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J Proteome Res. 2012 Jul 6;11(7):3929-36. doi: 10.1021/pr3003326. Epub 2012 Jun 21.

Introducing AAA-MS, a rapid and sensitive method for amino acid analysis using isotope dilution and high-resolution mass spectrometry.

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CEA, IRTSV, Biologie à Grande Echelle, F-38054 Grenoble, France.


Accurate quantification of pure peptides and proteins is essential for biotechnology, clinical chemistry, proteomics, and systems biology. The reference method to quantify peptides and proteins is amino acid analysis (AAA). This consists of an acidic hydrolysis followed by chromatographic separation and spectrophotometric detection of amino acids. Although widely used, this method displays some limitations, in particular the need for large amounts of starting material. Driven by the need to quantify isotope-dilution standards used for absolute quantitative proteomics, particularly stable isotope-labeled (SIL) peptides and PSAQ proteins, we developed a new AAA assay (AAA-MS). This method requires neither derivatization nor chromatographic separation of amino acids. It is based on rapid microwave-assisted acidic hydrolysis followed by high-resolution mass spectrometry analysis of amino acids. Quantification is performed by comparing MS signals from labeled amino acids (SIL peptide- and PSAQ-derived) with those of unlabeled amino acids originating from co-hydrolyzed NIST standard reference materials. For both SIL peptides and PSAQ standards, AAA-MS quantification results were consistent with classical AAA measurements. Compared to AAA assay, AAA-MS was much faster and was 100-fold more sensitive for peptide and protein quantification. Finally, thanks to the development of a labeled protein standard, we also extended AAA-MS analysis to the quantification of unlabeled proteins.

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