Highly Sensitive Phosphoproteomics by Tailoring Solid-Phase Extraction to Electrostatic Repulsion-Hydrophilic Interaction Chromatography

In the past decade, several strategies for comprehensive phosphoproteome analysis have been introduced. Most of them combine different phosphopeptide enrichment techniques and require starting material in the milligram range, as a consequence of their insufficient sensitivity. This limitation impairs the applicability of phosphoproteomics to a wide variety of clinical research, where sample material is highly limited. Here we introduce a highly sensitive and easy-to-establish 2D bottom-up strategy for microgram-scale phosphoproteomics, based on electrostatic repulsion–hydrophilic interaction chromatography (ERLIC), a simple solid-phase extraction step by strong cation exchange (SCX) or reversed phase (RP), and LC-MS analysis. With only 100 μg of tryptic digested, nonstimulated HeLa protein and 45 h of LC-MS analysis time, we identified ≥7500 nonredundant and highly confident phosphorylation sites (per replicate). We assigned all phosphorylation sites to 3013 phosphoproteins, covering the entire dynamic range from 107 down to a few copies per cell. Compared to affinity-based-enrichment methods using Ti4+, our ERLIC-based strategy enriched considerably longer and more acidic phosphopeptides and consequently, we identified 327 phosphorylated C-terminal peptides. The simplicity and high sensitivity of ERLIC-SCX/RP-LC-MS render its future promising for microgram-scale-phosphoproteomics in biological, biomedical, and clinical research.