Calibration Using a Single-Point External Reference Material Harmonizes Quantitative Mass Spectrometry Proteomics Data between Platforms and Laboratories

Anal Chem. 2018 Nov 6;90(21):13112-13117. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.8b04581. Epub 2018 Oct 23.


Mass spectrometry (MS) measurements are not inherently calibrated. Researchers use various calibration methods to assign meaning to arbitrary signal intensities and improve precision. Internal calibration (IC) methods use internal standards (IS) such as synthesized or recombinant proteins or peptides to calibrate MS measurements by comparing endogenous analyte signal to the signal from known IS concentrations spiked into the same sample. However, recent work suggests that using IS as IC introduces quantitative biases that affect comparison across studies because of the inability of IS to capture all sources of variation present throughout an MS workflow. Here, we describe a single-point external calibration strategy to calibrate signal intensity measurements to a common reference material, placing MS measurements on the same scale and harmonizing signal intensities between instruments, acquisition methods, and sites. We demonstrate data harmonization between laboratories and methodologies using this generalizable approach.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Calibration
  • Mass Spectrometry / standards*
  • Proteome / standards*
  • Proteomics / standards*
  • Reference Standards
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / chemistry


  • Proteome