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Antibody-Free Multiplex Measurement of 23 Human Cytokines in Primary Cell Culture Secretome Using Targeted Mass Spectrometry

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posted on 18.02.2020, 19:38 by Annika Krueger, Thomas Stoll, Alok K. Shah, Rohit Sinha, Ian H. Frazer, Michelle M. Hill
Cytokines are commonly measured by immunoassays; however, these have limited multiplexing capacity, are costly, and can exhibit cross-reactivity. Multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mass spectrometry is a robust method to quantify analytes with high specificity and multiplexing ability, hence we aimed to investigate its suitability as an alternative cost-effective method for cytokine measurement. Human keratinocyte conditioned media spiked with recombinant cytokines was used as an experimental system to evaluate sensitivity, linearity, and reproducibility of an MRM assay targeting 79 peptides representing 23 human cytokines. Our MRM method was able to identify 21 cytokines by two or more unique peptides and two cytokines by a single unique peptide. In a serum-free matrix, the median LOD and LOQ for cytokine peptides was 130 and 433 pg/mL, respectively. The presence of serum increased median LOD and LOQ by about 2.3-fold. The assay shows excellent replicate consistency with 8% intra- and 12% interday coefficient of variations. We found high pH reversed-phase fractionation a useful tool to increase assay sensitivity with the drawback of increasing its variability by approximately 10%. Overall, our results suggest utility of a multiplex cytokine MRM for routine measurement of secreted cytokines in cellular experiments under low serum conditions. Additional enrichment steps will be required in high complexity matrices such as serum.