Reversible phosphorylation, tightly controlled by protein kinases and phosphatases, plays a central role in mediating biological processes, such as protein–protein interactions, subcellular translocation, and activation of cellular enzymes. MS-based phosphoproteomics has now allowed the detection and quantification of tens of thousands of phosphorylation sites from a typical biological sample in a single experiment, which has posed new challenges in functional analysis of each and every phosphorylation site on specific signaling phosphoproteins of interest. In this article, we review recent advances in the functional analysis of targeted phosphorylation carried out by various chemical and biological approaches in combination with the MS-based phosphoproteomics. This review focuses on three types of strategies, including forward functional analysis, defined for the result-driven phosphoproteomics efforts in determining the substrates of a specific protein kinase; reverse functional analysis, defined for tracking the kinase(s) for specific phosphosite(s) derived from the discovery-driven phosphoproteomics efforts; and MS-based analysis on the structure–function relationship of phosphoproteins. It is expected that this review will provide a state-of-the-art overview of functional analysis of site-specific phosphorylation and explore new perspectives and outline future challenges.
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