The effect of peptide adsorption on signal linearity and a simple approach to improve reliability of quantification

Stacey Warwood, Adam Byron, Martin J Humphries, David Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Peptide quantification using MS often relies on the comparison of peptide signal intensities between different samples, which is based on the assumption that observed signal intensity has a linear relationship to peptide abundance. A typical proteomics experiment is subject to multiple sources of variance, so we focussed here on properties affecting peptide linearity under simple, well-defined conditions. Peptides from a standard protein digest were analysed by multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) MS to determine peptide linearity over a range of concentrations. We show that many peptides do not display a linear relationship between signal intensity and amount under standard conditions. Increasing the organic content of the sample solvent increased peptide linearity by increasing the accuracy and precision of quantification, which suggests that peptide non-linearity is due to concentration-dependent surface adsorption. Using multiple peptides at various dilutions, we show that peptide non-linearity is related to observed retention time and predicted hydrophobicity. Whereas the effect of adsorption on peptide storage has been investigated previously, here we demonstrate the deleterious effect of peptide adsorption on the quantification of fresh samples, highlight aspects of sample preparation that can minimise the effect, and suggest bioinformatic approaches to enhance the selection of peptides for quantification.

BIOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Accurate quantification is central to many aspects of science, especially those examining dynamic processes or comparing molecular stoichiometries. In biological research, the quantification of proteins is an important yet challenging objective. Large-scale quantification of proteins using MS often depends on the comparison of peptide intensities with only a single-level calibrant (as in stable isotope labelling and absolute quantification approaches) or no calibrants at all (as in label-free approaches). For these approaches to be reliable, it is essential that the relationship between signal intensity and concentration is linear, without a significant intercept. Here, we show that peptide adsorption can severely affect this relationship, even under controlled conditions, and we demonstrate simple methodologies that can be used to moderate and predict this effect. These findings thus enable the quantification of proteins with increased robustness and reliability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-4
JournalJournal of proteomics
Early online date9 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2013

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Models, Chemical
  • Peptides


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