Classification of Ancient Mammal Individuals Using Dental Pulp MALDI-TOF MS Peptide Profiling

authors

  • Tran Thi-Nguyen-Ny
  • Aboudharam Gérard
  • Gardeisen Armelle
  • Davoust Bernard
  • Bocquet-Appel Jean-Pierre
  • Flaudrops Christophe
  • Belghazi Maya
  • Raoult Didier
  • Drancourt Michel

keywords

  • Dental pulp
  • Zooarchaeology
  • Mammals
  • Classification

abstract

Background: The classification of ancient animal corpses at the species level remains a challenging task for forensic scientists and anthropologists. Severe damage and mixed, tiny pieces originating from several skeletons may render morphological classification virtually impossible. Standard approaches are based on sequencing mitochondrial and nuclear targets. Methodology/Principal Findings: We present a method that can accurately classify mammalian species using dental pulp and mass spectrometry peptide profiling. Our work was organized into three successive steps. First, after extracting proteins from the dental pulp collected from 37 modern individuals representing 13 mammalian species, trypsin-digested peptides were used for matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry analysis. The resulting peptide profiles accurately classified every individual at the species level in agreement with parallel cytochrome b gene sequencing gold standard. Second, using a 279–modern spectrum database, we blindly classified 33 of 37 teeth collected in 37 modern individuals (89.1%). Third, we classified 10 of 18 teeth (56%) collected in 15 ancient individuals representing five mammal species including human, from five burial sites dating back 8,500 years. Further comparison with an upgraded database comprising ancient specimen profiles yielded 100% classification in ancient teeth. Peptide sequencing yield 4 and 16 different non-keratin proteins including collagen (alpha-1 type I and alpha-2 type I) in human ancient and modern dental pulp, respectively. Conclusions/Significance: Mass spectrometry peptide profiling of the dental pulp is a new approach that can be added to the arsenal of species classification tools for forensics and anthropology as a complementary method to DNA sequencing. The dental pulp is a new source for collagen and other proteins for the species classification of modern and ancient mammal individuals.

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