Systematic Assessment of Survey Scan and MS2-Based Abundance Strategies for Label-Free Quantitative Proteomics Using High-Resolution MS Data

Survey-scan-based label-free method have shown no compelling benefit over fragment ion (MS2)-based approaches when low-resolution mass spectrometry (MS) was used, the growing prevalence of high-resolution analyzers may have changed the game. This necessitates an updated, comparative investigation of these approaches for data acquired by high-resolution MS. Here, we compared survey scan-based (ion current, IC) and MS2-based abundance features including spectral-count (SpC) and MS2 total-ion-current (MS2-TIC), for quantitative analysis using various high-resolution LC/MS data sets. Key discoveries include: (i) study with seven different biological data sets revealed only IC achieved high reproducibility for lower-abundance proteins; (ii) evaluation with 5-replicate analyses of a yeast sample showed IC provided much higher quantitative precision and lower missing data; (iii) IC, SpC, and MS2-TIC all showed good quantitative linearity (R2 > 0.99) over a >1000-fold concentration range; (iv) both MS2-TIC and IC showed good linear response to various protein loading amounts but not SpC; (v) quantification using a well-characterized CPTAC data set showed that IC exhibited markedly higher quantitative accuracy, higher sensitivity, and lower false-positives/false-negatives than both SpC and MS2-TIC. Therefore, IC achieved an overall superior performance than the MS2-based strategies in terms of reproducibility, missing data, quantitative dynamic range, quantitative accuracy, and biomarker discovery.