Increasing the multiplexing capacity of TMTs using reporter ion isotopologues with isobaric masses

Anal Chem. 2012 Sep 4;84(17):7469-78. doi: 10.1021/ac301572t. Epub 2012 Aug 20.


Quantitative mass spectrometry methods offer near-comprehensive proteome coverage; however, these methods still suffer with regards to sample throughput. Multiplex quantitation via isobaric chemical tags (e.g., TMT and iTRAQ) provides an avenue for mass spectrometry-based proteome quantitation experiments to move away from simple binary comparisons and toward greater parallelization. Herein, we demonstrate a straightforward method for immediately expanding the throughput of the TMT isobaric reagents from 6-plex to 8-plex. This method is based upon our ability to resolve the isotopic shift that results from substituting a (15)N for a (13)C. In an accommodation to the preferred fragmentation pathways of ETD, the TMT-127 and -129 reagents were recently modified such that a (13)C was exchanged for a (15)N. As a result of this substitution, the new TMT reporter ions are 6.32 mDa lighter. Even though the mass difference between these reporter ion isotopologues is incredibly small, modern high-resolution and mass accuracy analyzers can resolve these ions. On the basis of our ability to resolve and accurately measure the relative intensity of these isobaric reporter ions, we demonstrate that we are able to quantify across eight samples simultaneously by combining the (13)C- and (15)N-containing reporter ions. Considering the structure of the TMT reporter ion, we believe this work serves as a blueprint for expanding the multiplexing capacity of the TMT reagents to at least 10-plex and possibly up to 18-plex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Carbon Isotopes / chemistry
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Nitrogen Isotopes / chemistry
  • Proteome / analysis*
  • Spleen / metabolism
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry*
  • Thiazoles / chemistry


  • 2,4,5 trimethylthiazoline
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Proteome
  • Thiazoles