Antibody-based sex determination of human skeletal remains

Barry Shaw, Sophie Foggin, Petter Hamilton-Stanley, Andy Barlow, Catriona Pickard, Linda Fibiger, Neil J. Oldham, Patrick Tighe, Lisette M. Kootker, Sarah Schrader, Rob Layfield*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Assignment of biological sex to skeletal remains is critical in the accurate reconstruction of the past. Analysis of sex-chromosome encoded AMELX and AMELY peptides from the enamel protein amelogenin underpins a minimally destructive mass spectrometry (MS) method for sex determination of human remains. However, access to such specialist approaches limits applicability. As a convenient alternative, we generated antibodies that distinguish human AMELX and AMELY. Purified antibodies demonstrated high selectivity and quantitative detection against synthetic peptides by ELISA. Using acid etches of enamel from post-medieval skeletons, antibody determinations corrected osteological uncertainties and matched parallel MS, and for Bronze Age samples where only enamel was preserved, also matched MS analyses. Towards improved throughput, automated stations were applied to analyse 19th-century teeth where sex of individuals was documented, confirming MS can be bypassed. Our immunological tools should underpin development of routine, economical, high-throughput methods for sex determination, potentially even in a field setting.
Original languageEnglish
Article number108191
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournaliScience
Volume26
Issue number11
Early online date11 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2023

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