Proteomic characterization of damaged single hairs recovered after an explosion for protein-based human identification

Chu, Fanny, et al. “Proteomic Characterization of Damaged Single Hairs Recovered after an Explosion for Protein-Based Human Identification.” Journal of Proteome Research, 2020, doi:10.1021/acs.jproteome.0c00102.


Evidence recovery is challenging where an explosion has occurred. Though hair evidence may be sufficiently robust to be recovered at the site, forensic analysis underutilizes the matrix by relying on morphological analysis. Where DNA is compromised, particularly in hair, protein-based human identification presents a promising alternative. Detection of amino acid polymorphisms in hair proteins as genetically variant peptides (GVPs) permits inference of individualizing single nucleotide polymorphisms for identification. However, an explosive blast may damage hair proteins and compromise GVP identification. This work assesses effects of an explosive blast on the hair proteome and GVP identification, investigates microscopy as a predictor of proteome profiling success in recovered hairs to improve analysis throughput, and quantifies discriminative power in damaged hairs. The proteomics dataset has been deposited into the ProteomeXchange Consortium (PXD017427). With the exception of degradation in keratins K75, K80, K40, and keratin-associated protein KAP10-11 as markers of hair cuticular damage, corroborated by scanning electron microscopic analysis, minimal hair proteome degradation following explosion allowed successful proteome profiling of single hairs regardless of morphological damage. Finally, GVP identification remained independent of explosion conditions, permitting similar discriminative power between exploded and undamaged hairs. These findings lend greater confidence to GVP analysis in one-inch hairs for forensic identification and provide information about hair protein localization.