Measuring Protein Concentration by Diffusion-Filtered Quantitative Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy

The concentration of macromolecules in solution is a crucial property in many areas of research, including the development and commercialization of biological therapeutics. For proteins in particular, none of the reported methods for measuring concentration detect a molecular property that is known a priori; rather, they rely on ligand binding, degradation and derivitization, or an intrinsic property that must be determined experimentally. The purpose of this report is to describe (1) a diffusion-filtered qNMR experiment (DF-qNMR) for quantitating macromolecules in complex matrices and (2) an overall method for measuring absolute protein concentration based on this DF-qNMR experiment. This method combines protein denaturation with the diffusion filter to produce clean spectra of the protein with well-resolved resonances, regardless of the matrix complexity. The concentration is then obtained by comparing the peak area of the valine/isoleucine/leucine methyl groups to an external, certified, small-molecule quantitation standard. The method, which is referred to as VILMHA (valine isoleucine leucine methyl hydrogen analysis), was tested on three proteins of various sizes. In all cases, the measured concentration was within 1.8% of the labeled value for the undiluted standard reference material evaluated. In addition, the RSD’s were less than 1.25% in all cases and less than 1% in most cases. The accuracy, precision, and ease of use make this method superior to existing absolute protein concentration methods. Furthermore, VILMHA is ideally suited to serve as the basis for converting the relative protein concentration methods into absolute methods or establishing molecular-specific parameters. Finally, DF-qNMR has the potential to quantitate other types of macromolecules (e.g., such as polymers, surfactants, etc.) in the presence of small-molecule contaminants.