Tyrannosaurus rex protein sequenced

This video is called Walking With Dinosaurs: LIVE T-Rex.

From Harvard Medical School in the USA:

Protein fragments sequenced in 68 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex

Sequences are the oldest ever to be reported

BOSTON — In a venture once thought to lie outside the reach of science, researchers from Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have captured and sequenced tiny pieces of collagen protein from a 68 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex.

The protein fragments—seven in all—appear to most closely match amino acid sequences found in collagen of present day chickens, lending support to a recent and still controversial proposal that birds and dinosaurs are evolutionarily related.

The HMS and BIDMC researchers, working with scientists at North Carolina State University, report their findings in the April 13 Science.

“Most people believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs, but that’s all based on the architecture of the bones,” said John Asara, director of the mass spectrometry core facility at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical School and HMS instructor in pathology, who sequenced the protein fragments over the course of a year and a half using highly sensitive mass spectrometry methods.

“This allows you to get the chance to say, ‘Wait, they really are related because their sequences are related.’

We didn’t get enough sequences to definitively say that, but what sequences we got support that idea.”

In another study appearing in the same issue of Science, Mary Schweitzer, of North Carolina State University, and colleagues found that extracts of T. rex bone reacted with antibodies to chicken collagen, further suggesting the presence of birdlike protein in the dinosaur bones.

The mere existence of such exceedingly ancient protein defies a longstanding assumption.

When an animal dies, protein immediately begins to degrade and, in the case of fossils, is slowly replaced by mineral. This substitution process was thought to be complete by one million years.

“For centuries it was believed that the process of fossilization destroyed any original material, consequently no one looked carefully at really old bones,” said Schweitzer, who is also at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. She is a co-author on the Asara study.

See also here.

And here.

And here.

And here.

Both Tyrannosaurus and mastodon proteins found: here.

7 thoughts on “Tyrannosaurus rex protein sequenced

  1. Eastern Montana dinosaur yields ancient protein
    MSU News Service

    Caption: Mary Higby Schweitzer in front of dinosaur artwork by Mike Skrepnick.

    BOZEMAN – The Eastern Montana dinosaur known as B. rex has done it again. The Tyrannosaurus rex that became famous for yielding soft tissue, blood vessels and tissue typical of a female bird has now produced 68-million-year-old protein.

    Thursday, May 31, 2007

    Far older than anyone has ever found or expected, the protein came in the form of collagen from the back thigh bone of the oldest T. rex on record. Collagen is the main organic compound found in bone. Its presence is expected to help scientists better understand the relationship between extinct and living organisms.

    Montana State University researchers and others who analyzed the collagen said the discovery is significant for several reasons. It strengthens their belief that dinosaurs and birds are related. The instrument and techniques they used offer researchers a better way to study fossil preservation and evolution in the future. Since they pushed the limits of technology in this project, it opens the door for more discoveries and may have implications for the medical field.

    “The fact that we are getting protein is very, very exciting,” said Jack Horner, one of several co-authors on a paper published in the journal “Science” and released April 12. Horner is curator of paleontology at MSU’s Museum of the Rockies.

    Mary Higby Schweitzer of North Carolina State University and formerly from MSU authored the paper, titled “Analyses of soft tissue from Tyrannosaurus rex suggest the presence of protein.” Five MSU researchers were among the co-authors. Besides Horner, they were Zhiyong Suo, Recep Avci and Fernando Teran Arce from the Imaging and Chemical Analysis Laboratory in the physics department, and Mark Allen from the chemistry and biochemistry department.

    Schweitzer’s paper was released in conjunction with another paper that involved Schweitzer and mass spectrometry to study a half-million-year-old mastodon.

    The Eastern Montana dinosaur was discovered in 2000 between Jordan and the Fort Peck Reservoir by Bob Harmon, chief preparator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies. The dinosaur is called B. rex in honor of Harmon who was on his lunch break when he looked up and saw a dinosaur’s foot bone sticking out of a cliff. After the dinosaur was excavated, part of its femur went to Schweitzer. She and her team of researchers looked inside and ran a variety of tests that revealed preserved soft tissues and blood vessels in the bone. They also found medullary tissue that is found only in female birds during the egg-laying cycle and proved that B. rex was actually a female.

    “Science” published papers about both discoveries in 2005. The April paper announced that B. rex’s leg contained low levels of collagen. Schweitzer, who was able to run seven protein sequences from the collagen, said scientists thought previously that collagen couldn’t survive even one million years. John Asara, one of the paper’s co-authors, said the oldest protein previously found was 300,000 years old. Asara works at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

    Schweitzer noted that protein is related to DNA, but different. Comparing them to first cousins, she said DNA is a gene, and it codes proteins.

    Schweitzer and other researchers said during an April 11 teleconference that seven sequences of protein isn’t a lot, but it is valuable. They added that three of the sequences were more like those found in a chicken than any other organism, which reinforced the belief that dinosaurs and birds are related. One protein sequence matched that of a newt.

    Horner said paleontologists have long wanted to find fossils that are genuinely well preserved, and scientists had learned an important lesson from B. rex.

    “The way to get specimens like this is to spend a lot of time getting as deep into sediments as we can and into places where there’s very little atmosphere or water contamination,” Horner explained.

    Horner said he plans to send crews to Mongolia and Montana this summer to look for other fossils that are “exquisitely well-preserved.” He noted that the protein found in B. rex was doubly protected. Not only was it hidden inside a dense, large femur bone, but the bone was 60 feet below the top of the outcrop and under 1,000 cubic yards of rock. That protection kept the fossils from being contaminated by bacteria, the atmosphere or modern ground water.

    Schweitzer and her co-authors used a variety of techniques and instruments to analyze the chemical and molecular makeup of the B. rex tissues. For that reason, she said, most curators of paleontology don’t like her. They want dinosaur bones to remain intact, but hers is a “destructive analysis.” It requires, among other things, the removal of minerals, bone slicing and tissue dehydration.

    Schweitzer praised Horner for caring more about learning new lessons than keeping bones in one piece. As technology improves, she said it will open the door to a host of other investigations.

    “Science” is a weekly journal that publishes scientific news, as well as the most significant breakthroughs in global research. It is the world’s largest circulation journal for a general science audience.



  2. Giant print may belong to T rex

    From correspondents in London

    October 10, 2007 08:48am
    Article from: Agence France-Presse

    A PALAEONTOLOGIST believes he has found the world’s first known Tyrannosaurus rex footprint.

    Phil Manning said he had high hopes the 1 sq m print, from the famed Hell Creek area of the northwest US state of Montana, is from the flesh-eating giant.

    “People have been trying to find T.rex tracks for a hundred years,” Dr Manning, who specialises in Jurassic and Cretaceous period dinosaur tracks, said on the BBC.

    “Unless you come across an animal dead in its tracks you can’t say for definite what left them. However with information available about the numbers of T.rex in the rocks of the Hell Creek formation, it is the closest we have got so far to discovering a tyrannosaur track.”

    Dr Manning, whose work still needs to be peer-reviewed, suggested the 67-million-year-old print “could only” be one of the two species previously found in Hell Creek, Nanotyrannus or its bigger relative Tyrannosaurus rex.

    “The size of the footprint at 76cm in length suggests it is more likely to be the latter,” said the academic, from the University of Manchester, northwest England.

    “There is no such thing as a truth in science, so for us this is as close as we get to what I think is a fantastic find.”

    Tyrannosaurus rex, which stood about 6m tall and weighed about seven tonnes, was one of the last dinosaurs to roam the earth before the entire species was wiped out about 65 million years ago.

    All T.rex remains have been found in the Hell Creek area. Dr Manning found the giant footprint last year.

    Angela Milner, associate keeper of palaeontology at London’s Natural History Museum, said she was interested in comparing Dr Manning’s discovery with one found in New Mexico in 1993 that was given the name “Tyrannosaurus pillmorei”.

    “That print was about four centimetres longer… and is also thought to have been made by a T.rex,” she said.

    “It is never possible to be certain of the animal that made fossil footprints as they do not die conveniently at the end of their tracks.

    “However, both these prints occur in rocks of the right age, they definitely were made by large carnivorous dinosaurs – and the only one that was that large enough to leave such a huge footprint was Tyrannosaurus rex.”


    See also here.


  3. Pingback: Canadian dinosaurs’ blood discovery | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Pregnant tyrannosaur discovered? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Dinosaur soft tissue discovery | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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