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Proteomics. 2012 Mar;12(6):752-60. doi: 10.1002/pmic.201100478.

In vivo relevance of citrullinated proteins and the challenges in their detection.

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Laboratory for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.


Citrullination is a posttranslational modification of arginine. It plays both a physiological role, for instance during apoptosis and epigenetics, and a pathological role in cancer or diseases of the central nervous system. Most research on citrullination to date focuses on its role in auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. In this context, the exact knowledge of citrullination sites in a protein can provide invaluable information about the etiological importance of these citrullinated proteins. However, few techniques exist that can accurately detect citrullination on the peptide level. This review aims to give an overview of the different methods available to date for the detection of citrullinated proteins and peptides. These include 2D-SDS-PAGE and immunodetection, as well as specific mass spectrometry (MS) approaches, both labeled and unlabeled. These MS approaches have been developed to pinpoint the exact location of citrullination on the peptide level. Improving the currently existing detection strategies while focusing on the role of citrullinated proteins will be invaluable to elucidate the importance of this posttranslational modification in vivo.

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