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Sex determination of human remains from peptides in tooth enamel

Andre Stewart, Nicolas; Fernanda Gerlach, Raquel; Gowland, Rebecca L.; Gron, Kurt; Montgomery, Janet

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Nicolas Andre Stewart

Raquel Fernanda Gerlach

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Dr Kurt Gron
Research Development Manager


The assignment of biological sex to archaeological human skeletons is a fundamental requirement for the reconstruction of the human past. It is conventionally and routinely performed on adults using metric analysis and morphological traits arising from postpubertal sexual dimorphism. A maximum accuracy of ∼95% is possible if both the cranium and os coxae are present and intact, but this is seldom achievable for all skeletons. Furthermore, for infants and juveniles, there are no reliable morphological methods for sex determination without resorting to DNA analysis, which requires good DNA survival and is time-consuming. Consequently, sex determination of juvenile remains is rarely undertaken, and a dependable and expedient method that can correctly assign biological sex to human remains of any age is highly desirable. Here we present a method for sex determination of human remains by means of a minimally destructive surface acid etching of tooth enamel and subsequent identification of sex chromosome-linked isoforms of amelogenin, an enamel-forming protein, by nanoflow liquid chromatography mass spectrometry. Tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body and survives burial exceptionally well, even when the rest of the skeleton or DNA in the organic fraction has decayed. Our method can reliably determine the biological sex of humans of any age using a body tissue that is difficult to cross-contaminate and is most likely to survive. The application of this method will make sex determination of adults and, for the first time, juveniles a reliable and routine activity in future bioarcheological and medico-legal science contexts.


Andre Stewart, N., Fernanda Gerlach, R., Gowland, R. L., Gron, K., & Montgomery, J. (2017). Sex determination of human remains from peptides in tooth enamel. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(52), 13649-13654.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 13, 2017
Online Publication Date Dec 11, 2017
Publication Date Dec 11, 2017
Deposit Date Oct 18, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jan 2, 2018
Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Print ISSN 0027-8424
Electronic ISSN 1091-6490
Publisher National Academy of Sciences
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 114
Issue 52
Pages 13649-13654


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