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A guide to ancient protein studies

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JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
DateSubmitted - 30 Jun 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 19 Feb 2018
DatePublished (current) - 1 May 2018
Issue number5
Volume2
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)791-799
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Palaeoproteomics is an emerging neologism used to describe the application of mass spectrometry-based approaches to the study of ancient proteomes. As with palaeogenomics (the study of ancient DNA), it intersects evolutionary biology, archaeology and anthropology, with applications ranging from the phylogenetic reconstruction of extinct species to the investigation of past human diets and ancient diseases. However, there is no explicit consensus at present regarding standards for data reporting, data validation measures or the use of suitable contamination controls in ancient protein studies. Additionally, in contrast to the ancient DNA community, no consolidated guidelines have been proposed by which researchers, reviewers and editors can evaluate palaeoproteomics data, in part due to the novelty of the field. Here we present a series of precautions and standards for ancient protein research that can be implemented at each stage of analysis, from sample selection to data interpretation. These guidelines are not intended to impose a narrow or rigid list of authentication criteria, but rather to support good practices in the field and to ensure the generation of robust, reproducible results. As the field grows and methodologies change, so too will best practices. It is therefore essential that researchers continue to provide necessary details on how data were generated and authenticated so that the results can be independently and effectively evaluated. We hope that these proposed standards of practice will help to provide a firm foundation for the establishment of palaeoproteomics as a viable and powerful tool for archaeologists, anthropologists and evolutionary biologists.

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