Sex estimation of teeth at different developmental stages using dimorphic enamel peptide analysis

Rebecca Gowland, Nicolas Stewart, Kayla Crowder, Claire Hodson, Heidi Shaw, Kurt Gron, Janet Montgomery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study tests, for the first time, the applicability of a new method of sex estimation utilizing enamel peptides on a sample of deciduous and permanent teeth at different stages of mineralization, from nonadults of unknown sex, including perinates.

Materials and methods
A total of 43 teeth from 29 nonadult individuals aged from 40 gestational weeks to 19 years old were analyzed. The sample included pairs of fully mineralized and just developing teeth from the same individual. The individuals were from four archaeological sites in England: Piddington (1st–2nd centuries AD), Coach Lane, Victoria Gate, and Fewston (all 18th–19th centuries). A method that identifies sex chromosome‐linked isoforms of the peptide amelogenin from human tooth enamel was applied. The method utilizes a minimally destructive acid etching procedure and subsequent nano liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry.

It was possible to determine the sex of 28 of the nonadult individuals sampled (males = 20, females = 8, undetermined = 1). Only one sample failed (CL9), due to insufficient mineralization of the sampled tooth enamel. Data are available via ProteomeXchange with identifier PXD021683.

Sufficient peptide material to determine sex can be recovered even from the crowns of developing perinatal teeth that are not fully mineralized. The minimally destructive and inexpensive (compared to ancient DNA) nature of this procedure has significant implications for bioarchaeological studies of infancy and childhood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)859-869
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Anwen Caffell, Malin Holst (York Osteoarchaeology) for access to the Victoria Gate skeletal report. Thanks to John Buglass, The Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Washburn Heritage Centre for access to and information on the Fewston skeletal assemblage. Also, Roy and Liz Friendship‐Taylor, site directors at Piddington Excavation, for their continued support, knowledge, and access. Finally, thanks to the Department of Archaeology, Durham University for funding this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. American Journal of Physical Anthropology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • amelogenin
  • mass spectrometry
  • perinate
  • sex
  • tooth enamel
  • Anthropology
  • Anatomy


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