18O labeling: a tool for proteomics

Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2001;15(24):2456-65. doi: 10.1002/rcm.525.


An evaluation of the proteolytic labeling and quantification of proteins for diagnostic purposes using trypsin and 18O-enriched H2O is presented. We demonstrate that comparative or relative quantitation can be performed effectively with this approach. We have developed a protocol that allows the conservation of the labeled peptides in natural abundance water without fear of back-exchange providing that pH is sufficiently low to quench the catalytic activity of trypsin, but not so low as to promote chemical back-exchange. Because the labeling efficiency depends on the nature of the peptide, a simple linear relationship between the relative 16O/18O digest buffer mixture content (x) and labeling efficiency (y) does not exist; rather it follows a probability based y = x(2) relationship. As such, the extent of peptide labeling using 16O/18O digest buffer mixture ratios may deviate significantly from that expected based on a linear relationship. The evaluation of the relative Ziptip efficiency indicated a loss in sample recovery as the peptide concentration was reduced using normal conditions, suggesting that there is a limit below which there are diminishing returns. In addition, the adsorptive losses due to Speedvac dry down and recovery indicated modest (20%) losses that may vary widely (0-50%) from peptide to peptide. The in-solution digestion efficiency of standard protein mixtures as a function of concentration revealed a linear decrease with decreasing concentration. This is consistent with enzyme kinetic effects and emphasizes a potential quantitation error that could arise when evaluating differential expression based on peptide detection. The results from our studies demonstrate the power of 18O labeling as an optimization tool for proteomics process development.

MeSH terms

  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Hydrolysis
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Isotope Labeling
  • Oxygen Isotopes
  • Peptides / analysis
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Phosphorylase b / chemistry
  • Proteome / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Trypsin / chemistry


  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Oxygen Isotopes
  • Peptides
  • Proteome
  • Phosphorylase b
  • Trypsin