Screening archaeological bone for palaeogenetic and palaeoproteomic studies


The recovery and analysis of ancient DNA and protein from archaeological bone is timeconsuming and expensive to carry out, while it involves the partial or complete destruction of valuable or rare specimens. The fields of palaeogenetic and palaeoproteomic research would benefit greatly from techniques that can assess the molecular quality prior to sampling.
To be relevant, such screening methods should be effective, minimally-destructive, and rapid. This study reports results based on spectroscopic (Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy in attenuated total reflectance [FTIR-ATR]; n = 266), palaeoproteomic (collagen content; n = 226), and palaeogenetic (endogenous DNA content; n = 88) techniques.
We establish thresholds for three different FTIR indices, a) the infrared splitting factor [IRSF] that assesses relative changes in bioapatite crystals’ size and homogeneity; b) the carbonate-to-phosphate [C/P] ratio as a relative measure of carbonate content in bioapatite crystals; and c) the amide-to-phosphate ratio [Am/P] for assessing the relative organic content preserved in bone. These thresholds are both extremely reliable and easy to apply for the successful and rapid distinction between well- and poorly-preserved specimens. This is a milestone for choosing appropriate samples prior to genomic and collagen analyses, with important implications for biomolecular archaeology and palaeontology.


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Kontopoulos, I., Penkmann, K., Mullin, V., Winkelbach, L., Unterländer, M., Scheu, A., Kreutzer, S., Hansen, H., Margaryan, A., Teasdale, M., Gehlen, B., Street, M., Lynnerup, N., Liritzis, I., Sampson, A., Papageorgopoulou, C., Allentoft, M., Burger, J., Bradley, D., Collins, M. (2020): Screening archaeological bone for palaeogenetic and palaeoproteomic studies. Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, GERMANY – In: Plos One, Vol. June 25, 2020, p: 17, DOI: journal.pone.0235146

Authors Kontopoulos, Ioannis and Penkmann, Kirsty and Mullin, Victoria E. and Winkelbach, Laura and Unterländer, Martina and Scheu, Amelie and Kreutzer, Susanne and Hansen, Henrik B. and Margaryan, Ashot and Teasdale, Matthew D. and Gehlen, Birgit and Street, Martin and Lynnerup, Niels and Liritzis, Ioannis and Sampson, Adamantios and Papageorgopoulou, Christina and Allentoft, Morten E. and Burger, Joachim and Bradley, Daniel G. and Collins, Matthew J.
Type article
Title Screening archaeological bone for palaeogenetic and palaeoproteomic studies
DOI journal.pone.0235146
Journal Plos One
Year 2020
Volume June 25, 2020
Pages 17
Publisher Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, GERMANY
Month June
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