Journal of proteome research

Strategy for comprehensive identification of post-translational modifications in cellular proteins, including low abundant modifications: application to glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase.

PMID 18183946


Post-translational modifications (PTMs) play key roles in the regulation of biological functions of proteins. Although some progress has been made in identifying several PTMs using existing approaches involving a combination of affinity-based enrichment and mass spectrometric analysis, comprehensive identification of PTMs remains a challenging problem in proteomics because of the dynamic complexities of PTMs in vivo and their low abundance. We describe here a strategy for rapid, efficient, and comprehensive identification of PTMs occurring in biological processes in vivo. It involves a selectively excluded mass screening analysis (SEMSA) of unmodified peptides during liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-quadrupole-time-of-flight tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-q-TOF MS/MS) through replicated runs of a purified protein on two-dimensional gel. A precursor ion list of unmodified peptides with high mass intensities was obtained during the initial run followed by exclusion of these unmodified peptides in subsequent runs. The exclusion list can grow as long as replicate runs are iteratively performed. This enables the identifications of modified peptides with precursor ions of low intensities by MS/MS sequencing. Application of this approach in combination with the PTM search algorithm MODi to GAPDH protein in vivo modified by oxidative stress provides information on multiple protein modifications (19 types of modification on 42 sites) with >92% peptide coverage and the additional potential for finding novel modifications, such as transformation of Cys to Ser. On the basis of the information of precursor ion m/z, quantitative analysis of PTM was performed for identifying molecular changes in heterogeneous protein populations. Our results show that PTMs in mammalian systems in vivo are more complicated and heterogeneous than previously reported. We believe that this strategy has significant potential because it permits systematic characterization of multiple PTMs in functional proteomics.