Reversible and differential multisite protein phosphorylation is an important mechanism controlling the activity of cellular proteins. Here we describe a robust and highly selective approach for the identification and relative quantification of site-specific phosphorylation events. This integrated strategy has three major parts: visualisation of phosphorylated proteins using fluorescently stained polyacrylamide gels, determination of the phosphorylation site(s) using automatic MS3 triggered by the loss of phosphoric acid, and relative quantification of phosphorylation by integrating MS2- and MS3-extracted ion traces using a fast-scanning, linear ion trap mass spectrometer. As a test case, recombinant sucrose-phosphate synthase (SPS) from Arabidopsis thaliana (At5g1110) was used for identification and quantification of site-specific phosphorylation. The identified phosphorylation site of the actively expressed protein coincides with the major regulatory in vivo phosphorylation site in spinach SPS. Site-specific differential in vitro phosphorylation of native protein was demonstrated after incubation of the recombinant protein with cold-adapted plant leaf extracts from A. thaliana, suggesting regulatory phosphorylation events of this key enzyme under stress response. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.