Multiple solvent elution, a method to counter the effects of coelution and ion suppression in LC-MS analysis in bottom up proteomics

J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2019 Aug 15;1124:256-264. doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2019.06.017. Epub 2019 Jun 15.


On average a human cell type expresses around 10,000 different protein coding genes synthesizing all the different molecular forms of the protein product (proteoforms) found in a cell. In a typical shotgun bottom up proteomic approach, the proteins are enzymatically cleaved, producing several 100,000 s of different peptides that are analyzed with liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MSMS). One of the major consequences of this high sample complexity is that coelution of peptides cannot be avoided. Moreover, low abundant peptides are difficult to identify as they have a lower chance of being selected for fragmentation due to ion-suppression effects and the semi-stochastic nature of the precursor selection in data-dependent shotgun proteomic analysis where peptides are selected for fragmentation analysis one-by-one as they elute from the column. In the current study we explore a simple novel approach that has the potential to counter some of the effect of coelution of peptides and improves the number of peptide identifications in a bottom-up proteomic analysis. In this method, peptides from a HeLa cell digest were eluted from the reverse phase column using three different elution solvents (acetonitrile, methanol and acetone) in three replicate reversed phase LC-MS/MS shotgun proteomic analysis. Results were compared with three technical replicates using the same solvent, which is common practice in proteomic analysis. In total, we see an increase of up to 10% in unique protein and up to 30% in unique peptide identifications from the combined analysis using different elution solvents when compared to the combined identifications from the three replicates of the same solvent. In addition, the overlap of unique peptide identifications common in all three LC-MS analyses in our approach is only 23% compared to 50% in the replicates using the same solvent. The method presented here thus provides an easy to implement method to significantly reduce the effects of coelution and ion suppression of peptides and improve protein coverage in shotgun proteomics. Data are available via ProteomeXchange with identifier PXD011908.

Keywords: Coelution; Ion suppression; LC-MS; Peptide analysis; Proteome coverage; Proteomics; Solvents.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Proteome / chemistry*
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*


  • Peptides
  • Proteome