Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a perfect source to search for new biomarkers to improve early diagnosis of neurological diseases. Standardization of pre-analytical handling of the sample is, however, important to obtain acceptable analytical quality. In the present study, MALDI-TOF MS was used to examine the influence of pre-analytical sample procedures on the low molecular weight (MW) CSF proteome. Different storage conditions like temperature and duration or the addition of as little as 0.2 µL blood/mL neat CSF caused significant changes in the mass spectra. The performance of different types of MW cut-off spin cartridges from different suppliers used to enrich the low MW CSF proteome showed great variance in cut-off accuracy, stability and reproducibility. The described analytical method achieved a polypeptide discriminating limit of approximately 800 pM, two to three orders of magnitude lower than reported for plasma. Based on this study, we recommend that CSF is centrifuged immediately after sampling, prior to storage at -80ºC without addition of protease inhibitors. Guanidinium hydrochloride is preferred to break protein-protein interactions. A spin cartridge with cut-off limit above the intended analytical mass range is recommended. Our study contributes to the important task of developing standardized pre-analytical protocols for the proteomic study of CSF.
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