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J Proteome Res. 2011 Dec 2;10(12):5568-74. doi: 10.1021/pr2007686. Epub 2011 Nov 15.

Electrostatic repulsion-hydrophilic interaction chromatography (ERLIC) versus strong cation exchange (SCX) for fractionation of iTRAQ-labeled peptides.

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School of Biological Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, 60 Nanyang Drive, 637551 Singapore.


The iTRAQ technique is popular for the comparative analysis of proteins in different complex samples. To increase the dynamic range and sensitivity of peptide identification in shotgun proteomics, SCX chromatography is generally used for the fractionation of iTRAQ-labeled peptides before LC-MS/MS analysis. However, SCX suffers from clustering of similarly charged peptides and the need to desalt fractions. In this report, SCX is compared with the alternative ERLIC method for fractionating iTRAQ-labeled peptides. The simultaneous effect of electrostatic repulsion and hydrophilic interaction in ERLIC results in peptide elution in order of decreasing pI and GRAVY values (increasing polarity). Volatile solvents can be used. We applied ERLIC to iTRAQ-labeled peptides from rat liver tissue, and 2745 proteins and 30,016 unique peptides were identified with high confidence from three technical replicates. This was 12.9 and 49.4% higher, respectively, than was obtained using SCX. In addition, ERLIC is appreciably better at the identification of highly hydrophobic peptides. The results indicate that ERLIC is a more convenient and more effective alternative to SCX for the fractionation of iTRAQ-labeled peptides. Quantification data show that both SCX and ERLIC fractionation have no significant effect on protein quantification by iTRAQ.

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