Optimal preparation methods for automated matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry profiling of low molecular weight proteins and peptides Academic Article uri icon


  • Mass spectrometry (MS) profiling of the proteome and peptidome for disease-associated patterns is a new concept in clinical diagnostics. The technique, however, is highly sensitive to external sources of variation leading to potentially unacceptable numbers of false positive and false negative results. Before MS profiling can be confidently implemented in a medical setting, standard experimental methods must be developed that minimize technical variance. Past studies of variance have focused largely on pre-analytical variation (i.e., sample collection, handling, etc.). Here, we examined how factors at the analytical stage including the matrix and solid-phase extraction influence MS profiling. Firstly, a standard peptide/protein sample was measured automatically by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) MS across five consecutive days using two different preparation methods, dried droplet and sample/matrix, of four types of matrix: alpha-cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid (HCCA), sinapinic acid (SA), 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid (DHB) and 2,5-dihydroxyacetophenone (DHAP). The results indicated that the matrix preparation greatly influenced a number of key parameters of the spectra including repeatability (within-day variability), reproducibility (inter-day variability), resolution, signal strength, background intensity and detectability. Secondly, an investigation into the variance associated with C8 magnetic bead extraction of the standard sample prior to automated MS profiling demonstrated that the process did not adversely affect these same parameters. In fact, the spectra were generally more robust following extraction. Thirdly, the best performing matrix preparations were evaluated using C8 magnetic bead extracted human plasma. We conclude that the DHAP prepared according to the dried-droplet method is the most appropriate matrix to use when performing automated MS profiling.

publication date

  • September 15, 2009