Background: The complicated cellular and biochemical changes that occur in brain during Alzheimer's disease are poorly understood. In a previous study we used an unbiased label-free quantitative mass spectrometry-based proteomic approach to analyze these changes at a systems level in post-mortem cortical tissue from patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), asymptomatic Alzheimer's disease (AsymAD), and controls. We found modules of co-expressed proteins that correlated with AD phenotypes, some of which were enriched in proteins identified as risk factors for AD by genetic studies.
Methods: The amount of information that can be obtained from such systems-level proteomic analyses is critically dependent upon the number of proteins that can be quantified across a cohort. We report here a new proteomic systems-level analysis of AD brain based on 6,533 proteins measured across AD, AsymAD, and controls using an analysis pipeline consisting of isobaric tandem mass tag (TMT) mass spectrometry and offline prefractionation.
Results: Our new TMT pipeline allowed us to more than double the depth of brain proteome coverage. This increased depth of coverage greatly expanded the brain protein network to reveal new protein modules that correlated with disease and were unrelated to those identified in our previous network. Differential protein abundance analysis identified 350 proteins that had altered levels between AsymAD and AD not caused by changes in specific cell type abundance, potentially reflecting biochemical changes that are associated with cognitive decline in AD. RNA binding proteins emerged as a class of proteins altered between AsymAD and AD, and were enriched in network modules that correlated with AD pathology. We developed a proteogenomic approach to investigate RNA splicing events that may be altered by RNA binding protein changes in AD. The increased proteome depth afforded by our TMT pipeline allowed us to identify and quantify a large number of alternatively spliced protein isoforms in brain, including AD risk factors such as BIN1, PICALM, PTK2B, and FERMT2. Many of the new AD protein network modules were enriched in alternatively spliced proteins and correlated with molecular markers of AD pathology and cognition.
Conclusions: Further analysis of the AD brain proteome will continue to yield new insights into the biological basis of AD.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Proteogenomics; Proteomics; RNA binding protein; RNA splicing.