Insights into the Differential Preservation of Bone Proteomes in Inhumed and Entombed Cadavers from Italian Forensic Caseworks

Andrea Bonicelli, Aldo Di Nunzio, Ciro Di Nunzio, Noemi Procopio*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Bone is a hard biological tissue and a precious reservoir of information in forensic investigations as it retains key biomolecules commonly used for identification purposes. Bone proteins have recently attracted significant interest for their potential in estimating post-mortem interval (PMI) and age at death (AAD). However, the preservation of such proteins is highly dependent on intrinsic and extrinsic factors that can hinder the potential application of molecular techniques to forensic sciences. The present study aims at investigating the effects that two commonly used types of burial practices (entombment and inhumation) have on bone protein survival. The sample consists of 14 exhumed individuals from cemeteries in Southern Italy with different AADs (29–85 years) and PMIs (1–37 years). LC-MS/MS analyses show that 16 proteins are better preserved under the entombed conditions and 4 proteins are better preserved under the inhumed conditions, whereas no clear differences are detected for post-translational protein modifications. Furthermore, several potential “stable” protein markers (i.e., proteins not affected by the burial environment) are identified for PMI and AAD estimation. Overall, these results show that the two burial environments play a role in the differential preservation of noncollagenous proteins, confirming the potential of LC-MS/MS-based proteomics in forensic sciences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1285-1298
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Proteome Research
Volume21
Issue number5
Early online date22 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2022

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