Top-down proteomics

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Top-down vs bottom-up 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 [1] [2] or other protein purification methods such as two-dimensional gel electrophoresis in conjunction with MS/MS. [3] Top-down proteomics is capable of identifying and quantitating unique proteoforms through the analysis of intact proteins. [4] The name is derived from the similar approach to DNA sequencing. [5] During mass spectrometry intact proteins are typically ionized by electrospray ionization and trapped in a Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (Penning trap), [6] quadrupole ion trap (Paul 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). [7] Top-down MS (non-gel) proteomics interrogates protein structure through measurement of an intact mass followed by direct ion dissociation in the gas phase. [8]




Research and uses

Study One: Quantitation and Identification of Thousands of Human Proteoforms below 30 kDa

Study Two: Combining high-throughput MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry and isoelectric focusing gel electrophoresis for virtual 2D gel-based proteomics

See also

Related Research Articles

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.

Glycomics is the comprehensive study of glycomes, including genetic, physiologic, pathologic, and other aspects. Glycomics "is the systematic study of all glycan structures of a given cell type or organism" and is a subset of glycobiology. The term glycomics is derived from the chemical prefix for sweetness or a sugar, "glyco-", and was formed to follow the omics naming convention established by genomics and proteomics.


The glycome is the entire complement of sugars, whether free or present in more complex molecules, of an organism. An alternative definition is the entirety of carbohydrates in a cell. The glycome may in fact be one of the most complex entities in nature. "Glycomics, analogous to genomics and proteomics, is the systematic study of all glycan structures of a given cell type or organism" and is a subset of glycobiology.

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.

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.

Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization

In mass spectrometry, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) is an ionization technique that uses a laser energy absorbing matrix to create ions from large molecules with minimal fragmentation. It has been applied to the analysis of biomolecules and various organic molecules, which tend to be fragile and fragment when ionized by more conventional ionization methods. It is similar in character to electrospray ionization (ESI) in that both techniques are relatively soft ways of obtaining ions of large molecules in the gas phase, though MALDI typically produces far fewer multi-charged ions.

Electron-capture dissociation

Electron-capture dissociation (ECD) is a method of fragmenting gas-phase ions for structure elucidation of peptides and proteins in tandem mass spectrometry. It is one of the most widely used techniques for activation and dissociation of mass selected precursor ion in MS/MS. It involves the direct introduction of low-energy electrons to trapped gas-phase ions.

Surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization (SELDI) is a soft ionization method in mass spectrometry (MS) used for the analysis of protein mixtures. It is a variation of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI). In MALDI, the sample is mixed with a matrix material and applied to a metal plate before irradiation by a laser, whereas in SELDI, proteins of interest in a sample become bound to a surface before MS analysis. The sample surface is a key component in the purification, desorption, and ionization of the sample. SELDI is typically used with time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometers and is used to detect proteins in tissue samples, blood, urine, or other clinical samples, however, SELDI technology can potentially be used in any application by simply modifying the sample surface.

Electron-transfer dissociation

Electron-transfer dissociation (ETD) is a method of fragmenting multiply-charged gaseous macromolecules in a mass spectrometer between the stages of tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). Similar to electron-capture dissociation, ETD induces fragmentation of large, multiply-charged cations by transferring electrons to them. ETD is used extensively with polymers and biological molecules such as proteins and peptides for sequence analysis. Transferring an electron causes peptide backbone cleavage into c- and z-ions while leaving labile post translational modifications (PTM) intact. The technique only works well for higher charge state peptide or polymer ions (z>2). However, relative to collision-induced dissociation (CID), ETD is advantageous for the fragmentation of longer peptides or even entire proteins. This makes the technique important for top-down proteomics. The method was developed by Hunt and coworkers at the University of Virginia.

MALDI imaging

MALDI mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) is the use of matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization as a mass spectrometry imaging technique in which the sample, often a thin tissue section, is moved in two dimensions while the mass spectrum is recorded. Advantages, like measuring the distribution of a large amount of analytes at one time without destroying the sample, make it a useful method in tissue-based study.

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.

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. 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. 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.

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.

Heat stabilization is an additive-free preservation technology for tissue samples which stops degradation and changes immediately and permanently. Heat stabilization uses rapid conductive heating, under controlled pressure, to generate a fast, homogenous and irreversible thermal denaturation of proteins, resulting in a complete and permanent elimination of all enzymatic activity that would otherwise cause further biological changes to the tissue sample ex vivo. Due to the permanent inactivation of enzymes, heat stabilization overcomes the drawbacks of conventional tissue sample preservation techniques, such as snap-freezing followed by inhibitors.

Capillary electrophoresis–mass spectrometry

Capillary electrophoresis–mass spectrometry (CE-MS) is an analytical chemistry technique formed by the combination of the liquid separation process of capillary electrophoresis with mass spectrometry. CE-MS combines advantages of both CE and MS to provide high separation efficiency and molecular mass information in a single analysis. It has high resolving power and sensitivity, requires minimal volume and can analyze at high speed. Ions are typically formed by electrospray ionization, but they can also be formed by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization or other ionization techniques. It has applications in basic research in proteomics and quantitative analysis of biomolecules as well as in clinical medicine. Since its introduction in 1987, new developments and application has made CE-MS powerful separation and identification technique. Use of CE-MS has increased for protein and peptides analysis and other biomolecules. However, the development of online CE-MS is not without challenges. Understanding of CE, the interface setup, ionization technique and mass detection system is important to tackle problems while coupling capillary electrophoresis to mass spectrometry.

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.

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.

Free-flow electrophoresis (FFE), also known as carrier-free electrophoresis, is a matrix-free electrophoretic separation technique. FFE is an analogous technique to capillary electrophoresis, with a comparable resolution, that can used for scientific questions, where semi-preparative and preparative amounts of samples are needed. It is used to quantitatively separate samples according to differences in charge or isoelectric point. Because of the versatility of the technique, a wide range of protocols for the separation of samples like rare metal ions, protein isoforms, multiprotein complexes, peptides, organelles, cells, DNA origami, blood serum and nanoparticles exist. The advantage of FFE is the fast and gentle separation of samples dissolved in a liquid solvent without any need of a matrix, like polyacrylamide in gel electrophoresis. This ensures a very high recovery rate since analytes do not adhere to any carrier or matrix structure. Because of its continuous nature and high volume throughput, this technique allows a fast separation of preparative amounts of samples with a very high resolution. Furthermore, the separations can be conducted under native or denaturing conditions.


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