Characterization of Degraded Proteins in Paintings Using Bottom-Up Proteomic Approaches: New Strategies for Protein Digestion and Analysis of Data

Anal Chem. 2018 Jun 5;90(11):6403-6408. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.8b00281. Epub 2018 May 21.


Chemical hydrolysis assisted by microwave irradiation has been proposed as an alternative method for the analysis of proteins in highly insoluble matrices. In this work, chemical hydrolysis was applied for the first time to detect degraded proteins from paintings and polychromies. To evaluate the performance of this approach, the number of identified peptides, protein sequence coverage (%), and PSMs were compared with those obtained using two trypsin-based proteomics procedures used for the analysis of samples from cultural heritage objects. It was found that chemical hydrolysis allowed the successful identification of all proteinaceous materials in all paint samples analyzed except for egg proteins in one extremely degraded sample. Moreover, in one sample, casein was only identified by chemical digestion. In general, chemical hydrolysis identified more peptides, more PSM's, and greater sequence coverage in the samples containing caseins, and often also in animal glue, highlighting the great potential of this approach for the rapid digestion and identification of insoluble and degraded proteins from the field of the cultural heritage.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caseins / analysis
  • Cattle
  • Chickens
  • Collagen / analysis
  • Egg Proteins / analysis
  • Models, Molecular
  • Paint / analysis*
  • Paintings
  • Peptides / analysis*
  • Proteins / analysis*
  • Proteolysis
  • Proteomics / methods
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods


  • Caseins
  • Egg Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Proteins
  • Collagen