Bottom-up proteomics

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Top-down vs bottom-up proteomics

Bottom-up proteomics is a common method to identify proteins and characterize their amino acid sequences and post-translational modifications by proteolytic digestion of proteins prior to analysis by mass spectrometry. [1] [2] The major alternative workflow used in proteomics is called top-down proteomics where intact proteins are purified prior to digestion and/or fragmentation either within the mass spectrometer or by 2D electrophoresis. [3] Essentially, bottom-up proteomics is a relatively simple and reliable means of determining the protein make-up of a given sample of cells, tissues, etc. [4]


In bottom-up proteomics, the crude protein extract is enzymatically digested, followed by one or more dimensions of separation of the peptides by liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry, a technique known as shotgun proteomics. [5] [6] By comparing the masses of the proteolytic peptides or their tandem mass spectra with those predicted from a sequence database or annotated peptide spectral in a peptide spectral library, peptides can be identified and multiple peptide identifications assembled into a protein identification.


For high throughput bottom-up methods, there is better front-end separation of peptides compared with proteins and higher sensitivity than the (non-gel) top-down methods. [7]


There is limited protein sequence coverage by identified peptides, loss of labile PTMs, and ambiguity of the origin for redundant peptide sequences. [7] Recently the combination of bottom-up and top-down proteomics, so called middle-down proteomics, is receiving a lot of attention as this approach not only can be applied to the analysis of large protein fragments but also avoids redundant peptide sequences. [8]

See also

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Proteome Set of proteins that can be expressed by a genome, cell, tissue, or organism

The proteome is the entire set of proteins that is, or can be, expressed by a genome, cell, tissue, or organism at a certain time. It is the set of expressed proteins in a given type of cell or organism, at a given time, under defined conditions. Proteomics is the study of the proteome.

Proteomics Large-scale study of proteins

Proteomics is the large-scale study of proteins. Proteins are vital parts of living organisms, with many functions. The proteome is the entire set of proteins that is produced or modified by an organism or system. Proteomics has enabled the identification of ever increasing numbers of protein. This varies with time and distinct requirements, or stresses, that a cell or organism undergoes. Proteomics is an interdisciplinary domain that has benefitted greatly from the genetic information of various genome projects, including the Human Genome Project. It covers the exploration of proteomes from the overall level of protein composition, structure, and activity. It is an important component of functional genomics.

Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis

Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, abbreviated as 2-DE or 2-D electrophoresis, is a form of gel electrophoresis commonly used to analyze proteins. Mixtures of proteins are separated by two properties in two dimensions on 2D gels. 2-DE was first independently introduced by O'Farrell and Klose in 1975.

Tandem mass spectrometry

Tandem mass spectrometry, also known as MS/MS or MS2, is a technique in instrumental analysis where two or more mass analyzers are coupled together using an additional reaction step to increase their abilities to analyse chemical samples. A common use of tandem-MS is the analysis of biomolecules, such as proteins and peptides.

Protein sequencing

Protein sequencing is the practical process of determining the amino acid sequence of all or part of a protein or peptide. This may serve to identify the protein or characterize its post-translational modifications. Typically, partial sequencing of a protein provides sufficient information to identify it with reference to databases of protein sequences derived from the conceptual translation of genes.

Peptide mass fingerprinting

Peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF) is an analytical technique for protein identification in which the unknown protein of interest is first cleaved into smaller peptides, whose absolute masses can be accurately measured with a mass spectrometer such as MALDI-TOF or ESI-TOF. The method was developed in 1993 by several groups independently. The peptide masses are compared to either a database containing known protein sequences or even the genome. This is achieved by using computer programs that translate the known genome of the organism into proteins, then theoretically cut the proteins into peptides, and calculate the absolute masses of the peptides from each protein. They then compare the masses of the peptides of the unknown protein to the theoretical peptide masses of each protein encoded in the genome. The results are statistically analyzed to find the best match.

Benjamin Franklin Cravatt III is a professor in the Department of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. Considered a co-inventor of activity based proteomics and a substantial contributor to research on the endocannabinoid system, he is a prominent figure in the nascent field of chemical biology. Cravatt was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2014, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. He is Gilula Chair of Chemical Biology, a Cope Scholar, and a Searle Scholar.

Mascot is a software search engine that uses mass spectrometry data to identify proteins from peptide sequence databases. Mascot is widely used by research facilities around the world. Mascot uses a probabilistic scoring algorithm for protein identification that was adapted from the MOWSE algorithm. Mascot is freely available to use on the website of Matrix Science. A license is required for in-house use where more features can be incorporated.

Protein mass spectrometry

Protein mass spectrometry refers to the application of mass spectrometry to the study of proteins. Mass spectrometry is an important method for the accurate mass determination and characterization of proteins, and a variety of methods and instrumentations have been developed for its many uses. Its applications include the identification of proteins and their post-translational modifications, the elucidation of protein complexes, their subunits and functional interactions, as well as the global measurement of proteins in proteomics. It can also be used to localize proteins to the various organelles, and determine the interactions between different proteins as well as with membrane lipids.

Shotgun proteomics refers to the use of bottom-up proteomics techniques in identifying proteins in complex mixtures using a combination of high performance liquid chromatography combined with mass spectrometry. The name is derived from shotgun sequencing of DNA which is itself named after the rapidly expanding, quasi-random firing pattern of a shotgun. The most common method of shotgun proteomics starts with the proteins in the mixture being digested and the resulting peptides are separated by liquid chromatography. Tandem mass spectrometry is then used to identify the peptides.

Top-down proteomics

Top-down proteomics is a method of protein identification that either uses an ion trapping mass spectrometer to store an isolated protein ion for mass measurement and tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) analysis or other protein purification methods such as two-dimensional gel electrophoresis in conjunction with MS/MS. Top-down proteomics is capable of identifying and quantitating unique proteoforms through the analysis of intact proteins. The name is derived from the similar approach to DNA sequencing. During mass spectrometry intact proteins are typically ionized by electrospray ionization and trapped in a Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance, quadrupole ion trap or Orbitrap mass spectrometer. Fragmentation for tandem mass spectrometry is accomplished by electron-capture dissociation or electron-transfer dissociation. Effective fractionation is critical for sample handling before mass-spectrometry-based proteomics. Proteome analysis routinely involves digesting intact proteins followed by inferred protein identification using mass spectrometry (MS). Top-down MS (non-gel) proteomics interrogates protein structure through measurement of an intact mass followed by direct ion dissociation in the gas phase.

Quantitative proteomics

Quantitative proteomics is an analytical chemistry technique for determining the amount of proteins in a sample. The methods for protein identification are identical to those used in general proteomics, but include quantification as an additional dimension. Rather than just providing lists of proteins identified in a certain sample, quantitative proteomics yields information about the physiological differences between two biological samples. For example, this approach can be used to compare samples from healthy and diseased patients. Quantitative proteomics is mainly performed by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2-DE) or mass spectrometry (MS). However, a recent developed method of quantitative dot blot (QDB) analysis is able to measure both the absolute and relative quantity of an individual proteins in the sample in high throughput format, thus open a new direction for proteomic research. In contrast to 2-DE, which requires MS for the downstream protein identification, MS technology can identify and quantify the changes.

The in-gel digestion step is a part of the sample preparation for the mass spectrometric identification of proteins in course of proteomic analysis. The method was introduced in 1992 by Rosenfeld. Innumerable modifications and improvements in the basic elements of the procedure remain.

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Isobaric labeling

Isobaric labeling is a mass spectrometry strategy used in quantitative proteomics. Peptides or proteins are labeled with various chemical groups that are identical masses (isobaric), but vary in terms of distribution of heavy isotopes around their structure. These tags, commonly referred to as tandem mass tags, are designed so that the mass tag is cleaved at a specific linker region upon high-energy CID (HCD) during tandem mass spectrometry yielding reporter ions of different masses. The most common isobaric tags are amine-reactive tags. However, tags that react with cysteine residues and carbonyl groups have also been described. These amine-reactive groups go through N-hydroxysuccinimide (NHS) reactions, which are based around three types of functional groups. Isobaric labeling methods include tandem mass tags (TMT), isobaric tags for absolute and relative quantification (iTRAQ), mass differential tags for absolute and relative quantification, and dimethyl labeling. TMTs and iTRAQ methods are most common and developed of these methods. Tandem mass tags have a mass reporter region, a cleavable linker region, a mass normalization region, and a protein reactive group and have the same total mass.


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A peptide spectral library is a curated, annotated and non-redundant collection/database of LC-MS/MS peptide spectra. One essential utility of a peptide spectral library is to serve as consensus templates supporting the identification of peptide/proteins based on the correlation between the templates with experimental spectra.

In bio-informatics, a peptide-mass fingerprint or peptide-mass map is a mass spectrum of a mixture of peptides that comes from a digested protein being analyzed. The mass spectrum serves as a fingerprint in the sense that it is a pattern that can serve to identify the protein. The method for forming a peptide-mass fingerprint, developed in 1993, consists of isolating a protein, breaking it down into individual peptides, and determining the masses of the peptides through some form of mass spectrometry. Once formed, a peptide-mass fingerprint can be used to search in databases for related protein or even genomic sequences, making it a powerful tool for annotation of protein-coding genes.


Degradomics is a sub-discipline of biology encompassing all the genomic and proteomic approaches devoted to the study of proteases, their inhibitors, and their substrates on a system-wide scale. This includes the analysis of the protease and protease-substrate repertoires, also called "protease degradomes". The scope of these degradomes can range from cell, tissue, and organism-wide scales.


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