Analysis of isotopic labeling in peptide fragments by tandem mass spectrometry

Doug K. Allen, Bradley S. Evans, Igor G.L. Libourel

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17 Scopus citations


Phenotype in multicellular organisms is the consequence of dynamic metabolic events that occur in a spatially dependent fashion. This spatial and temporal complexity presents challenges for investigating metabolism; creating a need for improved methods that effectively probe biochemical events such as amino acid biosynthesis. Isotopic labeling can provide a temporal-spatial recording of metabolic events through, for example, the description of enriched amino acids in the protein pool. Proteins are therefore an important readout of metabolism and can be assessed with modern mass spectrometers. We compared the measurement of isotopic labeling in MS2 spectra obtained from tandem mass spectrometry under either higher energy collision dissociation (HCD) or collision induced dissociation (CID) at varied energy levels. Developing soybean embryos cultured with or without 13C-labeled substrates, and Escherichia coli MG1655 enriched by feeding 7% uniformly labeled glucose served as a source of biological material for protein evaluation. CID with low energies resulted in a disproportionate amount of heavier isotopologues remaining in the precursor isotopic distribution. HCD resulted in fewer quantifiable products; however deviation from predicted distributions were small relative to the CID-based comparisons. Fragment ions have the potential to provide information on the labeling of amino acids in peptides, but our results indicate that without further development the use of this readout in quantitative methods such as metabolic flux analysis is limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere91537
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 13 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge USDA facilities and resources, and technical expertise of Jim Gierse and Christine Diepenbrock along with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry Facility where the Orbitrap mass spectrometer was located (funded by NSF: DBI-0922879). Technical advice from Drs. Alisha Roberts and Jae Schwartz, Thermo-Fisher Scientific was also greatly appreciated.


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