Analytical strategies for the global quantification of intact proteins
The quantification of intact proteins is a relatively recent development in proteomics. In eukaryotic organisms, proteins are present as multiple isoforms as the result of variations in genetic code, alternative splicing, post-translational modification and other processing events. Understanding the identities and biological functions of these isoforms and how their concentrations vary across different states is the central goal of proteomics. To date, the bulk of proteomics research utilizes a “bottom-up” approach, digesting proteins into their more manageable constitutive peptides, but sacrificing information about the specific isoform and combinations of post-translational modifications present on the protein. Very specific strategies for protein quantification such as the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blot are commonplace in laboratories and clinics, but impractical for the study of global biological changes. Herein, we describe strategies for the quantification of intact proteins, their distinct advantages, and challenges to their employment. Techniques contained in this review include the more traditional and widely employed methodology of differential gel electrophoresis and more recently developed mass spectrometry-based techniques including metabolic labeling, chemical labeling, and label-free methodologies.