Human Bone Proteomes before and after Decomposition: Investigating the effects of Biological Variation and Taphonomic Alteration on Bone Protein Profiles and the Implications for Forensic Proteomics

Hayley L. Mickleburgh, Ed Schwalbe, Andrea Bonicelli, Haruka Mizukami, Federica Sellitto, Sefora Starace, Daniel J. Wescott, David O. Carter, Noemi Procopio*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Bone proteomic studies using animal proxies and skeletonized human remains have delivered encouraging results in the search for potential biomarkers for precise and accurate post-mortem interval (PMI) and the age-At-death (AAD) estimation in medico-legal investigations. The development of forensic proteomics for PMI and AAD estimation is in critical need of research on human remains throughout decomposition, as currently the effects of both inter-individual biological differences and taphonomic alteration on the survival of human bone protein profiles are unclear. This study investigated the human bone proteome in four human body donors studied throughout decomposition outdoors. The effects of ageing phenomena (in vivo and post-mortem) and intrinsic and extrinsic variables on the variety and abundancy of the bone proteome were assessed. Results indicate that taphonomic and biological variables play a significant role in the survival of proteins in bone. Our findings suggest that inter-individual and inter-skeletal differences in bone mineral density (BMD) are important variables affecting the survival of proteins. Specific proteins survive better within the mineral matrix due to their mineral-binding properties. The mineral matrix likely also protects these proteins by restricting the movement of decomposer microbes. New potential biomarkers for PMI estimation and AAD estimation were identified. Future development of forensic bone proteomics should include standard measurement of BMD and target a combination of different biomarkers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2533-2546
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Proteome Research
Volume20
Issue number5
Early online date8 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2021

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