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Max Planck Researchers Sequence Fossil Protein from Neanderthal Found in Iraqi Cave

NEW YORK, March 11 (GenomeWeb News) - An international team led by researchers in the department of human evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology has extracted and sequenced protein from a Neanderthal found in the Shanidar Cave in Iraq, the group said this week.

 

The Neanderthal is approximately 75,000 year old, and the fossil protein is the oldest ever sequenced, according to the Max Planck Institute.

 

The research team, led by Christina Nielsen-Marsh and Matthew Collins, used an Applied Biosystems 4700 Proteomics Analyzer to sequence bone protein from the Neanderthal. They found that the sequence is the same as homologous sequence in humans except for amino acid position nine, where a hydoxyproline is replaced by a proline in the Neanderthal.

 

In their paper, published in the this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the researchers suggested that the difference in sequence may be a dietary response, because the formation of hydroxyproline requires vitamin C, which is ample in diets of herbivores like gorillas, but may be absent from the diets of omnivorous primates like humans, Neanderthals, orangutans, and chimpanzees. Therefore, the ability to synthesize this protein in the absence of vitamin C may have been an advantage to this Neanderthal, the researchers postulated.

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