Gene expression contributes to phenotypic traits and human disease. To date, comparatively less is known about regulators of protein abundance, which is also under genetic control and likely influences clinical phenotypes. However, identifying and quantifying allele-specific protein abundance by bottom-up proteomics is challenging since single nucleotide variants (SNVs) that alter protein sequence are not considered in standard human protein databases. To address this, we developed the GenPro software and used it to create personalized protein databases (PPDs) to identify single amino acid variants (SAAVs) at the protein level from whole exome sequencing. In silico assessment of PPDs generated by GenPro revealed only a 1% increase in tryptic search space compared to a direct translation of all human transcripts and an equivalent search space compared to the UniProtKB reference database. To identify a large unbiased number of SAAV peptides, we performed high-resolution mass spectrometry-based proteomics for two human post-mortem brain samples and searched the collected MS/MS spectra against their respective PPD. We found an average of ∼117 000 unique peptides mapping to ∼9300 protein groups for each sample, and of these, 977 were unique variant peptides. We found that over 400 reference and SAAV peptide pairs were, on average, equally abundant in human brain by label-free ion intensity measurements and confirmed the absolute levels of three reference and SAAV peptide pairs using heavy labeled peptides standards coupled with parallel reaction monitoring (PRM). Our results highlight the utility of integrating genomic and proteomic sequencing data to identify sample-specific SAAV peptides and support the hypothesis that most alleles are equally expressed in human brain.
Keywords: allele-specific protein abundance; neurodegeneration; precision medicine; proteogenomics; proteomics.