Zuckerman Postdoctoral Scholar at University of Haifa, Jeana Drake, publishes new research in Scientific Reports “First sequencing of ancient coral skeletal proteins.”
Here we report the first recovery, sequencing, and identification of fossil biomineral proteins from a Pleistocene fossil invertebrate, the stony coral Orbicella annularis. This fossil retains total hydrolysable amino acids of a roughly similar composition to extracts from modern O. annularis skeletons, with the amino acid data rich in Asx (Asp + Asn) and Glx (Glu + Gln) typical of invertebrate skeletal proteins. It also retains several proteins, including a highly acidic protein, also known from modern coral skeletal proteomes that we sequenced by LC–MS/MS over multiple trials in the best-preserved fossil coral specimen. A combination of degradation or amino acid racemization inhibition of trypsin digestion appears to limit greater recovery. Nevertheless, our workflow determines optimal samples for effective sequencing of fossil coral proteins, allowing comparison of modern and fossil invertebrate protein sequences, and will likely lead to further improvements of the methods. Sequencing of endogenous organic molecules in fossil invertebrate biominerals provides an ancient record of composition, potentially clarifying evolutionary changes and biotic responses to paleoenvironments.