Targeted absolute quantification of intact proteins by reversed phase liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, charge reduced electrospray, and condensation particle counting.
ABSTRACT A novel approach involving the use of reversed phase liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (RPLC-MS), charge reduced electrospray (CRES), and condensation particle counting (CPC) for the absolute quantification of intact proteins in liquid solutions is introduced. Under analysis conditions optimized for the quantification of select proteins within their predetermined linear ranges, a set of at least five protein standards with molecular weights (MW) spanning the dynamic ranges of both a quadrupole time-of-flight (QTOF) MS and a suitably selected RPLC column is used to generate a calibration curve of CPC detection efficiency (DE) as a function of the square root of MW. Next, the sample of interest is analyzed, and from the MS-generated MW data, the DE of each target protein is determined from the calibration curve. On the basis of MW, DE, and number concentration (molecules/unit volume), absolute quantification is achieved for each protein of interest. Application of this approach to the absolute quantification of cytochrome C (as target compound) in a commercial protein mixture is demonstrated with a deviation of 8%, a coefficient of variation (CV) of 5%, and a quantification limit of 432 fmol. For nontarget components of the mixture (ribonuclease A, holotransferrin, and apomyoglobin), the percent deviation from the stated concentrations and the CV varied from 0.20 to 23 and from 4.1 to 18, respectively. Performance of the method was further assessed by analyzing a laboratory quality control mixture comprising 0.33 μM of cytochrome C. The calculated value was 0.34 (CV: 5.1%). Universal in essence, the new technique holds strong promise for the absolute quantification of select proteins in liquid samples under conditions of good peak resolution and stable baseline.