Elucidation of cross-species proteomic effects in human and hominin bone proteome identification through a bioinformatics experiment

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Background: The study of ancient protein sequences is increasingly focused on the analysis of older samples, including those of ancient hominins. The analysis of such ancient proteomes thereby potentially suffers from "cross-species proteomic effects": the loss of peptide and protein identifications at increased evolutionary distances due to a larger number of protein sequence differences between the database sequence and the analyzed organism. Error-tolerant proteomic search algorithms should theoretically overcome this problem at both the peptide and protein level; however, this has not been demonstrated. If error-tolerant searches do not overcome the cross-species proteomic issue then there might be inherent biases in the identified proteomes. Here, a bioinformatics experiment is performed to test this using a set of modern human bone proteomes and three independent searches against sequence databases at increasing evolutionary distances: the human (0 Ma), chimpanzee (6-8 Ma) and orangutan (16-17 Ma) reference proteomes, respectively. Results: Incorrectly suggested amino acid substitutions are absent when employing adequate filtering criteria for mutable Peptide Spectrum Matches (PSMs), but roughly half of the mutable PSMs were not recovered. As a result, peptide and protein identification rates are higher in error-tolerant mode compared to non-error-tolerant searches but did not recover protein identifications completely. Data indicates that peptide length and the number of mutations between the target and database sequences are the main factors influencing mutable PSM identification. Conclusions: The error-tolerant results suggest that the cross-species proteomics problem is not overcome at increasing evolutionary distances, even at the protein level. Peptide and protein loss has the potential to significantly impact divergence dating and proteome comparisons when using ancient samples as there is a bias towards the identification of conserved sequences and proteins. Effects are minimized between moderately divergent proteomes, as indicated by almost complete recovery of informative positions in the search against the chimpanzee proteome (≈90%, 6-8 Ma). This provides a bioinformatic background to future phylogenetic and proteomic analysis of ancient hominin proteomes, including the future description of novel hominin amino acid sequences, but also has negative implications for the study of fast-evolving proteins in hominins, non-hominin animals, and ancient bacterial proteins in evolutionary contexts.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Issue number23
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • Bioinformatics experiment, Error-tolerant proteomics, Hominidae, Palaeoproteomics, Single amino acid polymorphisms

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ID: 192339368