1Department of Medicinal Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, U.S.A. 2Department of Statistics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, U.S.A. 3Department of Mathematics, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, U.S.A.
Recently, several research groups have published methods for the determination of proteomic expression profiling by mass spectrometry without the use of exogenously added stable isotopes or stable isotope dilution theory. These so-called label-free, methods have the advantage of allowing data on each sample to be acquired independently from all other samples to which they can later be compared in silico for the purpose of measuring changes in protein expression between various biological states. We developed label free software based on direct measurement of peptide ion current area (PICA) and compared it to two other methods, a simpler label free method known as spectral counting and the isotope coded affinity tag (ICAT) method. Data analysis by these methods of a standard mixture containing proteins of known, but varying, concentrations showed that they performed similarly with a mean squared error of 0.09. Additionally, complex bacterial protein mixtures spiked with known concentrations of standard proteins were analyzed using the PICA label-free method. These results indicated that the PICA method detected all levels of standard spiked proteins at the 90% confidence level in this complex biological sample. This finding confirms that label-free methods, based on direct measurement of the area under a single ion current trace, performed as well as the standard ICAT method. Given the fact that the label-free methods provide ease in experimental design well beyond pair-wise comparison, label-free methods such as our PICA method are well suited for proteomic expression profiling of large numbers of samples as is needed in clinical analysis.
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