A unified protocol for simultaneous extraction of DNA and proteins from archaeological dental calculus

Zandra Fagernäs, Maite I. García-Collado, Jessica Hendy, Courtney A. Hofman, Camilla Speller, Irina Velsko, Christina Warinner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Archaeological materials are a finite resource, and efforts should be made to minimize destructive analyses. This can be achieved by using protocols combining extraction of several types of biomolecules or microparticles, which decreases the material needed for analyses while maximizing the information yield. Archaeological dental calculus is a source of several different types of biomolecules, as well as microfossils, and can tell us about the human host, microbiome, diet, and even occupational activities. Here, we present a unified protocol allowing for simultaneous extraction of DNA and proteins from a single sample of archaeological dental calculus. We evaluate the protocol on dental calculus from six individuals from a range of time periods and estimated preservation states, and compare it against previously published DNA-only and protein-only protocols. We find that most aspects of downstream analyses are unaltered by the unified protocol, although minor shifts in the recovered proteome can be detected, such as a slight loss of hydrophilic proteins. Total protein recovery depends on both the amount of starting material and choice of extraction protocol, whereas total DNA recovery is significantly reduced using the unified protocol (mean 43%). Nevertheless, total DNA recovery from dental calculus is generally very high, and we found no differences in DNA fragment characteristics or taxonomic profile between the protocols. In conclusion, the unified protocol allows for simultaneous extraction of two complementary lines of biomolecular evidence from archaeological dental calculus without compromising downstream results, thereby minimizing the need for destructive analysis of this finite resource.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105135
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of archaeological science
Early online date24 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors.


  • Ancient DNA
  • Dental plaque
  • Metagenomics
  • Oral microbiome
  • Palaeoproteomics

Cite this