Theranostics 2017; 7(11):2849-2862. doi:10.7150/thno.19113

Research Paper

A Combination of DNA-peptide Probes and Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS): A Quasi-Targeted Proteomics Approach for Multiplexed MicroRNA Quantification

Feifei Xu1, Weixian Zhou1, Jianxiang Cao1, Qingqing Xu1, Dechen Jiang2, Yun Chen1✉

1. Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, 211166, China;
2. Nanjing University, Nanjing, 210023, China.

Abstract

The distorted and unique expression of microRNAs (miRNAs) in cancer makes them an attractive source of biomarker. There is much evidence indicating that a panel of miRNAs, termed “miRNA fingerprints”, is more specific and informative than an individual miRNA as biomarker. Thus, multiplex assays for simultaneous quantification of multiple miRNAs could be more potent in clinical practice. However, current available assays normally require pre-enrichment, amplification and labeling steps, and most of them are semi-quantitative or lack of multiplexing capability. In this study, we developed a quasi-targeted proteomics assay for multiplexed miRNA quantification by a combination of DNA-peptide probes and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Specifically, the signal of target miRNAs (i.e., miR-21, miR-let7a, miR-200c, miR-125a and miR-15b) was converted into the mass response of reporter peptides by hybridization of miRNAs with DNA-peptide probes and subsequent tryptic digestion to release the peptides. After a careful optimization of conditions related to binding, conjugation, hybridization and multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) detection, the assay was validated for each miRNA and the limit of quantification (LOQ) for all the miRNAs can achieve 1 pM. Moreover, crosstalk between DNA-peptide probes in multiplex assay was sophisticatedly evaluated. Using this quasi-targeted proteomics assay, the level of target miRNAs was determined in 3 human breast cell lines and 36 matched pairs of breast tissue samples. Finally, simplex assay and qRT-PCR were also performed for a comparison. This approach grafts the strategy of targeted proteomics into miRNA quantification and may offer a new way for multiplexed miRNA profiling.

Keywords: Quasi-Targeted Proteomics, MicroRNAs, Multiplex Assay, Reporter Peptides, DNA-peptide Probes, Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).

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How to cite this article:
Xu F, Zhou W, Cao J, Xu Q, Jiang D, Chen Y. A Combination of DNA-peptide Probes and Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS): A Quasi-Targeted Proteomics Approach for Multiplexed MicroRNA Quantification. Theranostics 2017; 7(11):2849-2862. doi:10.7150/thno.19113. Available from http://www.thno.org/v07p2849.htm