Site-specific phosphorylation is a fast and reversible covalent post-translational modification that is tightly regulated in cells. The cellular machinery of enzymes that write, erase and read these modifications (kinases, phosphatases and phospho-binding proteins) is frequently deregulated in different diseases, including cancer. Large-scale studies of phosphoproteins - termed phosphoproteomics - strongly rely on the use of high-performance mass spectrometric instrumentation. This powerful technology has been applied to study a great number of phosphorylation-based phenotypes. Nevertheless, many technical and biological challenges have to be overcome to identify biologically relevant phosphorylation sites in cells and tissues. This review describes different technological strategies to identify and quantify phosphorylation sites with high accuracy, without significant loss of analysis speed and reproducibility in tissues and cells. Moreover, computational tools for analysis, integration and biological interpretation of phosphorylation events are discussed.
Keywords: bioinformatics analyses; mass spectrometry; phospho-enrichment strategies; phosphoproteomics; quantitative phosphoproteomics.