Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Soft tissue taken from Tyrannosaurus rex fossil yields original protein

13.04.2007
What happens when a 68 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex meets 21st century medical science?

A North Carolina State University researcher and her colleagues at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found out when they confirmed the existence of protein in soft tissue recovered from the bone of a 68 million-year-old T. rex. Their results may both change the way that people think about fossil preservation and present a new method for studying diseases such as cancer.

Dr. Mary Schweitzer, assistant professor of paleontology at NC State with a joint appointment at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, had previously discovered soft tissue in the leg bone of a T. rex recovered in 2003 from the Hell Creek formation in Montana.

After her own chemical and molecular analyses of the tissue indicated that original protein fragments might be preserved, she turned to colleagues Dr. John Asara, director of the mass spectrometry core facility at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and instructor in pathology at Harvard Medical School and co-author Dr. Lewis Cantley, to see if they could provide the "nail in the coffin" that would confirm her suspicions. That nail would be sequence – the amino acid 'letters' used to make collagen, a fibrous protein found in bone.

... more about:
»Collagen »Fossil »Spectrometry »amino acid »dinosaur

Schweitzer's findings – and those of her colleagues – appear in the April 13 edition of the journal Science.

Bone is a composite material, consisting of both protein and mineral. When minerals are removed from modern bone, a collagen matrix – fibrous, resilient material that gives the bone its structure and flexibility – is left behind. When Schweitzer demineralized the T. rex bone, she was surprised to find such a matrix, because current theories of fossilization held that no original organic material could survive that long.

To see if the material had the characteristic cross-banded "stripes" that indicate collagen, Schweitzer and her colleagues examined the resultant soft tissue with both an electron microscope and atomic force microscopy. They then tested it against various antibodies that are known to react with collagen.

"We looked for collagen because it's plentiful, it's durable, and it has been recovered from other fossil materials, although none as old as this T. rex," Schweitzer says. "It's also a relatively easy molecule to identify, and it's not something that any microbes living in the immediate environment could produce. So identifying collagen in the soft tissue would indicate that it is original to the T. rex – that the tissue contains remnants of the molecules produced by the dinosaur, though highly altered."

But the evidence that Schweitzer had managed to find for the existence of collagen, while strongly suggestive, was not definitive. Fortunately, a mass spectrometry technique developed for studying low-level proteins in human diseases in Asara's mass spectrometry core facility was able to do what hadn't been possible before: provide the sequence of a 68 million-year-old protein and thus identify it.

Mass spectrometry measures the mass to charge ratio of individual molecules (peptides) that have been charged, identifying them by weight. Peptide fragmentation patterns reveal the amino acid sequence. The advantage of this method is that it extremely sensitive and can be used in cases where only very small amounts of material are available for analysis. That was definitely true of the T. rex sample, which only produced a miniscule amount of remnant protein, and the protein was in a mixture of other material that had remained after the extraction process.

Asara first applied the method to modern ostrich and then to 160,000- 600,000 year-old mastodon to demonstrate the efficiency and accuracy of their method while sequencing novel sequences unique to mastodon. Then he successfully sequenced the dinosaur protein, identifying the amino acids and confirming that the material from the T. rex was collagen. When the researchers compared the collagen sequences to a database that contains existing sequences from modern species, they found that the T. rex sequence had similarities to those of chicken, frog and newt.

"The similarity to chicken is definitely what we would expect given the relationship between modern birds and dinosaurs," Schweitzer says. "From a paleo standpoint, sequence data really is the nail in the coffin that confirms the preservation of these tissues. This data will help us learn more about dinosaurs' evolutionary relationships, about how preservation happens, and about how molecules degrade over time, which could also have some important medical implications for treating disease."

Tracey Peake | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ncsu.edu

Further reports about: Collagen Fossil Spectrometry amino acid dinosaur

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>