Dimethyl Multiplexed Labeling Combined With Microcolumn Separation and MS Analysis for Time Course Study in Proteomics

Electrophoresis. 2006 Sep;27(18):3652-60. doi: 10.1002/elps.200600147.


Stable-isotope labeling coupled with liquid-phase separation and MS analysis is a powerful technique for comparative proteomics. We developed a dimethyl labeling strategy (Anal. Chem. 2003, 75, 6843-6852 and J. Proteome Res. 2005, 4, 101-108) to label peptide N-terminus and epsilon-amino groups of Lys with water-soluble formaldehyde via reductive methylation, and an isotopic pair of formaldehyde is used for binary labeling on two sets of samples. In this study, this approach is extended to a four sample labeling by combining the binary isotopic reagents of formaldehyde (d0, d2) and the binary isotopic reducing reagents, sodium cyanoborohydride (d0, d3). To ensure sufficient mass difference, this multiplexed labeling is coupled with endoproteinase Lys-C instead of trypsin for digestion, resulting in at least two labeling sites with a mass difference of 4 Da for each pair of peptide digest. Moreover, multiplex dimethyl labeling was proved to have no significant isotopic effect during RP LC elution. This method was further applied for monitoring Lys-C digestion using hemoglobin as a model. Dimethyl labeled digests derived from seven time points (1-30 h) were grouped into two sets of sample mixtures, separated by nano-LC to reduce the complexity, and then analyzed by ESI-MS/MS. The temporal study reveals that Lys-C digestion was completed in 10-15 h for all detected peptides. The multiplex dimethyl method has not only provided a simultaneous detection mean for four sample sets but has also conserved all the advantages associated with the original binary method.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Borohydrides / chemistry
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Formaldehyde / chemistry
  • Hemoglobins / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Isotope Labeling / methods*
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Metalloendopeptidases / chemistry
  • Microchemistry / methods
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Proteomics / methods*


  • Borohydrides
  • Hemoglobins
  • Formaldehyde
  • sodium cyanoborohydride
  • Metalloendopeptidases
  • peptidyl-Lys metalloendopeptidase