Complementarity of SOMAscan to LC-MS/MS and RNA-seq for quantitative profiling of human embryonic and mesenchymal stem cells

J Proteomics. 2017 Jan 6;150:86-97. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2016.08.023. Epub 2016 Sep 6.


Dynamic range limitations are challenging to proteomics, particularly in clinical samples. Affinity proteomics partially overcomes this, yet suffers from dependence on reagent quality. SOMAscan, an aptamer-based platform for over 1000 proteins, avoids that issue using nucleic acid binders. Targets include low expressed proteins not easily accessible by other approaches. Here we report on the potential of SOMAscan for the study of differently sourced mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) in comparison to LC-MS/MS and RNA sequencing. While targeting fewer analytes, SOMAscan displays high precision and dynamic range coverage, allowing quantification of proteins not measured by the other platforms. Expression between cell types (ESC and MSC) was compared across techniques and uncovered the expected large differences. Sourcing was investigated by comparing subtypes: bone marrow-derived, standard in clinical studies, and ESC-derived MSC, thought to hold similar potential but devoid of inter-donor variability and proliferating faster in vitro. We confirmed subtype-equivalency, as well as vesicle and extracellular matrix related processes in MSC. In contrast, the proliferative nature of ESC was captured less by SOMAscan, where nuclear proteins are underrepresented. The complementary of SOMAscan allowed the comprehensive exploration of CD markers and signaling molecules, not readily accessible otherwise and offering unprecedented potential in subtype characterization.

Significance: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) represent promising stem cell-derived therapeutics as indicated by their application in >500 clinical trials currently registered with the NIH. Tissue-derived MSC require invasive harvesting and imply donor-to-donor differences, to which embryonic stem cell (ESC)-derived MSC may provide an alternative and thus warrant thorough characterization. In continuation of our previous study where we compared in depth embryonic stem cells (ESC) and MSC from two sources (bone marrow and ESC-derived), we included the aptamer-based SOMAscan assay, complementing LC-MS/MS and RNA-seq data. Furthermore, SOMAscan, a targeted proteomics platform developed for analyzing clinical samples, has been benchmarked against established analytical platforms (LC-MS/MS and RNA-seq) using stem cell comparisons as a model.

Keywords: Embryonic stem cells; Mesenchymal stem cells; Quantitative LC-MS/MS; RNA-seq; SOMAscan assay.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aptamers, Peptide / analysis
  • Aptamers, Peptide / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Genomics / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • RNA / analysis
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Young Adult


  • Aptamers, Peptide
  • Biomarkers
  • RNA