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Nat Protoc. 2013 Aug;8(8):1602-19. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2013.091. Epub 2013 Jul 25.

Automated selected reaction monitoring data analysis workflow for large-scale targeted proteomic studies.

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Department of Biology, Institute of Molecular Systems Biology, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


Targeted proteomics based on selected reaction monitoring (SRM) mass spectrometry is commonly used for accurate and reproducible quantification of protein analytes in complex biological mixtures. Strictly hypothesis-driven, SRM assays quantify each targeted protein by collecting measurements on its peptide fragment ions, called transitions. To achieve sensitive and accurate quantitative results, experimental design and data analysis must consistently account for the variability of the quantified transitions. This consistency is especially important in large experiments, which increasingly require profiling up to hundreds of proteins over hundreds of samples. Here we describe a robust and automated workflow for the analysis of large quantitative SRM data sets that integrates data processing, statistical protein identification and quantification, and dissemination of the results. The integrated workflow combines three software tools: mProphet for peptide identification via probabilistic scoring; SRMstats for protein significance analysis with linear mixed-effect models; and PASSEL, a public repository for storage, retrieval and query of SRM data. The input requirements for the protocol are files with SRM traces in mzXML format, and a file with a list of transitions in a text tab-separated format. The protocol is especially suited for data with heavy isotope-labeled peptide internal standards. We demonstrate the protocol on a clinical data set in which the abundances of 35 biomarker candidates were profiled in 83 blood plasma samples of subjects with ovarian cancer or benign ovarian tumors. The time frame to realize the protocol is 1-2 weeks, depending on the number of replicates used in the experiment.

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