In this paper, the authors explore whether a limited survey of hair samples from several ethnic groups is sufficient to reveal ethnic variation, whether hair shafts from the scalp are distinguishable from other anatomic locations, and whether the cuticle has a distinctive protein profile compared to intact hair shaft.
Hair from different individuals can be distinguished by physical properties. Although some data exist on other species, examination of the individual molecular differences within the human hair shaft has not been thoroughly investigated. Shotgun proteomic analysis revealed considerable variation in profile among samples from Caucasian, African–American, Kenyan, and Korean subjects. Within these ethnic groups, prominent keratin proteins served to distinguish individual profiles. Differences between ethnic groups, less marked, relied to a large extent on levels of keratin associated proteins. In samples from Caucasian subjects, hair shafts from axillary, beard, pubic and scalp regions exhibited distinguishable profiles, with the last being most different from the others. Finally, the profile of isolated hair cuticle cells was distinguished from that of total hair shaft by levels of more than 20 proteins, the majority of which were prominent keratins. The cuticle also exhibited relatively high levels of epidermal transglutaminase (TGM3), accounting for its observed low degree of protein extraction by denaturants. In addition to providing insight into hair structure, present findings may lead to improvements in differentiating hair from various ethnic origins and offer an approach to extending use of hair in crime scene evidence for distinguishing among individuals. (Publisher Abstract Provided)