This article explores the application and potential of forensic proteomics.
Protein is a major component of all biological evidence, often the matrix that embeds other biomolecules such as polynucleotides, lipids, carbohydrates, and small molecules. The proteins in a sample reflect the transcriptional and translational program of the originating cell types. Because of this, proteins can be used to identify body fluids and tissues, as well as convey genetic information in the form of single amino acid polymorphisms, the result of non-synonymous SNPs. The historical role that protein analysis played in the development of forensic science is examined in this article. The review details how innovations in proteomic mass spectrometry have addressed many of the historical limitations of forensic protein science, and how the application of forensic proteomics differs from proteomics in the life sciences. Two more developed applications of forensic proteomics are examined in detail: body fluid and tissue identification, as well as proteomic genotyping. The review then highlights developing areas of proteomics that have the potential to impact forensic science in the near future: fingermark analysis, species identification, peptide toxicology, proteomic sex estimation, and estimation of post-mortem intervals. Finally, the review highlights some of the newer innovations in proteomics that may drive further development of the field. In addition to potential impact, this review also attempts to evaluate the stage of each application in the development, validation and implementation process. This review is intended for investigators who are interested in learning about proteomics in a forensic context and expanding the amount of information they can extract from biological evidence. (publisher abstract modified)