Nav: Home

Ancient proteins offer clues to the past

May 22, 2019

Archeologists once relied solely on artifacts, such as skeletal remains, fossils and pottery sherds, to learn about past species and cultures. Today's scientists can also study ancient proteins to paint a more complete picture of the people who lived at archeological sites, and the plants and animals they raised and ate, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

For the past couple of decades, scientists have been sequencing ancient DNA to uncover information about ancestral humans and other animals. However, DNA isn't very stable over long periods of time and cannot be recovered from many ancient remains, Senior Correspondent Celia Henry Arnaud writes. In contrast, proteins are hardier: For example, scientists have recovered and analyzed proteins from an approximately 1.77-mllion-year-old rhinoceros tooth. To identify ancient proteins, most researchers rely on mass spectrometry, using data from this technique to search protein databases. However, they face challenges, such as protein degradation, contamination of samples with modern proteins and matching mass spectral data to information in a modern protein database.

Despite these challenges, researchers have made intriguing discoveries about the lives and diets of ancestral humans. For example, Jessica Hendy at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History extracted and analyzed proteins from ceramic vessels unearthed in Turkey, revealing that the pots were used to prepare grains, legumes, dairy products and meat. To study how the raising of animals for milk spread across the globe, Christina Warinner, also at the Max Planck Institute, analyzed dairy proteins in the dental plaque of ancient Mongolians, finding that they consumed dairy products long before the first known genetic mutations for lactose tolerance. In this way, the study of ancient proteins can provide information not available by solely looking at DNA.
-end-
The article, "Ancient proteins tell tales of our ancestors," is freely available here.

The American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us on Twitter | Facebook

American Chemical Society

Related Dna Articles:

Penn State DNA ladders: Inexpensive molecular rulers for DNA research
New license-free tools will allow researchers to estimate the size of DNA fragments for a fraction of the cost of currently available methods.
It is easier for a DNA knot...
How can long DNA filaments, which have convoluted and highly knotted structure, manage to pass through the tiny pores of biological systems?
How do metals interact with DNA?
Since a couple of decades, metal-containing drugs have been successfully used to fight against certain types of cancer.
Electrons use DNA like a wire for signaling DNA replication
A Caltech-led study has shown that the electrical wire-like behavior of DNA is involved in the molecule's replication.
Switched-on DNA
DNA, the stuff of life, may very well also pack quite the jolt for engineers trying to advance the development of tiny, low-cost electronic devices.
More Dna News and Dna Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...