Cardiac troponin T (cTnT) is a highly cardiospecific protein commonly used in the diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction (AMI), but is subject to proteolytic degradation upon its release in the circulation. In this study, a targeted mass spectrometry assay was developed to detect peptides which are differentially present within the different degradation products. cTnT was spiked in human serum and incubated at 37 °C to induce proteolytic degradation. Isolation and fractionation of cTnT and its fragments from serum were performed using immunoprecipitation and SDS-PAGE. Bands migrating to 37 kDa (intact cTnT), 29 kDa (primary fragment), and 19, 18, and 16kDa (secondary fragments) were excised, digested, and subsequently analysed using targeted selected ion monitoring on a UHPLC-coupled quadrupole-Orbitrap mass spectrometer. Sixteen precursor ions from a total of 11 peptides unique to cTnT were targeted. Precursor ions were detectable up until 1200 ng/L cTnT, which is a typical cTnT concentration after AMI. With tandem-MS and relative quantification, we proved the formation of cTnT fragments upon incubation in human serum and identified differentially present peptides in the fragment bands, indicative of N- and C-terminal proteolytic cleavage. These findings are of importance for the development of future cTnT assays, calibrators, and quality control samples.
Biological significance: In this study we have developed a gel-based targeted mass spectrometry assay which is able to differentiate between different molecular forms of cTnT. The unravelling of the molecular presentation of cTnT in human serum is of importance in the field of clinical chemistry, where this highly specific and sensitive biomarker is being measured on a routinely basis in patient samples. Knowledge of the amino acid sequence of the different cTnT fragments may aid in the development of improved calibrators and quality control samples. In addition, different fragmentation patterns may be indicative of different underlying pathologies. New antibodies for future assays targeting specific areas of cTnT can thus be created based on this information. This assay will be used in future experiments to assess the fragmentation pattern of cTnT in serum of multiple patient groups in our laboratory.
Keywords: Cardiac troponin T; Relative quantification; Selected ion monitoring; Targeted proteomics.
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