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Relevant phosphoproteomic and mass spectrometry: approaches useful in clinical research

Elena López12*, Sarbelio Rodríguez Muñoz2, Juan López Pascual2 and Luis Madero13*

Author Affiliations

1 Hospital Universitario Infantil Niño Jesús, Av. Menéndez Pelayo 65, 28009 Madrid, Spain

2 Hospital Universitario 12 de Octubre, Av. De Córdoba s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain

3 Facultad de Medicina de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, C/del Arzobispo Morcillo, 428029, Spain

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Clinical and Translational Medicine 2012, 1:2  doi:10.1186/2001-1326-1-2

Published: 29 March 2012



"It's not what we do, it's the way that we do it". Never has this maxim been truer in proteomics than now. Mass Spectrometry-based proteomics/phosphoproteomics tools are critical to understand the structure and dynamics (spatial and temporal) of signalling that engages and migrates through the entire proteome. Approaches such as affinity purification followed by Mass Spectrometry (MS) have been used to elucidate relevant biological questions disease vs. health. Thousands of proteins interact via physical and chemical association. Moreover, certain proteins can covalently modify other proteins post-translationally. These post-translational modifications (PTMs) ultimately give rise to the emergent functions of cells in sequence, space and time.


Understanding the functions of phosphorylated proteins thus requires one to study proteomes as linked-systems rather than collections of individual protein molecules. Indeed, the interacting proteome or protein-network knowledge has recently received much attention, as network-systems (signalling pathways) are effective snapshots in time, of the proteome as a whole. MS approaches are clearly essential, in spite of the difficulties of some low abundance proteins for future clinical advances.


Clinical proteomics-MS has come a long way in the past decade in terms of technology/platform development, protein chemistry, and together with bioinformatics and other OMICS tools to identify molecular signatures of diseases based on protein pathways and signalling cascades. Hence, there is great promise for disease diagnosis, prognosis, and prediction of therapeutic outcome on an individualized basis. However, and as a general rule, without correct study design, strategy and implementation of robust analytical methodologies, the efforts, efficiency and expectations to make biomarkers (especially phosphorylated kinases) a useful reality in the near future, can easily be hampered.

Phosphoproteomics; Mass spectrometry; Clinical research