolution, archaeology, paleontology, conservation genetics, and forensics. The analysis of ancient proteins has lagged behind that of ancient DNA, but recent developments in high-throughput, high-resolution mass spectrometry (MS) have the potential to provide the accuracy and robustness required for confident and reliable sequencing of ancient proteins. This methodology may allow biomolecular recovery to be extended further back in time, because DNA chains fall apart 10 times faster (1) than proteins (2). Furthermore, mass spectrometry enables investigation of protein expression specific for different tissues, developmental phases, or biological processes, including disease states.