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Keywords:

  • beta-elimination;
  • chemical proteomics;
  • Michael addition;
  • molecular probes;
  • phosphorylation

Abstract

Gaining insight into phosphoproteomes is of the utmost importance for understanding regulation processes such as signal transduction and cellular differentiation. While the identification of phosphotyrosine-containing amino acid sequences in peptides and proteins is now becoming possible, mainly because of the availability of high-affinity antibodies, no general and robust methodology allowing the selective enrichment and analysis of serine- and threonine-phosphorylated proteins and peptides is presently available. The method presented here involves chemical modification of phosphorylated serine or threonine residues and their subsequent derivatization with the aid of a multifunctional probe molecule. The designed probe contains four parts: a reactive group that is used to bind specifically to the modified phosphopeptide, an optional part in which heavy isotopes can be incorporated, an acid-labile linker, and an affinity tag for the selective enrichment of modified phosphopeptides from complex mixtures. The acid-cleavable linker allows full recovery from the affinity-purified material and removal of the affinity tag prior to MS analysis. The preparation of a representative probe molecule containing a biotin affinity tag and its applicability in phosphoproteome analysis is shown in a number of well-defined model systems of increasing degrees of complexity. Amounts of phosphopeptide as low as 1 nmol can be modified and enriched from a mixture of peptides. During the development of the β-elimination/nucleophilic addition protocol, special attention was paid to the different experimental parameters that might affect the chemical-modification steps carried out on phosphorylated residues.