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Identifying Individuals through Proteomic Analysis: A New Forensic Tool to Rapidly and Efficiently Identify Large Numbers of Fragmentary Human Remains

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2019
10 pages
This is the Final Summary of a report on a project whose goal was to determine whether the genetic information in proteins can be accurately and efficiently detected by mass spectrometry for use in human identification; and, if so, the stability of protein markers against taphonomic decay.

The use of proteomic genetic information for human identification would be useful in cases where DNA is too degraded for analysis, or when there are substantial numbers of physically unidentifiable human remains. The current project had the following major goals: 1) to identify informative single amino acid polymorphisms (SAAPs) in human muscle and bone proteins that can be used for individual identification, confirm these variants by genetic analysis, and to determine the maximum population size that they can meaningfully discriminate; 2) to evaluate taphonomic effects on protein degradation over time in different seasons; and 3) to assay three body areas for possible variations in protein expression. The study's findings indicate that individual identifications are possible through the detection of SAAPs in muscle; critical to this process is the establishment of custom variant databases. It also shows that improvements in the ability to identify SAAPs and consensus sequences by using SWATH data acquisition would likely improve SAAP and wildtype identifications, consequently increasing the discriminatory power of the assay. Project data also demonstrate that the use of protein quantitation, together with the total body score method, may increase the accuracy of determining the postmortem interval. This report describes the research design and methods, as well as data analysis. 1 table

Date Published: June 1, 2019