SPECHT - Single-Stage Phosphopeptide Enrichment and Stable-Isotope Chemical Tagging: Quantitative Phosphoproteomics of Insulin Action in Muscle

J Proteomics. 2015 Jan 30;114:48-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2014.11.001. Epub 2014 Nov 9.


The study of cellular signaling remains a significant challenge for translational and clinical research. In particular, robust and accurate methods for quantitative phosphoproteomics in tissues and tumors represent significant hurdles for such efforts. In the present work, we design, implement and validate a method for single-stage phosphopeptide enrichment and stable isotope chemical tagging, or SPECHT, that enables the use of iTRAQ, TMT and/or reductive dimethyl-labeling strategies to be applied to phosphoproteomics experiments performed on primary tissue. We develop and validate our approach using reductive dimethyl-labeling and HeLa cells in culture, and find these results indistinguishable from data generated from more traditional SILAC-labeled HeLa cells mixed at the cell level. We apply the SPECHT approach to the quantitative analysis of insulin signaling in a murine myotube cell line and muscle tissue, identify known as well as new phosphorylation events, and validate these phosphorylation sites using phospho-specific antibodies. Taken together, our work validates chemical tagging post-single-stage phosphoenrichment as a general strategy for studying cellular signaling in primary tissues.

Biological significance: Through the use of a quantitatively reproducible, proteome-wide phosphopeptide enrichment strategy, we demonstrated the feasibility of post-phosphopeptide purification chemical labeling and tagging as an enabling approach for quantitative phosphoproteomics of primary tissues. Using reductive dimethyl labeling as a generalized chemical tagging strategy, we compared the performance of post-phosphopeptide purification chemical tagging to the well established community standard, SILAC, in insulin-stimulated tissue culture cells. We then extended our method to the analysis of low-dose insulin signaling in murine muscle tissue, and report on the analytical and biological significance of our results.

Keywords: Insulin signaling; Phosphoproteomics; Quantitative proteomics; Tissue proteomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Insulin / pharmacology*
  • Isotope Labeling / methods
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Phosphopeptides / analysis*
  • Phosphopeptides / isolation & purification
  • Phosphoproteins / analysis
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proteome / drug effects*
  • Proteome / metabolism
  • Proteomics / methods*


  • Insulin
  • Phosphopeptides
  • Phosphoproteins
  • Proteome