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In-Gel Isoelectric Focusing of Peptides as a Tool for Improved Protein Identification

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posted on 07.07.2006, 00:00 by Jeroen Krijgsveld, Sharon Gauci, Wilma Dormeyer, Albert J. R. Heck
In the analysis of proteins in complex samples, pre-fractionation is imperative to obtain the necessary depth in the number of reliable protein identifications by mass spectrometry. Here we explore isoelectric focusing of peptides (peptide IEF) as an effective fractionation step that at the same time provides the added possibility to eliminate spurious peptide identifications by filtering for pI. Peptide IEF in IPG strips is fast and sharply confines peptides to their pI. We have evaluated systematically the contribution of pI filtering and accurate mass measurements on the total number of protein identifications in a complex protein mixture (Drosophila nuclear extract). At the same time, by varying Mascot identification cutoff scores, we have monitored the false positive rate among these identifications by searching reverse protein databases. From mass spectrometric analyses at low mass accuracy using an LTQ ion trap, false positive rates can be minimized by filtering of peptides not focusing at their expected pI. Analyses using an LTQ-FT mass spectrometer delivers low false positive rates by itself due to the high mass accuracy. In a direct comparison of peptide IEF with SDS-PAGE as a pre-fractionation step, IEF delivered 25% and 43% more proteins when identified using FT−MS and LTQ−MS, respectively. Cumulatively, 2190 non redundant proteins were identified in the Drosophila nuclear extract at a false positive rate of 0.5%. Of these, 1751 proteins (80%) were identified after peptide IEF and FT-MS alone. Overall, we show that peptide IEF allows to increase the confidence level of protein identifications, and is more sensitive than SDS-PAGE. Keywords: false positive rate • isoelectric focusing • SDS-PAGE • FT−MS • LTQ−MS • Drosophila