Techniques for phosphopeptide enrichment prior to analysis by mass spectrometry



Mass spectrometry is the tool of choice to investigate protein phosphorylation, which plays a vital role in cell regulation and diseases such as cancer. However, low abundances of phosphopeptides and low degrees of phosphorylation typically necessitate isolation and concentration of phosphopeptides prior to MS analysis. This review discusses the enrichment of phosphopeptides with immobilized metal affinity chromatography, reversible covalent binding, and metal oxide affinity chromatography. Capture of phosphopeptides on TiO2 seems especially promising in terms of selectivity and recovery, but the success of all methods depends on careful selection of binding, washing, and elution solutions. Enrichment techniques are complementary, such that a combination of methods greatly enhances the number of phosphopeptides isolated from complex samples. Development of a standard series of phosphopeptides in a highly complex mixture of digested proteins would greatly aid the comparison of different enrichment methods. Phosphopeptide binding to magnetic beads and on-plate isolation prior to MALDI-MS are emerging as convenient methods for purification of small (µL) samples. On-plate enrichment can yield >70% recoveries of phosphopeptides in mixtures of a few digested proteins and can avoid sample-handling steps, but this technique is likely limited to relatively simple samples such as immunoprecipitates. With recent advances in enrichment techniques in hand, MS analysis should provide important insights into phosphorylation pathways. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., Mass Spec Rev 29:29–54, 2010