Small-protein enrichment assay enables the rapid, unbiased analysis of over 100 low abundance factors from human plasma

Dylan J. Harney, Amy T. Hutchison, Zhiduan Su, Luke Hatchwell, Leonie K. Heilbronn, Samantha Hocking, David E. James, Mark Larance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Unbiased and sensitive quantification of low abundance small proteins in human plasma (e.g. hormones, immune factors, metabolic regulators) remains an unmet need. These small protein factors are typically analyzed individually and using antibodies that can lack specificity. Mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomics has the potential to address these problems, however the analysis of plasma by MS is plagued by the extremely large dynamic range of this body fluid, with protein abundances spanning at least 13 orders of magnitude. Here we describe an enrichment assay (SPEA), that greatly simplifies the plasma dynamic range problem by enriching small-proteins of 2-10 kDa, enabling the rapid, specific and sensitive quantification of >100 small-protein factors in a single untargeted LC-MS/MS acquisition. Applying this method to perform deep-proteome profiling of human plasma we identify C5ORF46 as a previously uncharacterized human plasma protein. We further demonstrate the reproducibility of our workflow for low abundance protein analysis using a stable-isotope labeled protein standard of insulin spiked into human plasma. SPEA provides the ability to study numerous important hormones in a single rapid assay, which we applied to study the intermittent fasting response and observed several unexpected changes including decreased plasma abundance of the iron homeostasis regulator hepcidin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1899-1915
Number of pages17
JournalMolecular and Cellular Proteomics
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

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