Detection of Protein Ubiquitination Sites by Peptide Enrichment and Mass Spectrometry

J Vis Exp. 2020 Mar 23;(157). doi: 10.3791/59079.


The posttranslational modification of proteins by the small protein ubiquitin is involved in many cellular events. After tryptic digestion of ubiquitinated proteins, peptides with a diglycine remnant conjugated to the epsilon amino group of lysine ('K-ε-diglycine' or simply 'diGly') can be used to track back the original modification site. Efficient immunopurification of diGly peptides combined with sensitive detection by mass spectrometry has resulted in a huge increase in the number of ubiquitination sites identified up to date. We have made several improvements to this workflow, including offline high pH reverse-phase fractionation of peptides prior to the enrichment procedure, and the inclusion of more advanced peptide fragmentation settings in the ion routing multipole. Also, more efficient cleanup of the sample using a filter-based plug in order to retain the antibody beads results in a greater specificity for diGly peptides. These improvements result in the routine detection of more than 23,000 diGly peptides from human cervical cancer cells (HeLa) cell lysates upon proteasome inhibition in the cell. We show the efficacy of this strategy for in-depth analysis of the ubiquitinome profiles of several different cell types and of in vivo samples, such as brain tissue. This study presents an original addition to the toolbox for protein ubiquitination analysis to uncover the deep cellular ubiquitinome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Bortezomib / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Isotope Labeling
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Mice
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitinated Proteins / analysis*
  • Ubiquitinated Proteins / chemistry
  • Ubiquitination*


  • Peptides
  • Ubiquitinated Proteins
  • Bortezomib