Comparative evaluation of current peptide production platforms used in absolute quantification in proteomics.
ABSTRACT: Absolute quantification of peptides by mass spectrometry requires a reference, frequently using heavy isotope-coded peptides as internal standards. These peptides have traditionally been generated by chemical stepwise synthesis. Recently a new way to supply such peptides was described in which nucleotide sequences coding for the respective peptides are concatenated into a synthetic gene (QconCAT). These QconCATs are then expressed to produce a polypeptide consisting of concatenated peptides, purified, quantified by various methods, and then digested to yield the final internal standard peptides. Although both of these methods for peptide production are routinely used for absolute quantifications, there is currently no information regarding the accuracy of the quantifications made in each case. In this study, we used sets of synthetic and biological peptides in parallel to evaluate the accuracy of either method. We also addressed some technical issues regarding the preparation and proper utilization of such standard peptides. Twenty-five peptides derived from the Caenorhabditis elegans proteome were selected for this study. Twenty-four were successfully chemically synthesized. Five QconCAT genes were designed, each a concatenation of the same 25 peptides but each in separate, different randomized order, and expressed via in vitro translation reactions that contained heavy isotope-labeled lysine and arginine. Three of the five QconCATs were successfully produced. Different digestion conditions, including various detergents and incubation conditions, were tested to find those optimal for the generation of a reproducible and accurate reference sample mixture. All three QconCAT polypeptides were then digested using the optimized conditions and then mixed in a 1:1 ratio with their synthetic counterparts. Multireaction monitoring mass spectrometry was then used for quantification. Results showed that the digestion protocol had a significant impact on equimolarity of final peptides, confirming the need for optimization. Under optimal conditions, however, most QconCAT peptides were produced at an equimolar ratio. A few QconCAT-derived peptides were largely overestimated due to problems with solubilization or stability of the synthetic peptides. Although the order in which the peptide sequences appeared in the QconCAT sequence proved to affect the success rate of in vitro translation, it did not significantly affect the final peptide yields. Overall neither the chemical synthesis nor the recombinant genetic approach proved to be superior as a method for the production of reference peptides for absolute quantification.
Project description:A major challenge in proteomics is the absolute accurate quantification of large numbers of proteins. QconCATs, artificial proteins that are concatenations of multiple standard peptides, are well established as an efficient means to generate standards for proteome quantification. Previously, QconCATs have been expressed in bacteria, but we now describe QconCAT expression in a robust, cell-free system. The new expression approach rescues QconCATs that previously were unable to be expressed in bacteria and can reduce the incidence of proteolytic damage to QconCATs. Moreover, it is possible to cosynthesize QconCATs in a highly-multiplexed translation reaction, coexpressing tens or hundreds of QconCATs simultaneously. By obviating bacterial culture and through the gain of high level multiplexing, it is now possible to generate tens of thousands of standard peptides in a matter of weeks, rendering absolute quantification of a complex proteome highly achievable in a reproducible, broadly deployable system.
Project description:Expression of isotopically labeled peptide standards as artificial concatamers (QconCATs) allows for the multiplex quantification of proteins in unlabeled samples by mass spectrometry. We have developed a generalizable QconCAT design strategy, which we term IQcat, wherein concatenated peptides are binned by pI to facilitate MS-sample enrichment by isoelectric focusing. Our method utilizes a rapid (?2 weeks), inexpensive and scalable purification of arg/lys labeled IQcat standards in the Escherichia coli auxotroph AT713. With this pipeline, we assess the fidelity of IQcat-based absolute quantification for ten yeast proteins over a broad concentration range in a single information-rich isoelectric fraction. The technique is further employed for a quantitative study of androgen-dependent protein expression in cultured prostate cancer cells.
Project description:For modeling approaches in systems biology, knowledge of the absolute abundances of cellular proteins is essential. One way to gain this knowledge is the use of quantification concatamers (QconCATs), which are synthetic proteins consisting of proteotypic peptides derived from the target proteins to be quantified. The QconCAT protein is labeled with a heavy isotope upon expression in E. coli and known amounts of the purified protein are spiked into a whole cell protein extract. Upon tryptic digestion, labeled and unlabeled peptides are released from the QconCAT protein and the native proteins, respectively, and both are quantified by LC-MS/MS. The labeled Q-peptides then serve as standards for determining the absolute quantity of the native peptides/proteins. Here, we have applied the QconCAT approach to Chlamydomonas reinhardtii for the absolute quantification of the major proteins and protein complexes driving photosynthetic light reactions in the thylakoid membranes and carbon fixation in the pyrenoid. We found that with 25.2 attomol/cell the Rubisco large subunit makes up 6.6% of all proteins in a Chlamydomonas cell and with this exceeds the amount of the small subunit by a factor of 1.56. EPYC1, which links Rubisco to form the pyrenoid, is eight times less abundant than RBCS, and Rubisco activase is 32-times less abundant than RBCS. With 5.2 attomol/cell, photosystem II is the most abundant complex involved in the photosynthetic light reactions, followed by plastocyanin, photosystem I and the cytochrome b6/f complex, which range between 2.9 and 3.5 attomol/cell. The least abundant complex is the ATP synthase with 2 attomol/cell. While applying the QconCAT approach, we have been able to identify many potential pitfalls associated with this technique. We analyze and discuss these pitfalls in detail and provide an optimized workflow for future applications of this technique.
Project description:Herein we present the data necessary for generation of alternative means to produce equimolar mixtures of peptides ("Design and Expression of a QconCAT Protein to Validate Hi3 Protein Quantification of Influenza Vaccine Antigens" (D.G.S. Smith, G. Gingras, Y. Aubin, T.D. Cyr, 2016) ), such as QConCAT ("Trends in QconCATs for targeted proteomics" (J. Chen, I.V. Turko, 2014)  , "Natural flanking sequences for peptides included in a quantification concatamer internal standard" (C.S. Cheung, K.W. Anderson, M. Wang, I.V. Turko, 2015) ) and SpikeTides versus the label free Hi3 approach. The experimental design and the interpretation of results are discussed in the original article .
Project description:It is likely that expression and/or post-translational generation of various protein isoforms can be indicative of initial pathological changes or pathology development. However, selective quantification of individual protein isoforms remains a challenge, because they simultaneously possess common and unique amino acid sequences. Quantification concatamer (QconCAT) internal standards were originally designed for a large-scale proteome quantification and are artificial proteins that are concatamers of tryptic peptides for several proteins. We developed a QconCAT for quantification of various isoforms of amyloid precursor protein (APP). APP-QconCAT includes tryptic peptides that are common for all isoforms of APP concatenated with those tryptic peptides that are unique for specific APP isoforms. Isotope-labeled APP-QconCAT was expressed, purified, characterized, and further used for quantification of total APP, APP695, and amyloid-? (A?) in the human frontal cortex from control and severe Alzheimer's disease donors. Potential biological implications of our quantitative measurements are discussed. It is also expected that using APP-QconCAT(s) will advance our understanding of biological mechanism by which various APP isoforms involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease.
Project description:The multifunctional glycoprotein clusterin has been associated with late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD). Further investigation to define the role of clusterin in AD phenotypes would be aided by the development of techniques to quantify level, potential post-translational modifications, and isoforms of clusterin. We have developed a quantitative technique based on multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mass spectrometry to measure clusterin in human postmortem brain tissues.A stable isotope-labeled concatenated peptide (QconCAT) bearing selected peptides from clusterin was expressed with an in vitro translation system and purified. This clusterin QconCAT was validated for use as an internal standard for clusterin quantification using MRM mass spectrometry. Measurements were performed on the human postmortem frontal and temporal cortex from control and severe AD cases. During brain tissues processing, 1% SDS was used in the homogenization buffer to preserve potential post-translational modifications of clusterin. However, MRM quantifications in the brain did not suggest phosphorylation of Thr(393), Ser(394), and Ser(396) residues reported for clusterin in serum. MRM quantifications in the frontal cortex demonstrated significantly higher (P?<?0.01) level of clusterin in severe AD group (39.1?±?9.1 pmol/mg tissue protein) in comparison to control group (25.4?±?4.4 pmol/mg tissue protein). In the temporal cortex, the clusterin levels were not significantly different, 29.0?±?7.9 pmol/mg tissue protein and 28.0?±?8.4 pmol/mg tissue protein in control and severe AD groups, respectively.The proposed protocol is a universal quantitative technique to assess expression level of clusterin. It is expected that application of this protocol to quantification of various clusterin isoforms and potential post-translational modifications will be helpful in addressing the role of clusterin in AD.
Project description:Absolute quantification of proteins elucidates the molecular composition, regulation and dynamics of multiprotein assemblies and networks. Here we report on a method termed MS Western that accurately determines the molar abundance of dozens of user-selected proteins at the subfemtomole level in whole cell or tissue lysates without metabolic or chemical labeling and without using specific antibodies. MS Western relies on GeLC-MS/MS and quantifies proteins by in-gel codigestion with an isotopically labeled QconCAT protein chimera composed of concatenated proteotypic peptides. It requires no purification of the chimera and relates the molar abundance of all proteotypic peptides to a single reference protein. In comparative experiments, MS Western outperformed immunofluorescence Western blotting by the protein detection specificity, linear dynamic range and sensitivity of protein quantification. To validate MS Western in an in vivo experiment, we quantified the molar content of zebrafish core histones H2A, H2B, H3 and H4 during ten stages of early embryogenesis. Accurate quantification (CV<10%) corroborated the anticipated histones equimolar stoichiometry and revealed an unexpected trend in their total abundance.
Project description:The two most common techniques for absolute protein quantification are based on either mass spectrometry (MS) or on immunochemical techniques, such as western blotting (WB). Western blotting is most often used for protein identification or relative quantification, but can also be deployed for absolute quantification if appropriate calibration standards are used. MS based techniques offer superior data quality and reproducibility, but WB offers greater sensitivity and accessibility to most researchers. It would be advantageous to apply both techniques for orthogonal quantification, but workflows rarely overlap. We describe DOSCATs (DOuble Standard conCATamers), novel calibration standards based on QconCAT technology, to unite these platforms. DOSCATs combine a series of epitope sequences concatenated with tryptic peptides in a single artificial protein to create internal tryptic peptide standards for MS as well as an intact protein bearing multiple linear epitopes. A DOSCAT protein was designed and constructed to quantify five proteins of the NF-?B pathway. For three target proteins, protein fold change and absolute copy per cell values measured by MS and WB were in excellent agreement. This demonstrates that DOSCATs can be used as multiplexed, dual purpose standards, readily deployed in a single workflow, supporting seamless quantitative transition from MS to WB.
Project description:A major challenge in proteomics is the absolute accurate quantification of large numbers of proteins. QconCATs, artificial proteins that are concatenations of multiple standard peptides, are well established as an efficient means to generate standards for proteome quantification. Previously, QconCATs have been expressed in bacteria, but we now describe QconCAT expression in a robust, cell-free system. The new expression approach rescues QconCATs that previously were unable to be expressed in bacteria and can reduce the incidence of proteolytic damage to QconCATs. Moreover, it is possible to co-synthesise QconCATs in a highly-multiplexed translation reaction, co-expressing tens or hundreds of QconCATs simultaneously. By obviating bacterial culture and through the gain of high level multiplexing, it is now possible to generate tens of thousands of standard peptides in a matter of weeks, rendering absolute quantification of a complex proteome highly achievable in a reproducible, broadly deployable system.
Project description:Targeted mass spectrometry has become the method of choice to gain absolute quantification information of high quality, which is essential for a quantitative understanding of biological systems. However, the design of absolute protein quantification assays remains challenging due to variations in peptide observability and incomplete knowledge about factors influencing peptide detectability. Here, we present a deep learning algorithm for peptide detectability prediction, d::pPop, which allows the informed selection of synthetic proteotypic peptides for the successful design of targeted proteomics quantification assays. The deep neural network is able to learn a regression model that relates the physicochemical properties of a peptide to its ion intensity detected by mass spectrometry. The approach makes use of experimentally detected deviations from the assumed equimolar abundance of all peptides derived from a given protein. Trained on extensive proteomics datasets, d::pPop's plant and non-plant specific models can predict the quality of proteotypic peptides for not yet experimentally identified proteins. Interrogating the deep neural network after learning from ~76,000 peptides per model organism allows to investigate the impact of different physicochemical properties on the observability of a peptide, thus providing insights into peptide observability as a multifaceted process. Empirical evaluation with rank accuracy metrics showed that our prediction approach outperforms existing algorithms. We circumvent the delicate step of selecting positive and negative training sets and at the same time also more closely reflect the need for selecting the top most promising peptides for targeting a protein of interest. Further, we used an artificial QconCAT protein to experimentally validate the observability prediction. Our proteotypic peptide prediction approach not only facilitates the design of absolute protein quantification assays via a user-friendly web interface but also enables the selection of proteotypic peptides for not yet observed proteins, hence rendering the tool especially useful for plant research.