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Mol Cell Proteomics. 2002 Apr;1(4):314-22.

A strategy for the rapid identification of phosphorylation sites in the phosphoproteome.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


Edman phosphate ((32)P) release sequencing provides a high sensitivity means of identifying phosphorylation sites in proteins that complements mass spectrometry techniques. We have developed a bioinformatic assessment tool, the cleavage of radiolabeled protein (CRP) program, which enables experimental identification of phosphorylation sites via (32)P labeling and Edman degradation of cleaved proteins obtained at femtomole levels. By observing the Edman cycle(s) in which radioactivity is found, candidate phosphorylation sites are identified by determining which residues occur at the observed number of cycles downstream from a peptide cleavage site. In cases where more than one residue could be responsible for the observed radioactivity, additional experiments with cleavage reagents having alternative specificities may resolve the ambiguity. Given a protein sequence and a cleavage site, CRP performs these experiments in silico, identifying resolved sites based on user-supplied experimental data, as well as suggesting combinations of reagents for additional analyses. Analysis of the PhosphoBase protein sequence database suggests that CRP data from two cleavage experiments can be used to identify unambiguously 60% of known phosphorylation sites. Data from additional cleavage experiments may increase the overall coverage to 70% of known sites. By comparing theoretical data obtained from the CRP program with (32)P release data obtained from an Edman sequencer, a known phosphorylation site was identified unambiguously and correctly. In addition, our results show that in vivo phosphorylation sites can be determined routinely by differential proteolysis analysis and Edman cycling with less than 1 fmol of protein and 1000 cpm.

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