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Methods Mol Biol. 2013;1000:167-89. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-405-0_13.

Absolute quantitation of proteins in human blood by multiplexed multiple reaction monitoring mass spectrometry.

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University of Victoria - Genome British Columbia Proteomics Centre, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.


Multiple reaction monitoring (MRM)-mass spectrometry (MS) with stable isotope-labeled standards (SIS) has proven adept in rapidly, precisely, and accurately quantifying proteins in complex biological samples. The impetus behind the early use of multiplexed MRM in proteomics was to expedite the verification and validation stages of the protein biomarker pipeline for clinical utility, which involves the analysis of hundreds or even thousands of samples. Moreover, once a multiplexed assay has been developed, however, it can be turned around and used for biomarker discovery, as has been demonstrated for cancer biomarkers by our laboratory and by others. Overall, these MRM-based methods compare favorably with antibody-based techniques, such as ELISAs or protein arrays, in that MRM-based methods are less expensive and can be developed more rapidly. There are two MRM-based platforms that are currently being developed: a standard-flow and a nano-flow LC/ESI-MRM-MS (liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization) platform. In this book chapter, we describe a recent study in which we evaluated these two platforms, both interfaced to the same mass spectrometer. This study demonstrated the enhanced performance metrics (in terms of sensitivity, dynamic range, and robustness) of the standard-flow ultra-high performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) system compared to the nano-flow HPLC-Chip for the absolute quantitation of 48 plasma proteins. Using the standard-flow platform, we also developed two high-throughput assays for the analysis of a panel of 67 cardiovascular disease (CVD) biomarkers in non-depleted and non-enriched human plasma and a panel of 25 putative biomarkers in dried human blood spots (DBS). Since the nanoLC/MRM-MS platform has advantages under sample-limited conditions and for the analysis of certain specific peptides, the protocols for both systems are described here.

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