Amino acid analysis (AAA) can be used for absolute quantitation of standard peptides after acid hydrolysis using 6 M HCl. Obtained individual amino acids can then be quantified by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Achieving baseline separation of non-derivatized amino acids is challenging when reversed-phase (RP) chromatography is used. Several derivatization methods are commonly utilized to address this issue; however, derivatization has several drawbacks, such as derivative instability and lack of reproducibility. Currently, separation of non-derivatized amino acids is typically done using HILIC, but HILIC has problems of poor reproducibility and long column equilibration times. We developed a method to quantify non-derivatized amino acids, including methionine and cysteine, from peptide hydrolysates by RP-LC-MS without special pre-treatment of the samples. Samples were spiked with certified isotopically labeled (13C- and/or 15N-) amino acids as internal standards. The amino acids released from acid hydrolysis were then analyzed by RP-UPLC-MRM-MS and quantified using the analyte/internal standard chromatographic peak area ratios. Peptide quantitation was based on the sum of the individual amino acid concentrations from the known peptide sequences. The resulting method did not require derivatization, used standard C18-based reversed-phase liquid chromatography, did not require external calibration, was robust, and was able to quantify all 17 amino acids for which we had internal standards, including the sulfur-containing amino acids, cysteine and methionine, in their respective oxidized forms. This simple and robust method enabled the absolute quantitation of standard peptides using only acid hydrolysis and a standard RP-UPLC-MRM-MS setup.
Keywords: Amino acid analysis (AAA); Hydrochloric acid hydrolysis; LC-MRM-MS; Peptide quantification; Stable isotope-labeled internal standards.
© 2023. The Author(s).