Multi-protease analysis of Pleistocene bone proteomes

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Ancient protein analysis is providing new insights into the evolutionary relationships between hominin fossils across the Pleistocene. Protein identification commonly relies on the proteolysis of a protein extract using a single protease, trypsin. As with modern proteome studies, alternative or additional proteases have the potential to increase both proteome size and protein sequence recovery. This could enhance the phylogenetic potential recovered from ancient proteomes. Here we identify 18 novel hominin bone specimens from the Kleine Feldhofer Grotte using MALDI-TOF MS peptide mass fingerprinting of collagen type I. Next, we use one of these hominin bone specimens and three Late Pleistocene Equidae specimens identified in a similar manner and present a comparison of the bone proteome size and protein sequence recovery obtained after using nanoLC-MS/MS and parallel proteolysis using six different proteases, including trypsin. We observe that the majority of the preserved bone proteome is inaccessible to trypsin. We also observe that for proteins recovered consistently across several proteases, protein sequence coverage can be increased significantly by combining peptide identifications from two or more proteases. Our results thereby demonstrate that the proteolysis of Pleistocene proteomes by several proteases has clear advantages when addressing evolutionary questions in palaeoproteomics. SIGNIFICANCE: Maximizing proteome and protein sequence recovery of ancient skeletal proteomes is important when analyzing unique hominin fossils. As with modern proteome studies, palaeoproteomic analysis of Pleistocene bone and dentine samples has almost exclusively used trypsin as its only protease, despite the demonstrated advantages of alternative proteases to increase proteome recovery in modern proteome studies. We demonstrate that Pleistocene bone proteomes can be significantly expanded by using additional proteases beside trypsin, and that this also improves sequence coverage of individual proteins. The use of several alternative proteases beside trypsin therefore has major benefits to maximize the phylogenetic information retrieved from ancient skeletal proteomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103889
JournalJournal of Proteomics
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2020

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Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.

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