Human hair shaft proteomic profiling: Individual differences, site specificity and cuticle analysis

Chelsea N. Laatsch, Blythe P. Durbin-Johnson, David M Rocke, Sophie Mukwana, Abby B. Newland, Michael J. Flagler, Michael G. Davis, Richard A. Eigenheer, Brett S. Phinney, Robert H. Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Hair from different individuals can be distinguished by physical properties. Although some data exist on other species, examination of the individual molecular differences within the human hair shaft has not been thoroughly investigated. Shotgun proteomic analysis revealed considerable variation in profile among samples from Caucasian, African-American, Kenyan and Korean subjects. Within these ethnic groups, prominent keratin proteins served to distinguish individual profiles. Differences between ethnic groups, less marked, relied to a large extent on levels of keratin associated proteins. In samples from Caucasian subjects, hair shafts from axillary, beard, pubic and scalp regions exhibited distinguishable profiles, with the last being most different from the others. Finally, the profile of isolated hair cuticle cells was distinguished fromthat of total hair shaft by levels of more than 20 proteins, the majority of which were prominent keratins. The cuticle also exhibited relatively high levels of epidermal transglutaminase (TGM3), accounting for its observed low degree of protein extraction by denaturants. In addition to providing insight into hair structure, present findings may lead to improvements in differentiating hair from various ethnic origins and offer an approach to extending use of hair in crime scene evidence for distinguishing among individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere506
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Ancestry
  • Body site
  • Corneocytes
  • Differential expression
  • Forensic evidence
  • Keratin associated proteins
  • Keratins
  • Proteomics
  • Transglutaminase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)


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