Mass spectrometric assays have the potential to replace protein immunoassays in basic science, clinical research, and clinical care. Previous studies have demonstrated the utility of assays using multiple-reaction monitoring mass spectrometry (MRM-MS) for the quantification of proteins in biological samples and many examples of the accuracy of these approaches to quantify spiked analytes have been reported. However, a direct comparison of multiplexed assays using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry with established immunoassays to measure endogenous proteins has not been reported.
We purified the HDL from the plasma of 30 human subjects enrolled in a clinical nutrition research study and used label-free shotgun proteomics approaches to analyze each sample. We then developed two different 6-plex assays that used isotope dilution MRM-MS: one assay used stable isotope labeled peptides and the other used stable isotope labeled apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-I), the most abundant protein in HDL, as internal standards to control for matrix effects and mass spectrometer performance. The shotgun and MRM-MS assays were then compared with commercially available immunoassays for each of the six analytes.
Quantification by shotgun proteomics approaches correlated poorly with the six protein immunoassays. However, the MRM-MS approaches that used internal standard peptide or a single internal standard protein correlated well. In addition, MRM-MS approaches had good repeatability (<10% CV) and linearity.
Multiplexed MRM-MS assays correlate well with immunochemical measurements and have acceptable operating characteristics in complex samples. Our results support the proposal that MRM-MS could be used to replace immunoassays in a variety of settings.