A novel approach and protocol for discovering extremely low-abundance proteins in serum



The proteomic analysis of serum (plasma) has been a major approach to determining biomarkers essential for early disease diagnoses and drug discoveries. The determination of these biomarkers, however, is analytically challenging since the dynamic concentration range of serum proteins/peptides is extremely wide (more than 10 orders of magnitude). Thus, the reduction in sample complexity prior to proteomic analyses is essential, particularly in analyzing low-abundance protein biomarkers. Here, we demonstrate a novel approach to the proteomic analyses of human serum that uses an originally developed serum protein separation device and a sequentially linked 3-D-LC-MS/MS system. Our hollow-fiber-membrane-based serum pretreatment device can efficiently deplete high-molecular weight proteins and concentrate low-molecular weight proteins/peptides automatically within 1 h. Four independent analyses of healthy human sera pretreated using this unique device, followed by the 3-D-LC-MS/MS successfully produced 12 000–13 000 MS/MS spectra and hit around 1800 proteins (>95% reliability) and 2300 proteins (>80% reliability). We believe that the unique serum pretreatment device and proteomic analysis protocol reported here could be a powerful tool for searching physiological biomarkers by its high throughput (3.7 days per one sample analysis) and high performance of finding low abundant proteins from serum or plasma samples.