QconCATs: design and expression of concatenated protein standards for multiplexed protein quantification

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2012 Sep;404(4):977-89. doi: 10.1007/s00216-012-6230-1. Epub 2012 Jul 9.


Systems biology requires knowledge of the absolute amounts of proteins in order to model biological processes and simulate the effects of changes in specific model parameters. Quantification concatamers (QconCATs) are established as a method to provide multiplexed absolute peptide standards for a set of target proteins in isotope dilution standard experiments. Two or more quantotypic peptides representing each of the target proteins are concatenated into a designer gene that is metabolically labelled with stable isotopes in Escherichia coli or other cellular or cell-free systems. Co-digestion of a known amount of QconCAT with the target proteins generates a set of labelled reference peptide standards for the unlabelled analyte counterparts, and by using an appropriate mass spectrometry platform, comparison of the intensities of the peptide ratios delivers absolute quantification of the encoded peptides and in turn the target proteins for which they are surrogates. In this review, we discuss the criteria and difficulties associated with surrogate peptide selection and provide examples in the design of QconCATs for quantification of the proteins of the nuclear factor κB pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / genetics
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Proteomics / methods
  • Proteomics / standards*
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Reference Standards


  • Peptides
  • Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins