Amino acids and proteins in fossil biominerals, FIRST by Beatrice Demarchi

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AMINO ACIDS AND PROTEINS IN FOSSIL BIOMINERALS

An Introduction for Archaeologists and Palaeontologists

 

 

BEATRICE DEMARCHI

Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology, University of Turin, Italy

 

 

 

 

 

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This edition first published 2020
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Preface

This book is largely concerned with biominerals. In particular, it introduces the proteins responsible for biomineral formation and discusses the information these proteins may yield when surviving in the archaeological and palaeontological records.

The historical perspective on the study of proteins in biominerals (from the discovery of fragments of molecules entombed in fossils to the huge advances in shotgun proteomics that are currently underway) offers an exemplary tale of a research landscape that is becoming increasingly and essentially inter- and trans-disciplinary. Understanding the patterns of survival and degradation of biomolecules in the biogeosphere is the focus of palaeobiogeochemistry. However, the information we can gather from the extent of preservation or breakdown of these organics spans at least three fields of research: biomaterials (engineering), biochemistry and geochemistry (including geochronology and applications to archaeological, palaeontological, geological and palaeoclimatic questions), and evolutionary biology.

The author's own experience followed a trajectory beginning with cultural heritage and archaeological sciences, dipping into geology and analytical chemistry, then attempting to bring together new research in biomineralization and ancient proteins in order to elucidate mechanisms of protein survival. This volume reflects the cross-disciplinary interest of the author and aims to become a useful reference for postgraduate students and researchers embarking on a career as a biomolecular archaeologist or palaeontologist.

Chapter 1 briefly highlights the reasons for which studies in biomineralization are fundamental to understanding biomolecular survival in the fossil record, while Chapter 2 describes the main mechanisms of protein degradation. The composition of a range of biomineralized proteomes is summarized in Chapter 3, followed by a discussion on the two main applications of ancient protein studies, i.e. amino acid racemization/protein diagenesis dating (Chapter 4) and palaeoproteomics (Chapter 5).

Acknowledgements

I am deeply grateful to Matthew Collins, Darrell Kaufman, Frédéric Marin, Kirsty Penkman and John Wehmiller for their valuable comments on the text. All remaining mistakes are, of course, mine alone. Kirsty and Matthew, in particular, have been an immense source of scientific and personal inspiration over the years.

I also wish to acknowledge my colleagues and friends at BioArCh, University of York (UK), with whom I shared a vision of interdisciplinarity, and those at the University of Turin (Italy), who are supportive of my work.

The editors at Wiley have been a model of forbearance and I thank them for this.

I am incredibly fortunate for having the continuous and unwavering support of my family, for which I cannot thank them enough.