Development of a novel sample preparation method for bioarchaeological proteomics
Ancient proteomic analysis has been shown to have several advantages over ancient DNA studies, largely due to the ability of proteins to survive over longer periods of time. Typically, sampling of bioarchaeological material for proteomics has involved the use of drills and hammers, which presents an issue when working with museums and other heritage organisations. There are a few studies in the literature on the use of specifically manufactured sampling tapes for the minimally-invasive analysis of paintings and frescoes, but no evidence of their application to human remains. This thesis deals with the development of a novel minimally-invasive sample preparation technique for application in the mass spectrometric analysis of bioarchaeological materials. By applying commercially available, dermatology-grade skin sampling strips to modern skin surfaces as a surrogate, an extraction protocol was developed, and subsequently applied to numerous skull and bone fragments belonging to a 26th Dynasty Egyptian Mummy in the collection of the Nicholson Museum, University of Sydney, Australia. Extracted proteins were separated on protein gels and in-gel digested, and resulting peptides were analysed by nanoflow liquid chromatography – high resolution tandem mass spectrometry. We have identified keratins and collagens as expected, but have also found a number of ancient intracellular and brain proteins on the skull and bone fragments. This successful proof-of-concept study holds great promise for exciting further optimisation and application.