Improved data normalization methods for reverse phase protein microarray analysis of complex biological samples.
Reverse phase protein microarrays (RPMA) are designed for quantitative, multiplexed analysis of proteins, and their posttranslational modified forms, from a limited amount of sample. To correct for sample to sample variability due to the number of cells in each lysate and the presence of extracellular proteins or red blood cells, a normalization method is required that is independent of these potentially confounding parameters. We adopted a gene microarray algorithm for use with RPMA to optimize the proteomic data normalization process and developed a systematic approach to RPMA processing and analysis, tailored to the study set. Our approach capitalizes on the gene microarray algorithms geNorm and NormFinder to identify the normalization parameter with the lowest variability across a proteomic sample set. Seven analytes (ssDNA, glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase, α/β-tubulin, mitochondrial ribosomal protein L11, ribosomal protein L13a, β-actin, and total protein) were compared across sample sets including cell lines, tissues subjected to laser capture microdissection, and blood-contaminated tissues. We examined normalization parameters to correct for red blood cell content. We show that single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) is proportional to total non-red blood cell content and is a suitable RPMA normalization parameter. Simple modifications to RPMA processing allow flexibility in using ssDNA-or protein-based normalization molecules.