Assessment of different screening methods for selecting palaeontological bone samples for peptide sequencing

Samantha Presslee*, Kirsty Penkman, Roman Fischer, Eden Richards-Slidel, John Southon, Carolina Acosta Hospitaleche, Matthew Collins, Ross MacPhee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ancient proteomics is being applied to samples dating further and further back in time, with many palaeontological specimens providing protein sequence data for phylogenetic analysis as well as protein degradation studies. However, fossils are a precious material and proteomic analysis is destructive and costly. In this paper we consider three different techniques (ATR-FTIR, MALDI-ToF MS and chiral AA analysis) to screen fossil material for potential protein preservation, aiming to maximise the proteomic information recovered and saving costly time consuming analyses which may produce low quality results. It was found that splitting factor and C/P indices from ATR-FTIR were not a reliable indicator of protein survival as they are confounded by secondary mineralisation of the fossil material. Both MALDI-ToF MS and chiral AA analysis results were able to successfully identify samples with surviving proteins, and it is suggested that one or both of these analyses be used for screening palaeontological specimens. Significance: This study has shown both chiral amino acid analysis and MALDI-ToF MS are reliable screening methods for predicting protein survival in fossils. Both these methods are quick, cheap, minimally destructive (1 mg and 15 mg respectively) and can provide crucial additional information about the endogeneity of the surviving proteins. It is hoped that the use of these screening methods will encourage the examination of a wide range of palaeontological specimens for potential proteomic analysis. This in turn will give us a better understanding of protein survival far back in time and under different environmental conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103986
Number of pages10
Early online date14 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2020 Elsevier B.V. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Chiral AA analysis
  • Collagen
  • Palaeoproteomics

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