Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Analysis of dinosaur bone cells confirms ancient protein preservation

Date:
October 23, 2012
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
A team of researchers has found more evidence for the preservation of ancient dinosaur proteins, including reactivity to antibodies that target specific proteins normally found in bone cells of vertebrates. These results further rule out sample contamination, and help solidify the case for preservation of cells -- and possibly DNA -- in ancient remains.

T.rex (B), B. canadensis (E) and ostrich osteocytes (H) showing positive response to propidium iodide, a DNA intercalating dye.
Credit: Dr. Mary Schweitzer, NC State University

A team of researchers from North Carolina State University and the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has found more evidence for the preservation of ancient dinosaur proteins, including reactivity to antibodies that target specific proteins normally found in bone cells of vertebrates. These results further rule out sample contamination, and help solidify the case for preservation of cells -- and possibly DNA -- in ancient remains.

Related Articles


Dr. Mary Schweitzer, professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences with a joint appointment at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, first discovered what appeared to be preserved soft tissue in a 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex in 2005. Subsequent research revealed similar preservation in an even older (about 80-million-year-old)Brachylophosaurus canadensis. In 2007 and again in 2009, Schweitzer and colleagues used chemical and molecular analyses to confirm that the fibrous material collected from the specimens was collagen.

Schweitzer's next step was to find out if the star-shaped cellular structures within the fibrous matrix were osteocytes, or bone cells. Using techniques including microscopy, histochemistry and mass spectrometry, Schweitzer demonstrates that these cellular structures react to specific antibodies, including one -- a protein known as PHEX -- that is found in the osteocytes of living birds. The findings appear online in Bone and were presented last week at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

"The PHEX finding is important because it helps to rule out sample contamination," Schweitzer says. "Some of the antibodies that we used will react to proteins found in other vertebrate cells, but none of the antibodies react to microbes, which supports our theory that these structures are surviving osteocytes. Additionally, the antibody to PHEX will only recognize and bind to one specific site only found in mature bone cells from birds. These antibodies don't react to other proteins or cells. Because so many other lines of evidence support the dinosaur/bird relationship, finding these proteins helps make the case that these structures are dinosaurian in origin."

Schweitzer and her team also tested for the presence of DNA within the cellular structures, using an antibody that only binds to the "backbone" of DNA. The antibody reacted to small amounts of material within the "cells" of both the T. rex and the B. canadensis. To rule out the presence of microbes, they used an antibody that binds histone proteins, which bind tightly to the DNA of everything except microbes, and got another positive result. They then ran two other histochemical stains which fluoresce when they attach to DNA molecules. Those tests were also positive. These data strongly suggest that the DNA is original, but without sequence data, it is impossible to confirm that the DNA is dinosaurian.

"The data thus far seem to support the theory that these structures can be preserved over time," Schweitzer says. "Hopefully these findings will give us greater insight into the processes of evolutionary change."

Dr. Marshall Bern, from PARC, performed the mass spectrometry. Former NC State doctoral student Timothy Cleland and research assistant Wenxia Zheng also contributed to the work, which was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mary Higby Schweitzer, Wenxia Zheng, Timothy P. Cleland, Marshall Bern. Molecular analyses of dinosaur osteocytes support the presence of endogenous molecules. Bone, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.bone.2012.10.010

Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Analysis of dinosaur bone cells confirms ancient protein preservation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121023151333.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2012, October 23). Analysis of dinosaur bone cells confirms ancient protein preservation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121023151333.htm
North Carolina State University. "Analysis of dinosaur bone cells confirms ancient protein preservation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121023151333.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins