A quantitative study of the effects of chaotropic agents, surfactants, and solvents on the digestion efficiency of human plasma proteins by trypsin

J Proteome Res. 2010 Oct 1;9(10):5422-37. doi: 10.1021/pr100656u.


Plasma biomarkers studies are based on the differential expression of proteins between different treatment groups or between diseased and control populations. Most mass spectrometry-based methods of protein quantitation, however, are based on the detection and quantitation of peptides, not intact proteins. For peptide-based protein quantitation to be accurate, the digestion protocols used in proteomic analyses must be both efficient and reproducible. There have been very few studies, however, where plasma denaturation/digestion protocols have been compared using absolute quantitation methods. In this paper, 14 combinations of heat, solvent [acetonitrile, methanol, trifluoroethanol], chaotropic agents [guanidine hydrochloride, urea], and surfactants [sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) and sodium deoxycholate (DOC)] were compared with respect to their effectiveness in improving subsequent tryptic digestion. These digestion protocols were evaluated by quantitating the production of proteotypic tryptic peptides from 45 moderate- to high-abundance plasma proteins, using tandem mass spectrometry in multiple reaction monitoring mode, with a mixture of stable-isotope labeled analogues of these proteotypic peptides as internal standards. When the digestion efficiencies of these 14 methods were compared, we found that both of the surfactants (SDS and DOC) produced an increase in the overall yield of tryptic peptides from these 45 proteins, when compared to the more commonly used urea protocol. SDS, however, can be a serious interference for subsequent mass spectrometry. DOC, on the other hand, can be easily removed from the samples by acid precipitation. Examining the results of a reproducibility study, done with 5 replicate digestions, DOC and SDS with a 9 h digestion time produced the highest average digestion efficiencies (∼80%), with the highest average reproducibility (<5% error, defined as the relative deviation from the mean value). However, because of potential interferences resulting from the use of SDS, we recommend DOC with a 9 h digestion procedure as the optimum protocol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetonitriles / pharmacology
  • Biocatalysis / drug effects
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism*
  • Deoxycholic Acid / pharmacology
  • Guanidine / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis / drug effects
  • Methanol / pharmacology
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate / pharmacology
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Trifluoroethanol / pharmacology
  • Trypsin / metabolism*
  • Urea / pharmacology


  • Acetonitriles
  • Blood Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Deoxycholic Acid
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate
  • Trifluoroethanol
  • Urea
  • Trypsin
  • Guanidine
  • Methanol
  • acetonitrile