Determining the phosphorylation stoichiometry at specific sites in a phosphoprotein is a very challenging task. We describe here a novel mass spectrometry based method that is capable of measuring the absolute phosphorylation stoichiometry at specific sites without the need for specific internal standards, phospho-site antibodies or radioactivity. The method is based on a gentle chemical labeling strategy which specifically and differentially labels the N-terminus of all peptides in a sample with either a D(5)- or D(0)-propionyl group and measures the ratio of the abundance of the D(5)/D(0) peptide pairs simultaneously using mass spectrometry. Using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI), the method can measure absolute stoichiometry to within at least 10% and can be applied to both in vitro and in vivo phosphorylated peptides and proteins. Furthermore, this method can potentially be applied to the quantitative study of other types of protein post-translational modifications, and the profiling of protein expression on the proteome level.
Copyright 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.